Reviewed by Claudia Robinson

“He learned that the wing beats of a swallowtail butterfly sounded brighter than those of a monarch; the the leaves of a mulberry tree rustled differently in the wind from those of the guava; that the chomping of a wood worm was not to be confused with that of a caterpillar; that the rubbing of hind legs was distinct from fly to fly. It was a whole new alphabet.” – Tin Win’s observations of his surroundings with Mi Mi’s help.

There are love stories and there are love stories. The kind that make us ache with jealously and longing, the kind that supersede emotion and time and the challenges and obstacles of distance, culture and personal limitations. The Art of Hearing Heartbeats, by Jan-Philipp Sendker is just that. Pure, brilliant, moving, tender and so absolutely different and perfect, you won’t leave the house, a room, without book in hand, for fear of missing an opportunity to turn the page and delve in to the love story between a blind boy, Tin Win, and young girl named Mi Mi, who can’t walk.

Set in Burma, the story unfolds, told to us by the old man U Ba. Julia Win has left the comfort of New York city in an effort to follow her missing Father’s footsteps and perhaps unearth the mystery behind his disappearance from her and her Mother’s lives so long ago. Julia’s discovery of a love letter to a woman other than her Mother, leads her to the small village named Kalaw in search of answers. When an old man named U Ba seems to know more about her than she knows about herself, Julia finds herself entrusting her life and the story of her past, to him. Slowly and painstakingly, U Ba unfolds a love story of two souls, entwined forever by their love, that has Julia doubting if she even knew who her Father really was.

A tale of undying love between Tin Win, blind and raised and tutored by Monks, and Mi Mi, born with deformed feet, forced to crawl through life, and yet so beautiful and so full of grace, she is revered and loved by all. With Mi Mi’s help, Tin Win learns that sight is not just something seen by the eyes, but felt with the soul, heard with the ears, discovered with the heart. Together, the two young people immerse themselves in to self-discovery, their own and that of each other and find themselves two halves of a whole. Soul-mates in the truest and purest sense of the word. When a rich Uncle, eager to appease his Karmic debtors, sends for his nephew, the two are separated for over 50 years, and yet, as Julia quickly finds out, never lose faith or love in the time apart.

Through the tale of her Father’s story Julia begins to find her own heart and the definitions of success, love and life are radically altered through each passage of the story U Ba shares with her. In The Art of Hearing Heartbeats, the reader is offered an exquisitely woven tapestry of cultures, emotions, sensations and lessons that will leave a lasting impression and a newfound faith and respect of love and it’s ability to transcend anything and everything. Absolute perfection.

Rating: ★★★★★ 

Claudia lives on beautiful Cape Cod with her husband and two children.

The review copy of this book was provided free of any obligation by Other Press. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.