I volunteered to pick the next selection for my book club. Being a librarian makes this a somewhat daunting task...there is an inherent pressure that I have to pick a "good" book, a book that will inspire discussion and perhaps even debate. I think I hit the mark with Jan-Philipp Sendker's The Art of Hearing Heartbeats. This is such a beautifully written story with characters that both break your heart and make you want to cry tears of happiness. The location is just the proverbial cherry on top - twentieth century Burma - exotic and mysterious and wonderful. The only question is what am I going to serve for dinner?
"Only a few days earlier he had explained to her that he did not merely read books but traveled with them, that they took him to other countries and unfamiliar continents, and that with their help he was always getting to know new people, many of whom even became his friends." Pg. 128
Already a huge hit in Europe, Sendker’s debut is a lush tale of romance and family set in mid-twentieth-century Burma. Four years after her father mysteriously disappeared, Julia Win traces him to the small town of Kalaw after finding a love letter among his possessions addressed to a woman named Mi Mi. In Kalaw, an old man named U Ba approaches her, promising to tell her the story of her father’s life before he came to New York and met her mother. As a child, Tin Win was abandoned by his mother, who was told by an astrologer the boy was cursed. At 10, Tin Win gradually goes blind. He’s taken in by a kindly neighbor, who finds him a home at a local monastery. It is there that he meets Mi Mi, whose crippled legs make her as much of an outsider as Tin Win. Their natural camaraderie quickly turns into love, but their happiness is brief. A beautiful tale bound to enchant readers on this side of the Atlantic. --Kristine Huntley