As a bookseller and a lover of books, one the best things Laura and I were able to do at this year’s Winter Institute 7 in New Orleans, a booksellers’ convention, was to hear about the new, up-and-coming books for 2012 directly from the publishers’ representatives. One such book was The Art of Hearing Heartbeats by Jan-Philip Sendker from Other Press.
The day after Julia Win graduated from law school, her father, Tin Win, woke her up and told her he was going on a trip to Boston and that he loved her. That was the last time Julia would see or talk to her father. According to investigators, Tin Win did not go to Boston. His last known location was on a plane bound for Hong Kong. Four years later, after Julia’s mother discovers a 40-year-old unmailed love letter to a woman named Mi Mi in Burma in Tin’s things, Julia decides to go to Burma and finally find out the truth about her father’s disappearance and the childhood he never spoke of. Once in her father’s home village of Kalaw, Burma, Julia meets U Ba, a man that says he knows her and her father. Even though she is skeptical of U Ba, she can not help but be taken in by the beautiful way he tells the tale of her father’s childhood. Julia learns that her father suffered from blindness as a child, received his education at the monastery, and was in love with a local village girl Mi Mi. Julia struggles with believing that this story is about the father she knew and loved, but the more she learns, the more she begins to recognize the boy in the story as the man who would become her father.
“Can words sprout wings? Can they glide like butterflies through the air? Can they captivate us, carry us off into another world? Can they open the last secret chambers of our souls?” The Art of Hearing Heartbeats is one of the most beautifully-written novels I have ever read. The words did transport me into a another world and touched my soul. Not only is this a story of the power of love that spans decades, it is at its heart a story of the human spirit and the ability to deal with adversity with strength and beauty.
The Art of Hearing Heartbeats is an international bestseller, and marks Jan-Philip Sendker’s English-language debut. Kevin Wiliarty’s translation of Sendker’s work from German to English is truly remarkable.
Mention this review in the store and get 15% off your paperback copy of The Art of Hearing Heartbeats!