Cover Image: My Heart Went Walking

My Heart Went Walking

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In the mid 1980's 16-year-old Una finds herself pregnant after a drunken night with her best friend, Cullen. When she confides in her mother she is told that she will be sent to a convent for the nuns to take care of her and the baby will be given up for adoption. She tells Cullen that the baby is someone else's so he won't feel responsible to marry her and she runs away to Dublin. This is one of those stories where lies are told supposedly to protect people and in my head I'm screaming just tell the truth but what 16-year-old thinks clearly. These characters were so well developed and even though at first I didn't care for Ellie, Una's younger sister, she helped her sister only knowing that she needed help, always finding the good even though at times her situation seemed impossible. Una was fortunate to be taken in by an older couple, Catherine and Des, who were a delight and so loving every kid deserves to have grandparents like them.

I would like to thank Netgalley and Fire Drinkers Publishing for an opportunity to read this.
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Set in 1980s Ireland, My Heart Went Walking follows Una. At 16, pregnant Una runs away from her Catholic family rather than bring them shame. She leaves behind the child's father, Cullen, who also happens to be her best friend. With Una gone, her younger sister Ellie slowly develops a relationship with Cullen. 

My Heart Went Walking is told from all three of their perspectives. I really enjoyed this writing style and how Hanan weaved two separate scenarios effortlessly into the plot. It's a book focused on family, redemption and how far you'll go for love.

My Heart Went Walking is destined to tug at your heartstrings. While it has its slow moments, the warm and likeable characters, along with the captivating storyline, kept my interest. I also can't deny that I loved the Irish setting.
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This book evoked many feelings and emotions, set in Ireland in the 1980’s.  Una and her sister Ellie are close in a large Irish family.  When Una becomes pregnant at 16, her mom tells her she will have to put the baby up for adoption.  Una runs away from Donegal to Dublin, in order yo keep her baby.  Una is lucky to find Catherine and Des, an older childless couple who take her in and change her life.  Una doesn’t stay estranged forever when her sister needs her, and their relationship is just beautiful.  Add in the well defined characters, the heartwarming story lines, and you will enjoy this emotional journey.  Thanks to NetGalley for the ARC; highly recommend.
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My Heart Went Walking: An Irish Tale of Love, Loss, and Redemption by Sally Hanan is a book I found myself fully engrossed in while reading the story that took place in Ireland, beginning in the early 80s. It is the story of a 16-year old Irish girl, Una, that lives in a small village called Donegal. When she finds herself pregnant and unwilling to give her baby to the nuns as her mother suggests, she runs away to the big city of Dublin. Ellie, Una's younger sister, is most distraught over her unexplained disappearance and finds herself drawn to Cullen, the baby's father. Fast forward to current day and everyone being reunited when a family emergency arises and Una can no longer stay away. This is a heartwarming story that I thoroughly enjoyed. Included at the beginning of the book was a guide to Irish names, locations, and pronunciations, which I really appreciated.
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It's the 1980's, and in rural Ireland we meet 16 year old Una, who has just found out that she is pregnant. The baby is her best friend's, but she doesn't want to tell him in fear of it ruining the plans he has for his life. Her mum is determined that she will go to a home run by nuns in order to put the baby up for adoption, but Una doesn't want to do this. So she runs away to Dublin, where no one can find her. We follow her as she makes a new life, as well as what happens in the lives of those she has left behind. 

I wanted to read this after adoring Tish Delaney's Before My Actual Heart Breaks last year. The premise gave me similar vibes, but in reality this is a much lighter, more commercial version. That isn't a criticism, as this book was fun and enjoyable to read. It did bring up some good points about finding yourself pregnant at a young age too, ones which felt authentic and to which I could relate. But it's also a total fairy tale version of that situation - for Una, things conveniently fall into place. Tough times do happen in this book, for Una's sister especially, but the bitter is tempered with the sweet in a way which, although heart-warming, was a bit too neat for my expectations. Still, this is a nice, cosy read with some very well-drawn characters and a nice sense of place.
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Una Gallagher is seventeen and pregnant, the result of a single drunken night with the best friend she’s fancied forever. But she can’t tell Cullen he’s going to be a father. They’re in their final year of school, and he’ll feel honour-bound to do the right thing and marry her and work two jobs to keep them, and that will be the end of his dreams.

