The Art of Hearing Heartbeats by Jan-Philipp Sendker
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
The concept of The Art of Hearing Heartbeats is fascinating. In this novel a successful American woman drops everything and heads to Burma to discover what happened to her father, who had disappeared years earlier when she was a young girl. This plot provides a chance for the author to make a comparison between a culture based on acquiring material goods and one based more on looking within oneself. Jan-Philipp Sendker does this well, although there are times he slips into cliches and, worse yet, into statements of moral fact that don't stand up to scrutiny. I didn't like the way Julia was told that she shouldn't doubt her father's love, since he was her father. Perhaps fathers loving their daughters is the natural state of things, but it is by no means universal. I also didn't like Sendker's one dimensional portrayal of Tin Win's uncle. But the part that disappointed me the most has to do with two separations. The Art of Hearing Heartbeats is a story within a story and each plot has a separation at its core. Julia's reaction to the similarity of these events didn't make any sense at all.
What I liked the most about this novel was the picture of love found through two people depending on each other or, perhaps more accurately, each person compensating for the abilities lacking in the other. There can be no single definition of love, but this is certainly an interesting one. This is also one of the most quotable books I've ever read. Perhaps this is because Sendker's purpose seems to be to teach rather than simply to tell a story. Here are a couple of examples:
We wish to be loved as we ourselves would love. Any other way makes as uncomfortable. We respond with doubt and suspicion. We misinterpret the signs. We do not understand the language. We accuse. We assert that the other person does not love us. But perhaps he merely loves us in some idiosyncratic way that we fail to recognize.
The true essence of things is invisible to the eyes...Our sensory organs love to lead us astray, and eyes are the most deceptive of all. We rely too heavily on them. We believe that we see the world around us, and yet it is only the surface that we perceive. We must learn to divine the true nature of things, their substance, and the eyes are rather a hindrance than a help in that regard. They distract us. We love to be dazzled. A person who relies too heavily on his eyes neglects his other senses--and I mean more than his hearing or sense of smell. I'm talking about the organ within us for which we have no name. Let us call it the compass of the heart.
Steve Lindahl – author of Motherless Soul and White Horse Regressions
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