Saturday, February 11, 2012

Book Review: "The Art of Hearing Heartbeats" by Jan-Philipp Sendker

This book is a wonderfully special treasure. A book about the strength of love, and the pull it has, over distance and over years, The Art of Hearing Heartbeats captivated me from the start and didn't let me go, and now I can't stop thinking about it. Don't you love books like that?

Just shortly after her graduation from law school, Julia Win's steadfastly reliable father, a successful attorney in his own right, disappears without a trace. Although he told his family he was meeting a client in Boston, his trail ends in Bangkok, and no further evidence can be found. One day, in a box of her father's things, Julia finds a letter her father wrote more than 50 years before to a woman in Burma, a woman Julia never heard of before. Determined to find out who this woman was, and where her father might have gone, Julia leaves home and work and heads to Burma (now Myanmar), to this woman's village. She has no idea what she'll find, and what she uncovers is a story about overcoming grief and sadness, the beauty of the senses, and the amazing power of love. The book cuts back and forth between the present and the Burma of the 1940s and 50s.

I had never heard of this book until I saw it on Amazon's list of February's best books. I was worried that the story might be too sappy, too precious to enjoy, but I was proven wrong. While romance is at the heart of the book (no pun intended), there are so many other things at play as well—happiness, sadness, betrayal, courage—that I was completely immersed. Jan-Philipp Sendker has created a memorable story with wonderful characters whose vividness had me seeing their story unfold before my eyes. I really loved this book.

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