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

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Rating: 4 / 5

4 years ago Julia’s father, successful New York City entertainment lawyer, Tin Win, disappeared.  The FBI know that he bought a plane ticket, and the last they traced him to was Rangoon, but from there, he has disappeared.  He left no note and made no mention of his departure to his wife or two children.  Going through some of his old belongings, Julia finds a letter her father wrote to Mi Mi in Burma, and Julia decides to travel to Burma to find out once and for all her father’s fate.

Although The Art of Hearing Heartbeats starts out about Julia, she is just the platform to tell the story of Tin Win and Mi Mi.  Theirs is a love story so pure, innocent, and strong that it survived decades of separation.  The novel alternates between past and present; this is Julia’s first time learning about her father’s life before he emigrated to the United States, and her father’s story as told through U Ba.  His story is heartbreaking, but also full of hope and promise.  While Tin Win’s life is profound, emotional, and displays his undying loyalty, I felt that the fact that he up and disappeared did not jive well with his character.  After learning about his past, I think he would have at least left a note for Julia or her brother, explaining his actions and why he felt he had to go.

The Art of Hearing Heartbeats is a great reminder that we don’t always intimately know those closest to us.  It is also a stark reminder of how much our childhood shapes our future, and how sometimes it is difficult to let go of the past, even with a new start. At times, The Art of Hearing Heartbeats is a bit cheesy, but I think it worked well in this case.  Sendker wonderfully brought Burma alive with his rich descriptions of the landscape and the Burmese culture. Overall, I enjoyed this book and do recommend it (although probably more for women than men).

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