Welcome to Forgotten Fridays. This mission of this feature is, twice a month, to review books that are more than a year old. And we review them TOGETHER with ourselves! Most reviews have minor spoilers because it is hard to block them out in a back and forth dialogue about a book. So keep that in mind when reading, though we do try to not mention anything that would ruin a book for anyone.
This week, Lyn brought her sister, Trillion, along for the ride. You can find Trillion here on Twitter.
The Art of Hearing Heartbeats by Jan-Philipp Sendker
Published by Other Press on January 31st, 2012
Genres: adult, historical
Buy on Amazon
A poignant and inspirational love story set in Burma, The Art of Hearing Heartbeats spans the decades between the 1950s and the present. When a successful New York lawyer suddenly disappears without a trace, neither his wife nor his daughter Julia has any idea where he might be…until they find a love letter he wrote many years ago, to a Burmese woman they have never heard of. Intent on solving the mystery and coming to terms with her father’s past, Julia decides to travel to the village where the woman lived. There she uncovers a tale of unimaginable hardship, resilience, and passion that will reaffirm the reader’s belief in the power of love to move mountains.
Lyn: HEY! I decided to drag my own sister into this whole mess this week. Say hi to Trillion!
Trillion: I was tricked. She promised cupcakes. I see no cupcakes here.
Kara: Your sister’s name is Trillion? What an odd family. 😛
Lyn: And I call you my sister, Kara. So what does that say about YOU?
Kara: Oh dear. You got me there. Fortunately for me, it’s fairly easy to disown family members.
Lyn: I’m not lucky enough for you to disown me.
Trillion: She never goes away. I tried. I moved out of state to get away. Yet here she is.
Kara: Hahahaha. Poor, Lyn!
Lyn: I hate you all >:(
Trillion: So this book was sure a choice. A choice indeed. The cover’s nice.
Lyn: Odin save us. Okay, so, Kara, this was an interesting pick. What made you pick it?
Kara: First off, I apologize. I didn’t like it that much either. Good lord was this a friggin snoozefest, right? I picked it because the online reviews were really good, I love Asian fiction, and I don’t see Burma very often used as a setting. But at least it was sort of a fast read, no?
Trillion: I’ll say: it wasn’t bad. Yes, a fast read while you’re awake. The setting was beautiful, and I actually liked Julia, for what little we got to know her.
Lyn: Hell, I never got to know her. Passive main character. The writing was pretty, and I liked the story, but it felt really…..safe? It was a sweet story but it had no teeth.
Kara: Good word. I didn’t think that it even had much of a plot, really. Nothing happened and I don’t think it was a compelling or strong enough story to make it worth reading. I was super disappointed. Yeah, the writing was pretty but without something to keep me reading, that’s not enough. I could read poetry instead. Which I pretty much HATE, so there you go.
Trillion: Yes! I was thinking “poetry” as I was reading as well.
Lyn: It was really saccharine, and it had such a potential to be so much more. I also thought the dad was a real dick (due to the ending).
Trillion: I can’t tell if he’s a dick. I never got to know him past the age of 20. Who know what his motivations were for getting married, sticking around while he did, and leaving when he did?
Kara: I got the impression his motivations were because he could finally make his way back to Mi Mi and that was the first opportunity he got to do so. But you are right, I don’t feel like ANY of the characters were really developed in the way that they could have been.
Trillion: Either that, or he could always hear her heartbeats across thousands of miles, and could hear that she was at the end of her life. Still doesn’t give him motivation to marry Julia’s mom in the first place.
Kara: OMG. I never thought about that that way. You might be right. Somehow he knew she was dying and he could hear her. Oh shit. That’s really romantic. I still didn’t really like the book, but wow. Good point. Why the fuck did he get married?
Lyn: Now I feel like a dick. I just felt really bad for Julia. I felt that it was never fair how it all ended. What about her heart? I thought it odd. Maybe she didn’t really ever connect, that she knew he was never meant for his life in the States. I felt that he got married out of obligation, or maybe he did to to show his wife that he was right, that he couldn’t provide for her like she needed to. He always did put others’ needs before his own.
Trillion: Yeah, I can’t really find any good reason why he got married. Why he left his village, why he went to America, I get all that. But marriage and kids??
Also, the thing with U Ba? I totally didn’t see it coming because I got the impression that he was old old old. MUCH older than it turns out he is, in the end.
Kara: YESSSSS. I thought he was like an old man!! Bad portrayal on the author’s part. I was completely shocked. I never even thought about that for a second, and normally that would be a good thing, but here it wasn’t. It was because the execution was poor. Why does this book have such positive reviews? I don’t get it!
Lyn: This is something you would expect from a crusty old high school English class. It was more like mythology than historical fiction. Not emotions, very flat. I agree with you, Kara. I was expecting more.
Trillion: This was a book you’re “supposed” to like: translated from non-English, exotic location, wise but impoverished people, the rich westerner gets her ideals turned over.
Kara: Agree. It was SOOO flat. Gorgeous cover though, I have to say. Too bad the contents don’t match it. And yeah, translated books usually turn out to be very good or very bad. You know which one this was for me.
Trillion: I actually did like the love story, for what little we really saw of it. When the couple was swimming around, and their making love before he left, those were some of the few moments I was actually interested.
Kara: Yeah, I didn’t hate it. I rarely am able to finish books I hate. *cough* The Scorpio Races, but at least I finished this which is saying something, I guess. But it was mostly because of the writing. And I did love that both of the main characters had an affliction because I liked the diversity.
Lyn: Re: Scorpio Races – bite me.
Trillion: the “disabilities” that weren’t necessarily debilitating was a nice detail. I like that Tin Win didn’t actually care to have his vision back. It hearkens to the group of Deaf people who believe cochlear implants are killing their culture.
Lyn: I thought it was going to play a bigger role later. But it was just glossed over. How poetic would it have been if he had poked out his eyes??
Trillion: That would have been badass. I don’t need eyes or fancy doctors. Send me home. *Curly’s himself* Nyuck nyuck.
Lyn: Fuck. Someone needs to write this.
Trillion: I guess you have to give Dad a little slack. The idea of parents walking off into the night never to be seen again was just how he was raised. Some people are taught to take off their shoes in the house, others wait for the day mom and dad leave to get gas. Forever.
Lyn: Now we’re just writing messed-up fanfiction. ANYWAYS, I gave it three stars. Pretty, nice, just lacking.
Trillion: Two, here. I fell asleep.
Kara: Same. It’s a 2 star for me. I was going to give it a 2.5 but I am not that nice. One extra star for pretty writing. That’s it. Also, I think someone should write this fanfiction. It’s way better than the original.
Trillion: Tin Win x Mi Mi, AU fic: They’re in American High School. Rate and review!
Kara: LOL OMG. Are we done? You should do this more often with us, Trillion. I had such a fun time this week!
Trillion: thanks for having me. I like being a guest in someone’s place. Means I don’t have to do the cooking. Or formatting.
Lyn: Like I said. Hate you all. Go and read the rest of Daughter of Smoke and Bone now.
Forgotten Friday Pick for July 18th:
Vampire Academy by Richelle Mead
See you in two weeks!