A Discerning Heart by Patty Lesser
A Discerning Heart tells the story of a lowly, misunderstood fisherman, shunned by the villagers of his close-knit community and desperate to forge meaningful connections and perhaps, even, find love. We quickly learn that Dim Jim, as the town calls him, will go to the most treacherous means to make his dream of acceptance a reality. With no family to speak of, no respect from his peers, and no prospects for the future, Jim sets out on journey to prove to those who doubt him the most that he is capable of greatness. However, his plan takes a spectacular turn when he shipwrecks on a desert island. He finds the journals of a long-gone, long-feared pirate among the wreckage and empowered by the dead man’s words, crafts a plan of revenge. Jim eventually makes his way back to the village, armed with the identity of Captain Frank Paxton, and a host of other secrets from his years on the island, ready to make the villagers sorry they ever wronged the poor fisherman Dim Jim.
This story has all the trappings of a great adventure tale—from mythical creatures and fabulous buried treasure to long lost love and embittered rivals fighting for power. However, the sheer amount of time it takes for the action to pan out keeps the story from supplying the reader with any sense of intrigue or mystery. The time that Jim spends on the island is certainly crucial in setting the scene for the events that pan out over the course of the rest of the novel, as he amasses power over the village under his assumed pirate identity, but its central focus in the first half of the story keeps the pace stagnant at times. Furthermore, Jim’s motivations, from his reasoning to abandon his seemingly happy life on the island to his later characterization as increasingly cruel and power-hungry tend toward the superficial, which keeps this potentially moralizing story from teaching the reader a lesson they can hold on to, and cheapens an ending that otherwise could be a lovely, tender conclusion to a tale chock full of unexpected turns.
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