The Art of Hearing Heartbeats

( 76 )

Overview

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 ...

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Overview

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.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
This tearful, circuitous German bestseller traces the lost romance between a blind young monk and a poor crippled girl in pre-WWII Burma. Sendker employs an elaborate secondhand flashback device to send Julia, an American lawyer, to Burma on a hunch that she might find clues to the whereabouts of her Burmese father, Tin Win, a prominent New York celebrity lawyer who was blind as a child and vanished four years ago, apparently of his own volition. Julia, born to Win and his American wife in 1968, is a New Yorker used to metropolitan conveniences. She arrives in the village of Kalaw by virtue of a beautiful 1955 love letter from her father to a woman named Mi Mi and immediately bristles at the pace and privation of village life. A stranger named U Ba soon helps Julia unravel the mystery of her father, from his astrologically inauspicious birth and abandonment by a superstitious mother to his ensuing blindness and delivery to Buddhist monks who teach him to use his other senses keenly. When Tin Win meets Mi Mi, a kind, crippled creature, she acts as his eyes as he carries her upon his back. Their love remains unbroken through 50 years of incredible vicissitudes. An epic narrative that requires enormous sentimental indulgence and a large box of tissues. (Jan.)
From the Publisher
“[The Art of Hearing Heartbeats] is a love story set in Burma…imbued with Eastern spirituality and fairy-tale romanticism…Fans of Nicholas Sparks and/or Elizabeth Gilbert should eat this up.” —Kirkus Reviews

“An epic narrative that requires…a large box of tissues.” —Publishers Weekly

 “Sweetly tragic.” —Library Journal

“No matter what I even attempt to say, I can’t possibly capture the absolute magic of this book. Like a spell, it haunts. Like love, it’s going to endure.” —Caroline Leavitt, New York Times bestselling author of Pictures of You
 
“A story at once both poignant and joyous, The Art of Hearing Heartbeats reaffirms how love can transform the harshest of realities into a mystical one. Sendker takes us from contemporary, upscale New York to impoverished Burma, weaving a complex tale that is part romance, part father-daughter story. Reading this book was like reading poetry, with full attention required for each sentence. A thoroughly immersive and enjoyable read.” —Margaret Dilloway, author of How to Be an American Housewife
 
“Set in Burma, The Art of Hearing Heartbeats is a rare novel. Telling the story of a young blind man’s journey through a world of auditory intensity, Jan-Philipp Sendker renews one’s faith in the possibility of real, pure love. I finished the book in tears.” —Shawna Yang Ryan, author of Water Ghosts

“This book has the right mix of romance, magic, heartache and inspiration that will make it a favorite for a lot of people.…This brilliant author, Jan-Philipp Sendker, has gifted us with a story that is so powerful and moving. It will touch your heart and you will want to share it, it is THAT good.” —Romance Book Reviews

“So intense and delicate at the same time that it takes your breath away. All human flaws become less important, all physical challenges are taken in dignity. The magic of the story evolves slowly…It will touch your heart deeply.”—Zuckerbuecherei

“A masterfully told tale of enduring love, the twists of fate and the journey life takes us on to discover what is truly important.”—SCLS Reading Suggestions

"I highly recommend The Art of Hearing Heartbeats, awarding it three grape clusters, the distinction of “Fine Literature” on the Literary Leisure rating scale."—St. Helena Star

"From beginning to end this book is captivating. Tugging at the heartstrings, the story reveals human connectivity and exercises the wide-range of human emotion."—MegSchuster.com

"It’s been a long time since I’ve enjoyed a book so much and I’ll be recommending this one to everyone I know. The prose reads like poetry, the sentences sing, the tale transports completely. It’s a story within a story – a hero’s quest, a love story, a fairytale. If all books were written this way – with this much magic in the language and with this much to teach us about the natural world, more people would love to read – I’m sure of it."—Read Lately

"A poignant love story that spans a great distance and time." —Castle Rock Magazine

"A truly remarkable novel has the capability of being translated from its original language and still being completely and utterly bewitching. The Art of Hearing Heartbeats is one of these novels... Sendker creates a story so powerful that readers will think back to it time and again." —Anderson's Reads

“A poignant and inspirational love story set in Burma.” –Serendipitous Readings

“An epic love story with plenty of magic about it…It will break your heart, or at least rearrange it.” —Between the Covers

"This novel is a beautifully woven love story of resilience, passion, and truth that lingers long into the silence after the last page." —New Jersey Herald

