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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 ...
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.
“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
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.
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?
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!
4 out of 4 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted June 16, 2012
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 2 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted October 16, 2013
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.
1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted October 22, 2012
Posted May 22, 2012
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.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted November 1, 2013
Posted October 11, 2013
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 NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted October 4, 2013
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.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted October 1, 2013
A somewhat overrated fairy tale that should be renamed "the art of tugging on your heartstrings". Ti Win Burmese village is a bit beyond reality as well for the 1950's.
Posted July 9, 2013
Posted June 11, 2013
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.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted June 9, 2013
Posted May 31, 2013
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.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted May 24, 2013
Posted April 29, 2013
Posted April 28, 2013
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.
0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted April 19, 2013
The story line is wonderful, as well as, a very easy read. It is so human in it's nature as it is told not only through what is seen by the characters, but even more so, by what is heard and felt by them. It opens avenues of insight into the things we always look for in others and their situations but is rarely found using our eyes alone. It has challenged me to take more care in "hearing" my world and the wonderful people in it by not being so dependent on what I see with my eyes. It's a gold medal love story with all the challenges, twists and turns that make it worth the character's sacrifices and the reader's time.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted March 11, 2013
Posted March 8, 2013
Posted February 23, 2013
I didn't particularly enjoy this book, I think it did not match my preferences in books. I found it a little manipulative, particularly at the end. Rest of the book group loved it, though.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.