Art of Hearing Heartbeats (Sendker)

Book Reviews
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.
Publishers Weekly

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
Library Journal

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.
Kirkus Reviews

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