The Heart Changer by Jarm Del Boccio is a wonderfully captivating middle grade novella that explores themes of faith, identity, and forgiveness woven within a coming of age story. Ultimately, this is a must read for historical fiction fans and those who enjoy finding greater truths within the stories they read. Young readers will relate to Miriam’s struggles, especially as she navigates waiting and learning how to cope with disappointment and hardships.
The Heart Changer: What is it About?
Readers first meet Miriam, a young Israelite girl, when she is ripped away from her home by a soldier in the Syrian army. Miriam is promptly taken to General Naaman who then presents Miriam to be his wife as her new servant.
Not knowing the fate of her family, and thrown into captivity, Miriam struggles adjusting to her circumstances. Her now mistress explicitly states Miriam must earn her trust, but how can Miriam serve the wife of the man who raided her home and possibly killed her family? Miriam is arguably in the right to feel bitter; however, bitter soil will never yield the desired harvest.
Only through the work of her God can Miriam’s heart be changed so that she can fulfill God’s plan for her—a plan which is far greater than she ever imagined.
My Thoughts on the Book
The book’s subtitle, Only He Could Set a Captive Free, perfectly encapsulates the overarching narrative, and Miriam’s story beautifully illustrates the power of the one true God. What I loved most about Del Boccio’s novella is the subtle, but clear, message that often things happen in our lives that are outside of our comprehension; yet, through God’s greater plan there is reason in everything.
What happened to Miriam was terrible and traumatic. Yet, had she not been within Naaman’s household, she would not have been able to [redacted due to spoilers]. I also love that within The Heart Changer, Miriam shares the story of Joseph, son of Jacob.
Several months ago, I wrote an article exploring purpose that was published online with Calla Press. In it, I concluded that everything does NOT happen for a reason citing one of the biggest losses of my adult life in support of this perspective. However, since sharing that piece, and diving deeper within my faith walk, I’ve come to realize that though I will likely never know the “why” behind my heartbreaking experience—and there’s a difference between direct causal relationships and experiences in life that shape us and those around us.
The biblical story of Joseph is one that has continually been placed in my path recently. Author Elizabeth Jacobson has a beautiful fiction novel following Joseph’s journey to Egypt as a slave. (Full review coming to the blog in July!). Like the historical figure of Joseph, Miriam in The Heart Changer, undergoes much hardship. But, through that hardship, the path is set straight for the salvation of others to be secured.
Pain + Purpose = Everything Has Reason?
So, does everything truly happen for a reason? As humans we crave easy answers, but this question has several layers. I still believe that because of free will and sin in our world, troubles are unavoidable. I also still believe that it is of utmost importance that when faced with troubles and heartache, we cling to God for comfort. My firm belief that everything not happening for a reason, however, has shifted. My heartbreak did not clearly cause a tangible outcome; however, perhaps in sharing my story and what I learned over time, I can help others. Perhaps someone watching me navigate my grief helped them seek out God’s comforting embrace. Or perhaps, I can spend the rest of my days speculating and never truly know. God’s overall plan is too much for human comprehension, and I accept that.
I’m bringing up this concept because recognizing this fact of life is vital to the foundation of faith. And within The Heart Changer, if not for Miriam’s faith and ultimate surrender to God in all things, the mission God was leading her to complete may not have been fulfilled.
Biblical Truth within The Heart Changer by Jarm Del Boccio
The character Miriam herself is fictional; but her journey is based on a Bible verse. The inspiration for Miriam comes from the servant girl mentioned in 2 Kings Chapter 5 of the Bible. Reading this chapter myself, I am in awe of Del Boccio’s skill. She was able to craft a heartfelt and poignant book based on 2 verses! Within 2 Kings, the servant girl shares with Naaman’s wife that Elisha in Samaria can help the general. And that’s the only mention of her.
The chapter does note that the servant was an Israelite captive. To be stolen from her homeland and yet so willingly offer life-saving help to the one who enslaved her? Surely, only God could help her overcome bitterness and heartache to show compassion to the one who so wronged her. Surely, only God could change her heart so she could lead the general of the Syrian army to salvation.
Del Boccio’s beautifully shows this important truth through relatable characters. For example, Miriam’s own growth is messy. There are ups and downs as she struggles to completely let go of bitter thoughts and hard feelings at times. She must continue to turn to God and deliberately keep choosing how to react to circumstances outside of her control.
Teachers, parents, and church leaders will enjoy crafting a novel study around this historical fiction novella. Not only can you craft comprehension questions for each chapter, but this book will generate important discussions about several topics/themes. Including the following: emotions and reactions, forgiving others, responding to disappointment and setbacks, spiritual growth and identity in Christ, pain and purpose, and what true faith looks like. Readings from 2 Kings as well as Genesis 37-50 (Joseph’s story) can easily pair with this novella. (As well as other verses related to themes within The Heart Changer by Jarm Del Boccio).
The Heart Changer by Jarm Del Boccio is clearly a 5-star read. I highly recommend it! I personally listened to this via Audible. But I enjoyed it so much, I will be getting myself a paperback copy. Overall, Miriam’s story reminds us that there is alwasy hope. Even when we feel nearly consumed by darkness, there is hope for better and brighter days.
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