Fifteen years old Julian finds himself completely lost when his mother suddenly leaves him and his father and moves from North Carolina to Florida creating a façade that she wants to run her parent's motel and to work on her novel. Julian who has always been much closer to his mother does not know what to make out of this new situation, wants to join her but he has to wait till the school year ends.
Now father and son, almost alien to each other find themselves thrown together in an empty home with no common bridge. Gradually the fissure between the two starts getting plugged and a special bond begins to appear. He gets the chance to know and understand his father - his achievements, his compromises and what kind of individual he is. Julian takes on the responsibility of the kitchen and enjoys cooking dinner for his father. His passion for cooking brings him closer to a pretty cashier at the local grocery store who shares similar interests with him. His association with his elderly neighbor opens a whole new world of appreciating nature and the winged creatures. During his daily visits to the elderly lady's place, he learns a valuable lesson of listening to the heart, following it and enjoying the pleasure that it brings.
Slowly and very subtly he manages to motivate his father to follow his own heart and pick up some lost strings from his life. He keeps fantasizing about the ideal situation when his parents would start living together. But the distance, though very unpleasant, gave each of them time to think and to find the things which bring happiness to them and fill their hearts with joy.
At the end of the school year, the time comes when he has to leave for Florida. He is very excited to meet his mother and understands that she is happy in Florida. But he has mixed feelings about his own move, he has to make a big decision of either to stay with his mother or to go back to North Carolina to his father and to her new found love.
A very sensitive story presented by Steve Cushman which brings out the essence of life - finding that special thing which fills the heart with joy and fills the life with contentment and satisfaction. 'Heart with Joy' , a story dealing with adjustments, compromises, dreams, expectations, priorities and being comfortable with who we are, flows very naturally and takes the readers in the waves of the narrative. The protagonist comes across as a person very mature for his age, who observes and understands the intricacies of different individuals and relationships. I admire the clarity of thought that Julian develops through his year long journey in finally deciding what is it that makes him happy.