“An amazing journey of the senses.” —Karen’s Two Sentence Book Club Reviews 

Library Journal
Four years before the start of the novel, Julia Win's father, Tin Win, vanished. After receiving a copy of an old love letter written by him to a woman named Mi Mi, Julia travels to a remote village in Burma to find him. While at a teahouse in Burma, Julia meets U Ba, who claims to know what happened to her father. But the Tin Win of whom U Ba speaks is nothing like the father Julia remembers. She doubts at first that the story is true. But the more she listens and the more time she spends in Burma, the more she believes. Julia is moved by the tragic love story involving Tin Win, a blind boy in rural Burma, and Mi Mi, whose misshapen feet made it impossible for her to walk. VERDICT The heart of this sentimental novel is the romance between the teenagers Tin Win and Mi Mi in pre-World War II Burma. Recommended for readers who enjoy sweetly tragic romances.—Pamela Mann, St. Mary's Coll. of Maryland
Kirkus Reviews
German journalist Sendker's first novel, originally published in German in 2002, is a love story set in Burma and imbued with Eastern spirituality and fairy-tale romanticism. Tin Win, a successful Wall Street lawyer originally from Burma, has been missing since his passport was discovered near the Bangkok airport four years ago. After finding an unmailed love letter he wrote to a Burmese woman named Mi Mi, his daughter Julia, also a Manhattan lawyer, goes in search of her father who never told his American Catholic wife or their two children anything about his life before America. In a teahouse in Kalaw, a small town in Burma--the opening pages are a lovely rendering of her sensory overload--Julia encounters a mysterious older man named U Ba who says he has been waiting for her. He also claims to know Tin Win and asks her one question, "Do you believe in love?" Although the novel is ostensibly being narrated by Julia, her encounter with U Ba is really a framing device for him to tell Tin Win's romantic story: After his father dies and his mother deserts him on his sixth birthday, Tin Win is raised lovingly by his widowed aunt Su Kyi, but by ten years old he has gone blind. Su Kyi takes him to the monastery where the saintly abbot teaches him to follow the wisdom of the heart. At 14 he encounters Mi Mi when, with a newly discovered magical skill to hear and interpret heartbeats, he hears her heart beating. He falls in love immediately. Mi Mi was born with mangled feet and cannot walk but is lovely and has a magical gift for healing song. Their love has a purity of trust and oneness that cannot be destroyed. How Tin Win regains his sight and ends up in America is less important than the love he and Mi Mi maintain in mutual silence for 50 years. Fans of Nicholas Sparks and/or Elizabeth Gilbert should eat this up.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781590514634
  • Publisher: Other Press, LLC
  • Publication date: 1/31/2012
  • Pages: 336
  • Sales rank: 21,086
  • Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 8.20 (h) x 1.30 (d)

Meet the Author

Jan-Philipp Sendker, born in Hamburg in 1960, was the American correspondent for Stern from 1990 to 1995, and its Asian correspondent from 1995 to 1999. In 2000 he published Cracks in the Great Wall, a nonfiction book about China. The Art of Hearing Heartbeats is his first novel. He lives in Berlin with his family.
 
Kevin Wiliarty has a BA in German from Harvard and a PhD from the University of California, Berkeley. A native of the United States, he has also lived in Germany and Japan. He is currently an academic technologist at Wesleyan University in Middletown, Connecticut, where he lives with his wife and two children.

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Read an Excerpt

December in Kalaw is a cold month. The sky is blue and cloudless. The sun wanders from one side of the horizon to the other, but no longer climbs high enough to generate any real warmth. The air is clear and fresh, and only the most sensitive people can still detect any trace of the heavy, sweet scent of the tropical rainy season, when the clouds hang low over the village and the valley, and the water falls unchecked from the skies as if to slake a parched world’s thirst. The rainy season is hot and steamy. The market reeks of rotting meat, while heavy black flies settle on the entrails and skulls of sheep and cattle. The earth itself seems to perspire. Worms and insects crawl out of its pores. Innocent rills turn to rushing torrents that devour careless piglets, lambs, or children, only to disgorge them, lifeless, in the valley below.
   But December promises the people of Kalaw a respite from all of this.  December promises cold nights and mercifully cool days. December, thought Mya Mya, is a hypocrite.
   She was sitting on a wooden stool in front of her house looking out over the fields and the valley to the hilltops in the distance. The air was so clear that she felt she was looking through a spyglass to the ends of the earth. She did not trust the weather. Although she could not remember ever in her life having seen a cloud in a December sky, she would not rule out the possibility of a sudden downpour. Or of a typhoon even if not a single one in living memory had found its way from the Bay of Bengal into the mountains around Kalaw. It was not impossible. As long as there were typhoons anywhere, one might well devastate Mya Mya’s native soil. Or the earth might quake. Even, or perhaps especially, on a day like today, when nothing foreshadowed catastrophe. Complacency was treacherous, confidence a luxury that Mya Mya could not afford. That much she knew at the bottom of her heart. For her there would be neither peace nor rest. Not in this world. Not in her life.