Una knows she wants to keep her baby. So when Mam says she has to go and live with the nuns then give her baby up for adoption, she runs away from her tiny home town of Donegal and heads to Dublin, the big city. There she meets an Anglican minister who helps her find a home and a job, and is able to create a new life. But that leaves her family and best friend back in Donegal, trying to work out why she left and where she’s gone.

My Heart Went Walking starts in 1983, and is set entirely in Ireland. I loved the setting, and I especially loved the way the Irish accents came through in the character’s vocabulary and even the way they talk and think. (There is an extensive glossary for those who aren’t familiar with Irish colloqualisms.)

I loved the realism of the story, the way Una compounds one bad decision (to get drunk) with another (to sleep with Cullen) and another (to run away rather than be forever seen as “that girl” in her small town home). As the oldest daughter in a large Irish family, she knew more than most first-time mothers do about childrearing, even if she was only a teenager.

The story was told in first person from three points of view: Una, Cullen, and Ellie (Una’s next-youngest sister, only eighteen months younger). Una and Cullen both have strong and unique character voices, and that’s much of the strength of the novel. If I had one complaint, it was that Ellie’s voice was too similar to Una’s, and I sometimes confused the two.

Sally Hanan is a Christian writer, but I wouldn’t classify My Heart Went Walking as Christian fiction. The strength—that’s the novel is authentically Irish—means the language is a little too raw for the more conservative ends of the Christian market. And while the tagline is “An Irish tale of love, loss, and redemption”, the redemption isn’t a come-to-Jesus type of redemption. It’s more subtle, which fits with the characters, the setting, and the time. It feels all the more authentic for not being obvious.

Finally, despite the fact the main character is a teenager, I wouldn’t class this as Young Adult fiction. Sure, teenagers could read it and may well enjoy it. But I think the true fans are going to be women who remember being teenagers in the eighties (or perhaps nineties), in a time before Facebook and mobile phones, a time when running away to the big city so your family wouldn’t find you was entirely possible and believable.

Writers … If you’ve ever wondered how to use vocabulary and sentence structure to construct realistic dialogue without resorting to nonstandard spelling to show accents, read this book as a text.

Readers … If you’re a fan of Irish authors such as Maeve Binchy or you’re looking for fiction with underlying Christian values but which steps outside the boundaries of most modern Christian fiction, I think you might enjoy When My Heart Went Walking.

Thanks to Fire Drinkers Publishing and NetGalley for providing a free ebook for review.
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Sally Hanan’s sublime debut mixes the prose of Sue Monk Kidd with the dialogue of Maeve Binchy. With captivating warmth, she pulls us in to how it felt to live in Ireland’s changing culture of the ‘80s, and how it often made a woman’s decisions for her.

