Those of you who write (whether you are published yet or not) know it’s all about perseverance. No writer knows this better than my good friend, Lu Ann Staheli.
When I first met Lu Ann, I was a terrible writer. I had a million great ideas rolling around in my brain and absolutely no clue how to get them on paper correctly, so that others could enjoy them. Enter my critique group. Yes, I’ve blogged about them before and likely will until the day I die. To this day I remain baffled why it was they allowed me to stay and learn from them.
Lu Ann taught me many things those first few years. Some were terribly basic, like not using the word that in every other sentence. Lu Ann literally edited 1000 thats from my first completed manuscript. She also taught me the evils of adverbs (never mind how many of those I had in my story), and dialogue tags that people physically cannot do (yes, we romance writers love for our characters to breathe their words).
Long story short, our little group began, one-by-one, getting published. Lu Ann, meanwhile continued to crank out some absolutely brilliant YA fiction, and she continued collecting rejections. At one point I had quite a few myself and we joked about who would get the most in a given year, but I feel I can say with confidence that Lu Ann now holds the record for the highest number of rejections in all our group. Why is this? Because she isn’t afraid of them! She’s not afraid to dream big, plan big, write big. And we always told her that when she did see her name on the cover of a book, it was going to be big.
Um, yeah. We were right. Her first book, When Hearts Conjoin, which she ghostwrote with Erin Herrin, is headed for Oprah! Must be nice, Lu Ann 😀
And it couldn’t have happened to a nicer, more deserving person (who worked like a madwoman to get this book written on a very short deadline). This, I am quite certain, is the beginning of many great things.
Below you’ll find my review of this remarkable book. Enjoy.
On August 7, 2006 four-year-old conjoined twins Maliyah and Kendra Herrin made history when they were successfully separated. The surgery lasted over twenty-six hours and required over thirty-five doctors and medical personnel. That event alone—and all the anxiety and emotions of those involved with it—is a great story in and of itself. Yet even more amazing is what it took for parents Jake and Erin Herrin to get their two little girls, and themselves, to that point. When Hearts Conjoin is that story.
Told by Erin Marie Herrin with LuAnn Brobst Staheli, When Hearts Conjoin begins in 1997, when Erin was a carefree young girl and long before she had any idea of the trials that lay ahead. Written with honesty, and without apology for both mistakes they made and the beliefs which carried them through the most difficult times, the book begins by chronicling Erin’s relationship with Jake Herrin, the boy she fell in love with during her senior year of high school. As happens too often with teens, the young couple let their feelings and passion carry them away to physical intimacy neither was prepared for. The result was a frightening eighteenth birthday for Erin, with an unexpected baby on the way, two heartbroken families, and two futures irrevocably changed.
Trying to do the right thing, Jake and Erin married, but happily ever after was not to be for a very long time. The pressures of family were too much for the young couple. It was astonishing to read that Jake and Erin were separated and had filed for divorce when they found out Erin was carrying conjoined twin girls. What would have been enough to send many older, stable couples to the brink should have been the final nail in the coffin of the Herrin’s relationship. It wasn’t. Instead, a remarkable change took place, the first of many miracles in their family, as they forged ahead and faced their incredible trials—together.
Erin and Jake overcame a series of hurdles to have their babies—beginning with multiple suggestions that they terminate the pregnancy. Against gigantic odds, the twins were born, survived, and even thrived, eventually coming home. But Maliyah and Kendra’s health challenges were many, and the stresses of caring for their conjoined twins were not all that Erin and Jake had to endure. Parents with serious health problems, another set of twins, and a kidney transplant were just a few of the things that lay in store. It was amazing to see how they literally rolled with the punches, sometimes joking and teasing to get through—a lot of times crying. But made it through, they did, to that fateful summer day in 2006.
The chapters detailing the surgery are difficult to read. The girls endured physical and emotional pain both before and after the surgeries, and their parents suffered emotional anguish beyond what most parents will ever have to go through. Both Jake and Erin agreed it was the best thing, the right thing to separate the girls. But what if something went wrong? What if one of them died? What if . . . Any parent reading this can only imagine that fear and agony they faced.
Though the separation was successful, the girls required additional surgeries and procedures and were in and out of the hospital over the coming months.
Since then the girls have continued to have health challenges, but the prognosis for their separate, happy lives is excellent. The prognosis for the Herrin family is equally good. Having weathered more storms than many people undergo in an entire lifetime, they are strong in mind and spirit. They are grateful for the mercies and miracles of God and filled with love for their immediate and extended families.
I am grateful for having read this book. Erin Herrin and author LuAnn Staheli took truths stranger than fiction and chronicled them into an inspiring volume. When Hearts Conjoin is guaranteed to touch your heart and make you look at your own life and blessings a little closer. It is a compelling read from start to finish, one that will motivate you to face your own challenges with more courage, and to find more gratitude in the simple, every day blessings we all enjoy.