Heather Mateus Sappenfield
The River Between Hearts
A young girls’ American Dream is thwarted when her family is deported, by author Heather Mateus Sappenfield
Ten-year-old Rill Kruse reluctantly follows her cat to Fort Kruse, the tree house built by her father. Fort Kruse is a special place for Rill and the Kruse family, but she hasn’t visited since her father went missing over a year ago, following a kayaking accident on the Colorado river. Krill refuses to accept her father is gone, and believes he is lost somewhere down the river and will return home safely one day. As she enters the tree house, Krill is surprised to see a young girl, about the same age as her, hiding out in the tree house. She recognises the girl, but when she tries to approach her, the girl runs away. Rill eventually catches up with the girl, and learns her name is Perla. Perla is a Mexican immigrant, whose family have been caught by immigration services, taken into custody, and sent back to Mexico. Rill befriends Perla and allows Perla to hide out in the tree house. She brings her clothing, a sleeping bag, and food to eat, and helps her to write a letter to her family in Mexico. The two girls become good friends and Rill learns more about Perla’s family, their difficult life in Mexico, and their treacherous journey to the United States. As Rill comforts Perla, she starts to think about the loss of her own father, and slowly begins to accept that he will never return home.
The River Between Hearts is a heartfelt, emotional novel for middle grade readers about two young girls, from different countries and different cultures, who share similar experiences of loss and grief. Despite their cultural differences, and some language barriers, the girls realise they share many things in common, and develop a close friendship. The book deals with difficult socio-political issues, such as death, illegal immigration, deportation and discrimination, in a way that young people will understand and relate to.
Whilst the book deals with difficult issues, it is a wonderful story of love, friendship, compassion, hope and courage. A great novel for middle grade readers, but would also appeal to teens and adults alike.
Star rating: 5 Stars
Summary: A heartfelt, emotional novel for middle grade readers about two young girls who find a connection through unimaginable loss.