The Art of Hearing Heartbeats– Jan-Philipp Sendker

  • Read Date: January 18, 2020
  • Rating: 3.5/5
  • Format: E-book

Julia Win’s father has left. Out of the blue and without a trace, he disappeared and was never heard of again. To get to the bottom of this disappearance, Julia visits her father’s native Kalaw in Burma (present day Myanmar), where she meets a mysterious man who inexplicably knows her by sight, and has seemingly divined her motivation for coming to Kalaw. He embarks on telling Julia a long and winding tale of a man who, over time, Julia comes to realize is her father.

Surprised that the Tin Win of this mysterious elder’s story is so vastly different from the father she knew her whole life, she absorbs this story of loss: lost family, lost sight, lost love, lost opportunity. She comes to recognize her father as a man of tenacity and devotion in ways very alternate to those she’s used to.

The Art of Hearing Heartbeats is a very romantic and gripping story with an added element of ingenuity: because our main character is blind, so much of the story is told through observation of the other senses, but primarily aurally. Sounds are so intricately described throughout the book, opening the opportunity for the reader to more deeply imagine things like flower petals and the humming of insects. Rarely do authors invest so deeply in descriptors outside of visual ones, and Sendker expertly uses Tin Win’s reliance on other senses to a descriptive advantage as well. As readers– with sight, that is– we read about a bee and automatically imagine what it looks like, and within Hearing Heartbeats our immediate reflexes are well augmented with hearing and feeling descriptions as well.

This comes largely into play, as the title suggests, in Tin Win’s ability to hear individuals’ heartbeats and infer more about their souls and manners than those who cannot hear heartbeats would. This feeds into his relationships with his true love Mi Mi, with Su Kyi who raised him, with U May who taught him, and so many others. His relationships with other characters and his relationship with blindness are so captivating and poignant.

The Art of Hearing Heartbeats presents a strange dichotomy in that it is a very quick read, but also paced a bit slowly at times. Sendker depicts Tin Win and Mi Mi’s relationship very clearly and movingly, but almost to the point of lingering and over-explaining for a while after the point has been driven home. That said, the language is beautiful and the turns of phrase the two create and share between themselves are quite lovely. This is my book club book for our meeting on Valentines Day and it seems a very fitting choice!

Have you read The Art of Hearing Heartbeats? Leave your thoughts below!

Find the book here or at your local library. Happy reading!


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