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Reading Group Guide

1. In your opinion, what does the back-and-forth between Julia’s and U Ba’s narratives add to the telling of the love story between Tin Win and Mi Mi? How do these stories interrelate?

2. Tin Win is born to parents who abandon him as a child but Mi Mi is born into a close-knit family. Mi Mi’s mother, especially, adores her daughter. Do you see this developmental difference reflected in the adult each one becomes, or in the way the two relate to one another?

3. After he loses his sight, Tin Win spends several years in a monastery under the tutelage of the abbot, U May. In your opinion, what does U May model for Tin Win? How does Tin Win grow in these years?

4. Tin Win’s wealthy uncle, U Saw, finances Tin Win’s eye operation and subsequent education abroad. But to U Saw’s discredit, his motives are self-interested, and for his own convenience, he obstructs all communication between Tin Win and Mi Mi. Is U Saw portrayed as a villain—or is he even villainous?

5. A portion of the novel is in the form of letters. Does this change the mood or the flow of the novel? The way you see the characters?

6. Tin Win and Mi Mi develop an intense, literally symbiotic relationship: he walks for her; she acts as his eyes. They become inseparable, but then they are separated for decades. Given what you know about each character, how do you think they are able to withstand the time apart?

7. Discuss the role of memory in the novel, both individual and collective.

8. Burma (now known as Myanmar) was occupied by the British from the nineteenth century until 1948. How important is this colonial history to the major events of the novel?

9. Prophecy and superstition play a significant role in Burmese culture. Do you think this belief system inspires a fundamental feeling of security or of anxiety in the main characters of the novel, and why?

10. The novel contrasts Western and Eastern values: individualism and personal achievement versus kinship and transcendence. Where and how are these differences brought to light?

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 76 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(37)

4 Star

(19)

3 Star

(5)

2 Star

(8)

1 Star

(7)

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 76 Customer Reviews
  • Posted March 22, 2012

    I Also Recommend:

    This is simply the most beautiful love story between a boy named

    This is simply the most beautiful love story between a boy named Tin Win and a girl named Mi-Mi that lasts over 50 years. This story will haunt you forever…like Bridges of Madison County. It has all the right elements, the right mix of romance, magic, heartache and inspiration that can’t go wrong. I've added it to my list of favorite books. Don't hesitate to buy this book!


    6 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 16, 2013

    I wish I could give it minus star!

    UGH! Is this book over? More than once I tried throwing across the room only to catch it mid-air as I realized it was on my nook! Am I the only one who thought that there might be two writers in this book - one almost readable and the other just so horribly crappy it made Tosh.O a better waste of time? True I hate drippy romances but really Tin Win is almost dying because his lady love left for a mere three days to visit a sick aunt? I would have dumped him for this alone even if he was my only means of transportation. Please save yourself - watch a rerun, go to the gym, talk on the phone, get a pedicure. Anything is better than this.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 4, 2013

    Recommend strongly, a must read!

    This was a very interesting story and if you believe in soulmates, then this is the read for you. It showed that if you are meant to be together, no matter how long you are apart it will happen. The way the story is told takes you on the journey of discovery that Julia must take to find her father. In some ways I think the reader gets the idea that the big secret comes to you first. Everything comes to an end and it makes perfect sense. Check it out.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 16, 2012

    HIGHLY RECOMMEND

    I FOUND THE BOOK TO BE VERY INTERESTING AND INFORMATIVE ABOUT A DIFFERENT CULTURE. WE ARE READING IT FOR BOOK CLUB. THERE IS MUCH TO DISCUSS ABOUT RELATIONSHIPS AND DEVELOPMENTAL DIFFERENCES.

    2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted February 21, 2014

    Great read!!

