Tuesday, January 7, 2014

The Art of Hearing Heartbeats by Jan-Philipp Sendker

Overall, a great book and a great read.

There were a few issues, but overall I really enjoyed it. I typically do not read books that are touted as "poignant" and "inspirational" ... least of all "love story." Even less, a book where someone is discovering the hidden life of someone they love, which apparently involves infidelity, and which involves "the power of love to move mountains." brrp. sorry just threw up in my mouth a little.

Yeah. so, not my kind of book. But it's a book group book, so I give it my full attention and an open mind. And it was GOOD. From the beginning. It drew me in and kept me there. It's a fast read and an engaging plot.

Let me describe it a little: 

Meet privileged family, in big city in America, at sudden disappearance of the father (Tin Win) of the family. Understand that the family knows nothing of the father's first 20 years of his life and that it seems to be some kind of grand mystery. Know that the father is a very successful lawyer who hails from some faraway foreign land. And then travel with the early-20s daughter (Julia), a newly minted lawyer herself, to Burma to discovery "the truth" of her father.

Enter strange old man (U Ba) who seems to know every thought, emotion, and intimate part of Tin Win's life and the life of the woman he apparently loved from his mid-teens until approximately 20. And discover Burma and the Burmese, blindness and discovery, and struggle and heartache with Julia as she begins to learn "the truth" about her father. Sendker made Burma come alive, made the Burmese insistence on belief in astrology interesting, and made the reader desire to learn the art of hearing heartbeats.

It was so interesting! It was so well paced and the characters were so well drawn! I loved the varying perspectives we managed to get. I loved the scenery and the thoughts. I loved the peripheral characters. I even liked MiMi and Tin Win and wanted to believe in their love.

So what didn't I like? HUGE SPOILERS HEREIN (highlight to read):

I did not like that U Ba not only knew the intimate (and I mean intimate) details of Tin Win and MiMi's lives, but that the shared them with Tin Win's daughter?! That was probably my biggest beef. But since we're on spoiler-alert here anyway, I also didn't like (really didn't like!) that somehow Julia was just hunky-dory with the fact that her father supposedly had this undying amazing love for Mi Mi, somehow also loved her mother and his family, and that that was all just ok. 

I didn't like that Tin Win was selfish enough to find a new family in America, and selfish enough to hold so ardently onto his feelings for Mi Mi. And I didn't like that he was selfish enough to "choose" to die and leave his son, his daughter, and even his wife without any note, explanation, or apology. His only "note" was the story he told his other son, and that was supposed to be sufficient. And then they were celebrated?! I get that Julia was trying to recognize cultural differences and allow for more than 1 kind of love... but what he did to both of his sons and his daughter, not even paying any attention to the two women, I don't think that's loving. It's self-focused. 


But aside from not liking the PERSON all that much, and/or his decisions, I liked the STORY, and I thought it was well told. Very well told.

 And I definitely recommend the book! FOUR of five stars.

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