“I can’t bear to keep walking. But you can’t keep a secret in this town unless you leave with it.”
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Sally Hanan’s sublime debut mixes the prose of Sue Monk Kidd with the dialogue of Maeve Binchy. With captivating warmth, she pulls us in to how it felt to live in Ireland’s changing culture of the ‘80s, and how it often made a woman’s decisions for her
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Sally Hanan’s debut novel “My heart went walking” is set in the 1980s in Ireland, taking us back to a rural life where things were different for unwed pregnant girls. 
So when Uma, at the age of sixteen, is pregnant with Callum’s baby and tells her mother, she is told to give up her child. But Uma can’t, and she takes the difficult decision to leave her family and home behind and make her way to Dublin, where no one knows her and she can build a life for her and her child. 
Her sister Ellie knows nothing about what is going on and Callum doesn’t know he is the father, and Uma leaves for the big city, ending up sleeping outside until a family takes her in. 
The relationship between her host parents and Uma was – to me – the most beautiful part of the story: A couple who never had children decides to take her in and gain a daughter and grandchild and help her work and learn a trade. 
There are, however, complications: When Uma finally decides to go back to Donegal and tell her family the truth, she sees Ellie with Callum. Her sister is now seeing the only boy she ever loved. She gets back on the bus and gives up on a reconciliation with her family. 
That is, until Ellie gets sick and really needs her help. 
At the end, it is a beautiful story with a happy ending, but just like life, there is a lot to go through to get there and we hear it unfold from Uma’s point of view, as well as Callum’s and Ellie’s. While the triangle between Uma, Callum and Ellie is at the forefront of the story, the supporting characters won me over with the love and care and moved me to tears. They are who made this story really worth reading for me.
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Love, love, love this book from debut author Sally Hanan.  Set in Ireland in the 1980's, this book beautifully captures the times through the lives of Una, Ellie and Cullen.  When Una discovers she is pregnant, she runs away to Dublin in order to avoid having the baby put up for adoption.  She tells no one who the father is and makes a new life for herself. and her son. But the pull of family,  her feelings for Cullen and her sister's illness bring her back to the people she loves.
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My Heart Went Walking by Sally Hanan is a beautiful, well-written story about Una Gallagher, a young girl who decides to leave her Irish town after she finds out devastating news and after deciding to keep this news a secret from those she loves. Una learns that family isn't just who you're born with when she meets a lovely couple who help her out by helping her get a new start on life. This novel of love, loss, redemption, and second chances is a great read!
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Una is a 16 year old girl who lives in Ireland. Her best friend is no other than a boy names Cullen. Cullen and Una have known each other for years, When both their parents decided it was a good idea for them to walk to school together for safety. They have been best friends since. 

All was great until one night at a party where both Una and Cullen had attended. They both had a few to many and things went a little to far. Now, Uma Finds herself pregnant. 

After discussing the pregnancy with her mother, who is not accepting of the situation. Una decided to leave home. But soon enough, Una thinks leaving home maybe wasn't the best idea and travels back home only to find Cullen looking sweet on her sister Ellie. How will Una handle this situation?

This was a good book. It really kept my interest and I enjoyed the story. The story was heartfelt and warming. some sadder moments but the book came together quite nice. I look forward to other new releases from Sally Hanan!
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The characters in this book were really interesting and so full of life. Ive never been to Ireland so it was nice reading about it and to be able to see myself there. I look forward to the next book.
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It has been a long time since I read a book which managed to touch my heart deeply and made me too emotional. My Heart Went Walking by Sally Hanan is her debut full-length novel, though she has written many flash stories and is even a winner of several contests for short stories. Having read though the book,  I am not surprised she got publishers for this book as soon as she did. 

This book is primarily about two sisters Una and Ellie and their love for the same boy Cullen. In a way, it's also a coming-of-age-story that has love, loss, pain and redemption thrown into the mix. The story is set in 1980s Ireland and opens with Una finding out she is pregnant with Cullen's child.  It is my understanding that a woman falling out of wedlock was a taboo in the Ireland of those times and a source of great shame for the family. So, Una plans to leave her small town and go to Dublin so as not to bring shame to her family and also not to place, what she sees as undue burden on Cullen, and save him from future frustration and resentments.

We travel with her as she tries to cope with being alone and pregnant in an unknown land amongst unknown people; fortunately she meets new people and gets on with her new life. We also simultaneously see the progress of Eileen and Cullen's relationship in the two years since J has disappeared and that becomes the reason Una does not go back home. At this point, an unforeseen terrible thing occurs, forcing everyone to reevaluate their stand on things and put up a fight for Ellie. What happens further and how all the complications get resolved forms the rest of the story.

