Monday, April 16, 2012

The Art of Hearing Heartbeats by Jan-Philipp Sendker

Book description:
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.

This book, about one daughter's quest to find her father, is a truly engrossing read. During the first few pages, I felt Julia's confusion and feelings of dislocation; after that, I (like Julia) was too caught up in the story to question it from a logical perspective. The writing is fluid and the feeling of Burma, especially Burma in the 1950s, shines through. This is an odd book in some ways, a tale of the past that has only a nominal connection to the present, but surprisingly it works. As the true story of Tin Win and Mi Mi unfolds, the reasons for Julia's father's abrupt departure from his life in NY become clear and even understandable. Though the book does not answer how he could have so easily abandoned his daughter, Julia is really ony a peripheral character so her pain and her story are never as compelling as that of Tin Win and Mi Mi. Well written and engaging, this book was impossible to put down once I started reading.

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