In Jill Wolfson’s Cold Hands, Warm Heart, the reader follows the journey of a heart. From the moments before the donor’s accident, to the recovery of the recipient, this is an insight into the lives of those dependent on organ donations and the life giving effects they can bring.
The book revolves around the lives of those affected by organ donation, including the family of the donor, and examines and represents the emotions and thought processes that might be involved.
The main character, Dani, has a strong and convincing voice and the story is balanced well between her, and the brother of the donor, Amanda. Although less story driven, Wolfson doesn’t overcook the self-reflection and balances the novel with humour and romance. By alternating the story between Dani and the brother, and further breaking the story up with the letters, this keeps the narrative moving and prevents it from becoming too confined to a hospital room. Although there is a real sense of the claustrophobia of living in a hospital, and how quickly a patient becomes familiar with the medical terminology.
Wolfson’s research of the transplant process is evident and follows the journey from start to finish, but in doing so is forced to include some superfluous characters. In reality these are crucial people they do not translate well to the book. The novel, at times, lacks a definite storyline and is more an idea-driven text.
Cold Hands, Warm Heart provokes and portrays interesting discussions on life, death, the afterlife from different perspectives and different people’s coping mechanisms. Without making any resolutions or solutions, the only ‘lesson’ as such is that to donate organs is very generous on the part of the donor and the donor’s family. With so many TV medical dramas, this is a familiar topic to many teenagers, and coupled with the mild teenage romance, this is a fascinating and heartfelt story.