Getting into the characters, I truly connected with and related to Una. She, with all her good intentions and questionable actions, was vivid in front of the reader as a real person. Her dilemma with her situation, her palpable pain with her circumstances, her feelings about the various events of her life were drawn beautifully. Not to mention, the way the author has composed the characters of Ellie and Cullen. Both of them are likable and we just start rooting for good things to happen to all these people. The other characters, particularly that of the parents of the girls and Cullen, are the kind of people you have seen in your life. For all the mistakes they make, they are all good people with good intentions, 

Ultimately, when faced with an impossible and complicated situation, every one of them dig deep and bring out the goodness within them. The ending of the story is a triumph of family and love which gives Una the redemption she is looking for. I highly recommend this book to anyone who likes to read a book filled with beautiful human emotions and redemption.
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My Heart went walking is a story about how bad decisions can shape your life, and also those lives affected by you, for the good or bad, and, sometimes, it's impossible to undo those misunderstandings. Una discovers herself pregnant at the early age of 16 and as her mother tells her she will have to give the baby for adoption she leaves home and tells a big lie to the baby's father. Everything would be different if she had told him the truth, it would have saved her from a lot of trouble and both a lot of hurting. She eventually learns that family is really important and she starts to reapproach them. Will they accept her and her son? Will she be able to help them in their time of need? Will she be able to let go of old feelings and accept the love that is right in front of her? Will she learn that making decisions based on her instincts and feelings only without communicating with other people will only bring her more harm? A beautifully written story that shows that compassion and love for others is one of the most important feelings one human being can have and for which one must fight. 
For those who enjoy reading romance, with fast-paced written stories, with great descriptions of people and places, this is a must-read!
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I seem to have a soft spot for Irish authors and can list off probably a dozen or more that have appealed to me over the years so I guess it's no surprise I thoroughly enjoyed Sally Hanan's debut novel <b>My Heart Went Walking</b>.  Though she lives in Texas now Sally grew up in Ireland and seems to have acquired the story telling gift of some of her compatriots.    Set in 1980's Donegal and Dublin with characters I liked though sometimes despaired over, a storyline I enjoyed even though I picked the major conflict very early on, and a denouement that worked well for me because I'm a sucker for hea type endings.   If you enjoy womens fiction with a focus on family and coming of age themes this is likely to be your cuppa tea too.

The protagonist is Una Gallagher and though the story is mostly from her perspective we also hear from Cullen her "best friend", and Ellie one of Una's sisters.   As the story opens, sixteen year old Una has just fessed up to her Mam that she's pregnant.   Unsurprisingly the news didn't go down well and the next morning Una receives a note from her mother telling her she must give the child up for adoption.     Right then we get a sense of the strength of this young girl as she packs a bag and leaves all she loves and holds precious - her family, her best friend Cullen.      We also find out real quick that she is a kind and thoughtful girl.  Vowing not to tell the father as she doesn't want to ruin anyone elses life, and not wanting to bring shame on herself or her parents she decides she must stay away.   With little-to-no money and nobody to turn to it's tough surviving those first weeks.   With the help of some incredibly supportive and generous strangers Una finds her place and begins to make a new life for herself and her son but throughout it all she is desperately homesick and misses her one true love.   

Readers get to feel the strength of our young characters emotions and we get to see how Una's well intentioned actions have backfired.    Not only that but we see how desperately sorry she is at having thrown away her chance of happiness, and how Una's angst prevents her from moving on and forming any new relationship.    Though Una has made sure her family know she's okay and safe, her communications have all been one sided and the family have no way of contacting her.   This is bad enough until a family emergency, one of life or death proportions, arises. It's a story of learning to accept help, of forgiving ones self, and others, of learning to live life and to make the best of every situation.  As it says on the cover its a story of love, loss and redemption.

