Photo Credit: Joe Mast Ishots Photography
Film Credit: Adler and Associates Entertainment Inc
“A Gift of the Heart” by Andrew Heller opens in Cuba, setting the scene for main characters Juan and Ali. Juan and his pregnant wife Maria are contemplating life in Cuba under the Castro regime and are hoping for a better life one day.
After their son Ali is born, the family begins the journey to America on a makeshift raft. Only Juan and Ali make it to shore.
Fast-forward 12 years to find Juan and Ali making a life as best they can in the United States. Ali befriends Sydney Goldberg and Adalia as his father struggles to provide for him with money he earns from an underground fight club. It is later discovered that Ali has an incurable brain disease and Sydney has a life-threatening heart ailment that requires a heart transplant.
As the story unfolds, prejudices are brought to the forefront as faiths collide and monetary barriers become clear. The families of Ali and Sydney are forced to put their prejudices aside as they struggle to come to terms with the inevitable.
“A Gift of the Heart” is a powerful story about friendship. It is told with a thoughtful approach while depicting the heartache of prejudices and the struggle of crossing racial boundaries, both situations that are all too familiar in today’s world.
The book is currently being adapted into a feature film with director Dan Springen. It will star John Schneider, who is best known for his role as Bo Duke in “The Dukes of Hazzard,” and Austin St. John, the original Red Ranger in the “Mighty Morphin Power Rangers” series. The trailer for “A Gift of the Heart” was filmed at Valencia College last month, and the movie will be filmed in locations across Central Florida.
Heller was inspired to tell this story after losing his mother and several friends to cancer. He hopes the book and the film will bring awareness to juvenile cancer and organ donation as well as encourage donor registrations. A percentage of the profits will be donated to organizations supporting young transplant patients and their families who are in need of financial assistance.
“A Gift of the Heart” is available for purchase in paperback and electronic versions worldwide including through Kindle, Nook, Amazon and Barnes and Noble.