Friday, October 3, 2014

Playing by Heart by Anne Mateer

Lula Bowman has finally achieved her dream: a teaching position and a scholarship to continue her college education in mathematics. But then a shocking phone call from her sister, Jewel, changes everything.

With a heavy heart, Lula returns to her Oklahoma hometown to do right by her sister, but the only teaching job available in Dunn is combination music instructor/basketball coach. Lula doesn't even consider those real subjects!

Determined to prove herself, Lula commits to covering the job for the rest of the school year. Reluctantly, she turns to the boys’ coach, Chet, to learn the newfangled game of basketball. Chet is handsome and single, but Lula has no plans to fall for a local boy. She’s returning to college and her scholarship as soon as she gets Jewel back on her feet.

However, the more time she spends around Jewel’s family, the girls’ basketball team, music classes, and Chet, the more Lula comes to realize what she’s given up in her single-minded pursuit of degree after degree. God is working on her heart, and her future is starting to look a lot different than she’d expected.

Publisher: Bethany House, 2014
Cover Design by Dan Thornberg, Design Source Creative Services

My Review
We all have dreams. Our parents have dreams for us. God has a plan for our lives. But what if all of these things don’t coincide? Do we choose to please others, please God, or please ourselves?

Lula Bowman’s mother wanted her to pursue music. But when her mother dies, Lula feels lost and chooses to please her father by achieving his dream of her becoming the first Oklahoma female to obtain a Ph.D. Not only is she a talented pianist, but Lula discovers she’s a brilliant mathematician as well. Determined to shed her former image of “Fruity Lu,” she throws herself into her studies, wins the Donally Mathematics Award to further her education, and works as a college professor while she finishes her schooling. A breath away from achieving her Ph.D., Lula’s sister, Jewel, calls to tell Lula she’s lost her husband to a freak accident and needs her to come back home. Being the only unmarried sibling without any “responsibilities,” Lula’s brothers and sisters decide Lula’s the only one capable of moving in with Jewel and her five children. As much as Lula wants to help her family, her education is at risk. Reluctantly, she leaves her college teaching position to accept the opening for a music teacher/girls’ basketball coach in Dunn. She’s determined to help Jewel get back on her feet so she can earn her degree. But when the handsome mathematics teacher and boys’ basketball coach, Chet Vaughn, makes Lula question the motive of her dreams, will she seek God's plan for her life and discover what she’s always wanted? Or will she continue to please others and follow the dreams of her dying father?

Playing by Heart is my favorite book by Anne Mateer. Written in first person, the character’s voices are strong and engaging. I love stories with tough, independent women and Lula hit the mark. Though I’m not normally a sports fan, this story had me wanting to attend a local basketball game. The plot was beautifully crafted and kept me turning the pages. A lovely story of self-discovery and learning to seek God’s plan for our lives versus following the plans others have for us. I gave this book 5 stars!

Anne Mateer has a passion for history and historical fiction, and her vacations often revolve around research trips in different parts of the country. She and her husband live near Dallas, Texas, and are the parents of three young adults. For more information about Anne and her books, please visit her website and blog at

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