Saturday, March 17, 2018

Review: The Art of Hearing Heartbeats

The Art of Hearing Heartbeats
Jan-Phillipp Sendker 

A poignant and inspirational love story set in Burma, The Art of Hearing Heartbeats spans the decades between the 1950s and the present.  When a successful New York lawyer suddenly disappears without a trace, neither his wife nor his daughter Julia has any idea where he might be…until they find a love letter he wrote many years ago, to a Burmese woman they have never heard of. Intent on solving the mystery and coming to terms with her father’s past, Julia decides to travel to the village where the woman lived. There she uncovers a tale of unimaginable hardship, resilience, and passion that will reaffirm the reader’s belief in the power of love to move mountains.
I gave this book 5 stars, because it really is a five-star novel. However, that doesn't mean I didn't have issues with some things. 

I heard of this book from a really smart woman I know, the same one who recommended me The Five Love Languages.  What she enjoyed about this novel was the same idea - someone may be telling me they love me in a way I don't understand, or vice versa. In The Art of Hearing Heartbeats, Julia grapples with her father's disappearance, and asks the question- if he loved me, how could he leave? 

We read the story of Tin Win, a young Burmese boy in the 1950s and his love, Mi Mi. The story was beautiful and heartbreaking, and presented big questions about love. One if which is the concept of loving in such a way that there is no need to prove it, to anyone in any physical way. Of knowing so deeply that you are loved that years apart cannot ruin you. Amazing, and yet, do I believe in that?

I believe that relationships need upkeep, hard work and growth. With a lifetime apart and without all that, could Tin Win and Mi Mi 's love stay strong in real life? I can't say. It's interesting though that The Art of Hearing Heartbeats was written by a westerner- the themes and beliefs portrayed in the novel were true to their Eastern setting. 

Another wonderful concept in the book was of how our eyes can blind us to the true nature of things. Of Tin Win listening to the world with his ears and heart, deriving more truth from them than when he sees with his eyes. The woman I admire very much once said that there is a reason heartfelt or in depth conversations happen often in the wee hours of the morning. There is something about the darkness, when we see less with our eyes, that allows us to see and speak from our hearts. 

The writing was beautiful and captivating. 

As for criticism - Spoilers:
Why would Tin Win start a family in America? Is that really a more respectable thing to do than confronting your uncle in Burma? 
And after doing that- having lived your life away from Mi Mi until her last moments, and then deciding to die with her- you have lost both loves. You loved Mi Mi but did not live her life with her, and you love your family in America but leave them.

This angered me. Love, in my opinion, must be more than an abstract feeling. It must be acted upon, lived to the fullest. If those who love you never get your company, what is it worth? 

All in all, a thought-provoking and heartfelt read. You don't have to agree with the character's choices to derive meaning from the novel. 


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