I've steered away from the plot but it was a story that tugged at the heart strings in so many ways and yet managed to maje me smile.    I feel sure this will not be the last we see of Sally Hanan's writing.    My thanks to her for the offer of a the ARC, thanks also to Fire Drinkers Publishing and Netgalley.
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A beautifully written book! Great characters, great setting, great story. Thanks to NetGalley for a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review
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This book was exactly what I needed; sometimes reading thriller after thriller leaves you yearning for something else. The story of sisters Una and Ellie, both falling in love with Cullen, has a lot more to it than just that. It has an unmistakable 'Irish' feeling to it, with the big gap between growing up in a small rural town and having to start a new life in the 'big city', without being able to fall back on family or friends.
Una is wise beyond her years, and yet so young. She, her sister Ellie and Cullen have to grow up fast as it turns out that the choices they make are not always the best ones... until it turns out that maybe there are different choices to make, not only for themselves but also for their loved ones.
I really, really enjoyed this beautifully written book and the only small comment I have is that I found that part of the ending was a bit rushed and improbable.

Thanks to Netgalley and Fire Drinkers Publishing for this review copy.
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Hanan's 1980s Irish coming-of-age story is full of angst, secrets, life-and-death danger, youthful determination--and the feeling that everything is going to work out in the end. 

You can't keep a secret in this town unless you leave with it.

Young Una has only ever loved one man, her best friend Cullen. But now Una has abruptly left town, left her family, left Cullen--she's left behind everything she knows in a desperate attempt to make things right by keeping her mysterious suffering to herself.

She questions whether she's doing the right thing, meanwhile various complications--including the discovery of Cullen's new affection for her sister Ellie--keep her out of touch and determined to stand on her own two feet, no matter how difficult it is.

But when tragedy looms for Ellie, Una and the boy who broke each other's hearts must try to come back together and save Ellie somehow.

Set in 1980s Ireland between Donegal and Dublin, My Heart Went Walking follows the sisters and Cullen as they try to find redemption, to forgive, and to move forward into their futures with hope.

I loved the details of daily Irish life and the heartwarming found-family element. Hanan explores the fascinating, infuriating condemnation surrounding--and delicate navigation of the challenges of--teen pregnancy in that time and place.

For much of the book I wasn't quite clear on the status of the characters' evolving romantic loyalties and preferences. Did Una and Cullen still love each other, or was their connection naive and without basis beyond friendship? Were their new partners better fits, as they seemed? We didn't get to see Una and Cullen together for much of the book, so it was impossible to evaluate the strength of their romantic connection for ourselves, and this felt unsatisfying.

There's a primary setup of "I can't tell you this enormous, life-changing fact, so I'll run away, leaving you wondering" that is essential to the story but can feel frustrating. I questioned how both Cullen and Ellie conveniently didn't ponder the likely scenario or ask more questions as soon as doing so was possible--questions that would have immediately revealed the truth of Una's situation. In the middle of the book especially I found myself wanting more specifics than summary. (I also had a few nitpicky questions, such as: why would Ellie need an explanation of a Claddagh ring? This brief exposition seemed clearly to be present for the reader's illumination.)

But I absolutely loved how Una was a strong, determined, gritty young woman in the face of so many enormous challenges. The found-family element of My Heart Went Walking was heartwarming and a favorite aspect of mine.

In My Heart Went Walking, Una, Ellie, and Cullen cope with grave situations and life-and-death struggles that threaten to tear them apart. Some of the book's resolutions feel conveniently clean, but the tone of Hanan's book is such that it feels evident that the reader won't be left unsatisfied or facing loose ends at the end, and I ultimately liked having everything wrapped up with a bow at the conclusion of Hanan's story.

My Heart Went Walking was published February 5. I received a prepublication digital edition of this book courtesy of NetGalley and Fire Drinkers Publishing.
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We start in Donegal 1983 where Una finds herself pregnant. She decides to tell her mother but doesn’t get the response sh thought she would so makes the decision to start walking!   Una finds herself sleeping rough and is fortunate to get some help from the vicar who introduces her to a lovely couple Des and Catherine.  The three of them get along well and over time Una gradually trusts Catherine with the facts of how she ended up there.
Una discovers that her sister Ellie is quite Ill  and needs her.  The big problem, unknown to Ellie is that they both love the same man.

I thought it an enjoyable read, if a bit slow to get going.  Recommend it.
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