    One of the best books I've read this year. Would like to read more by this author.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 11, 2013

    I really enjoyed this book. The story was intriguing, but I felt

    I really enjoyed this book. The story was intriguing, but I felt that the ending was not as well written and thought out as the rest of the book. I was disappointed when I read the last page.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 9, 2013

    Marvelous book

    Loved the book

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted May 31, 2013

    Sensitive story

    I feel this story started slowly. I felt I could put this book down and forget it but I kept reading and became intrigued. As the story developed further I read on wanting to know what would happen next. I felt teary eyed at the end, I was disappointed that the daughter's character was not developed further at the end. One can only speculate on what happened.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted May 24, 2013

    Loved this book!

    Loved this book!!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 28, 2013

    Romantic.....a fairytale or fable

    We read this for bookclub.Some of the ladies in the group used these words to describe the book...."nice, pleasant, a fable, romantic, incomplete, wanted more, a summer read".

    Being a group of ladies that lean toward romance, I was surprised that the majority of the group did "not" seem to like it. They said it was just okay. Written well but just okay in the romance.

    Others thought the book left out a lot .... what happened between TinWin and the American wife he had for almost 50 years? what was his relationship with his American children? The book seemed one-sided in the tale of the love between TinWin and MiMi.

    As a group it left little for discussion. Normally we can discuss a book for an hour or more. This one we only discussed for 15mins and then we moved on to other things. Disappointing.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 22, 2012

    Training grounds

    Apprentices & their mentors train here.

    1 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted May 22, 2012

    more from this reviewer

    Myanmar is open and we're invited...

    The heart of this novel is set in Burma, pre-WWII. The author Sendker was correspondent in America and Asia for Stern, the weekly German news magazine, for some years. This is his first novel. Sendker was successful and very clever in his choice of subject. In making the setting a mountain province of Burma, a country not much opened to the outside and stuck in a pre-WWII lifestyle, things had not changed significantly since the 1950s and if they had, very few English-speaking eyewitnesses would be able to refute it. In addition, Sendker gave his main character a disability, blindness, which gave Sendker the latitude to describe through the voice of another person what the main character was meant to be seeing. Not only does this help us, but it helps the author, in that readers are a little like a blind men: the author must describe everyday things giving focus to sounds, smells, colors. If the reader has any experience in a Southeast Asian country, the descriptions trigger unforgettable memories. But Sendker did more than just excel in describing what any reader could see. He delved into the psyche of the Burmese and showed us folk tales, beliefs, habits, and ways of living. A novel is always suspect in what it reveals, but in this case we can understand as outsiders understand, and are given a way into a South Asia culture that is so remote and so different from modern-day Western culture. All this and I haven’t mentioned the novel is a love story. But not an ordinary love story—it tells of a love that any of us would be happy to call our own. Some reviewers call this a fairy tale, but I would merely say it was an especially daring and insightful attempt to create a plausible story that works on many levels. And so it does. Special kudos go to Other Press, for republishing this story at this time of the opening of Myanmar to the outside world (2012, originally published 2002), and to Blackstone Audio for making a very good audio version of the title with American-accented Cassandra Campbell. The Americans in the novel were so much less spiritual, likeable, and accepting than the Burmese that one can see the stark contrast in our approaches to the world. Let’s hope these differences do not keep us apart. We’d all do better if we had just a little more influence on one another.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted July 7, 2014

    One of the best books I've read in a while

    I was hesitant to read this, but it was recommended by a friend. What a great book.

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  • Posted July 5, 2014

    This story was like a fairy tale romance.  I enjoyed it very muc

    This story was like a fairy tale romance.  I enjoyed it very much.


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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 21, 2014

    The prose is just beautiful, and it reads easily. The end for me

    The prose is just beautiful, and it reads easily. The end for me was a surprise. Please, don't compare it to a Nicholas Spark s novel! It's just engaging and beautiful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 13, 2014

    Beats

    Cant wait to write next part

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  • Posted February 1, 2014

    Very well written

    What a lovely story. Well written book by jan-philipp Sendker. The story of an boy abandoned at a young age in India and the many twists and turns of his entire life. Deals with many different emotions and has a spiritual overtone.

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  • Posted January 4, 2014

    A book to be savored and read slowly. A beautiful love story, f

    A book to be savored and read slowly. A beautiful love story, father-daughter story, descriptive about emotions and feelings as well as the country of Burma. I loved it.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 1, 2013

    Wonderful, wonderful story! Very well written. I would recomme

    Wonderful, wonderful story! Very well written. I would recommend this book to everyone.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 11, 2013

    Highly Recommend

    This book is beautifully written. It is a true love story and will inspire your hope in life-long love. You get so caught up in the story through the writing you feel like you are there throughout the book.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 76 Customer Reviews

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