Layla is a time-poor anaesthetist stuck in a dwindling marriage. She feels emotionally isolated from her children, and has begun to question what it means to be an adequate mother, doctor, daughter, wife, niece, human. Along with her eccentric aunt, Layla must travel to Tasmania, to prevent her mother from killing herself. This is as much to resolve the mystery of her own past imaginings as to offer her support.
The world conspires to delay the journey, leaving plenty of room for reminiscence and contemplation of unhealed wounds. The emotional and geographical distance between Layla and her mother stretches out across so many pages adorned with memories, stars, shame and denial. Through a combination of childhood flashbacks and introspection, the reader is drawn into Layla’s childhood memories and long-held grudges. These include resentments against her unstable mother, and cherished memories of her late father, whose death has never made sense to her.
Layla’s insufferable husband, artistic lover, beloved children and absent sister inhabit her subtly haunted internal world. Adherence to cold hard facts enables Layla to anaesthetise herself against reality; the convergence of inner and outer lives expose the child forever hidden beneath every adult skin.
Back home in Tasmania, Layla’s initial urgency is validated, which isn’t as comforting as it sounds. She is overwhelmed with past instances of perceived betrayal, memories of her mother’s alcoholism and the familiar pain of letting herself be fooled into thinking change is real.
Through Layla’s past and present, the reader encounters swirling moments of hurt and guilt framing the unreliable internal curation of memory itself. She re-encounters people and places from her past with repair, if not redemption, as her focus and end goal. Her parents, childhood home, best friend and first love emerge from the wings to recentre distorted beliefs. Sacrifice, love, intergenerational trauma and warped perceptions combine to highlight the futility of examining historical hurts in search of future-proof answers. After all, people drowning in currents of torment are often oblivious to the pain of others.
Heavy in figurative language and metaphor-rich plot points, the book’s every word contains multitudes of meaning. Steeped in thematic intensity, The Heart is a Star is a deeply engaging story about becoming un-numbed, letting go of illusion, and learning to become more human through the balance of emotion and logic.
The Heart is a Star by Megan Rogers
Publication date: 28 April 2023