Tuesday, June 5, 2012

The Art of Hearing Heartbeats by Jan-Phillip Sendker (2012)

**Possible Spoiler Alert**

This was a book group read.

I really wanted to love this novel. But I couldn't. It started out well enough, with a most intriguing premise: Julia's father, Tin Win, has disappeared, leaving his family in NYC behind with no clue as to where he may have gone to. So Julia travels to Burma, where her father is from, to search for him.

But here the story verges from a path I could kind of relate to, to one I didn't enjoy for very long. Julia meets Ba in her father's home village who seems to know exactly why she is there, and what she needs to be told about her father.

A long story is told to her about her father's life and past love, of which Julia knows nothing. The sentiment that one can see with the heart and eyes are not needed (as Julia's father is become blind quite suddenly as a child) is just used over and over again, to the point where it lost all its special meaning for me (of course, Sendker is not the first person to ever use this cliche, but he uses it to infinity in this novel. I always think of Antoine de Saint-Exupery's The Little Prince:  "But eyes are blind. You have to look with the heart.”)

I wanted to enjoy and appreciate this book, but I ended up not really liking Tin Win and Mi Mi very much. The were just too good to be true.  I kind of wish the author had stuck with more development of Julia's character, and less of the personal story of Tin Win's previous life that was unknown to her. Plus, so many things happened that were too pat and perfect for the story (the sudden onset of Tin Win's blindness, the discovery of Ba and Julia's relationship at the end of the novel, Julia's mother easy dismissal of Tin Win from their lives, etc.)


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