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Book Review: 'A Hunger in the Heart' by Kaye Park Hinckley

Tamara Wilhite is a technical writer, industrial engineer, mother of two, and published sci-fi and horror author.

The cover of the book "A Hunger in the Heart"

The cover of the book "A Hunger in the Heart"

“A Hunger in the Heart” is a historical dramatic novel by Kaye Park Hinkley. This is the second book by her that I’ve reviewed. In this book, a man comes home from war, but the war hasn’t left him. You see the personal drama that the family and community deal with a decade later.

Disclaimer: I received a free copy of this book in return for a review.

The Strengths of "A Hunger in the Heart"

The characterization is deftly completed in the first three pages. You learn the relationships, statuses and personalities of everyone involved immediately. There are a few later revelations, but nothing out of character for the characters already introduced.

This book provides a realistic portrayal of mental illness. It is especially accurate when it comes to the various coping mechanisms family members use – denial, addiction, enabling, substitute relationships. Of course the son will play war, when it is something his father wants to do and one of the fun things they can do. A father seeking short term solutions again and again enables the delusions instead of dealing with them. A mother blaming the outside cause she can name instead of her husband or biology, and the reliance on drugs and alcohol to get by that mirrors the reliance on drugs to manage the mentally ill.

While the book is set in the 1950s, the language is accurate barring use of racial epithets you would have heard in real life conversations in that time and place. The book overall is PG-13 for violence and implied sexuality.

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The Weaknesses of "A Hunger in the Heart"

Some directors like to have long, lovely visuals to add to the ambiance of the movie. They think of it as showcasing their cinematography skills and adding to the mood. Unless someone is coming to the film to enjoy the visual effects, it actually takes away from the movie if done beyond the initial introduction. The book could have been ten percent shorter if these written scenic descriptions of places and people’s actions were cut out. They are rich and emotionally evocative on their own but do not add to the author’s decent descriptions of the rest of the scene and/or events.

Revealing a secret genetic blood relationship undermines the time, dedication and devotion of someone who otherwise a kind, supportive soul. The revelation detracts from the person’s years of involvement, though likely done to explain it.


This book is strong Catholic fiction but you don’t have to be Catholic to appreciate it. I’d give it a PG-13 rating based on the violence. The language and implied sex are PG.

This book shows the slow erosion of the soul as we make excuses, assign blame to others, and do what we think gets us by instead of what is right.

While there is discussion of spiritual warfare, that issue is only lightly addressed in the book.

Despite the tragedies in the book, there is a short, tightly knotted happy ending.


As a work of Christian fiction, it is a decent historical novel, though about entirely fictional characters. The story doesn’t end quite as one would expect, but it is within reason. Four stars for “A Hunger in the Heart”.

© 2017 Tamara Wilhite

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