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The Art of Hearing Heartbeats

3.95 of 5 stars 3.95  ·  rating details  ·  20,694 ratings  ·  3,063 reviews
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...more
Paperback, 325 pages
Published January 31st 2012 by Other Press (first published 2002)
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Community Reviews

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Kate
God, this could have been SO good! I wish Sendker's writing abilities matched his imagination, because this would have been an awesome book. As it was, it was okay. There is a beautiful love story in the center of the book, but it comes to an extremely trite conclusion. Throughout the novel, he relies on some extremely hackneyed devices that, with just a little effort, could have melted away into masterful writing. First device: relying on long (and I mean REALLY loonnnggg) monologue soliloquy t...more
Walker
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Liz Crowe
I think I've mentioned that for me "reading" has become a luxury the likes of which I sometimes even avoid. Not sure why really, except maybe anger at myself for spending so much time on bad books--badly written, lazily edited, simply or more likely horrifically plotted--I've gotten to where I just don't want to bother anymore simply not to run the risk of feeling like it was time wasted.

As a writer myself, I see the puppet strings, the skeletal framework, and at times feel the sweat and tears t...more
Nicole
I have been a little stingy with awarding "5 stars" this year, and this book is an example of why. I want my full "5 stars" to portray to others I read something exquisitely written, wholly engaging, and so profoundly touching. The Art of Hearing Heartbeats was all of those adjectives....and so much more.

Julia is in her late 20's and living in New York, has always had a loving father even if his and her mother's marriage was not perfect, and she believes her fast-paced life in the field of law i...more
Trish
The heart of this novel is set in Burma, pre-WWII. The author Sendker was correspondent in America and Asia for Stern, the weekly German news magazine, for some years. This is his first novel. Sendker was successful and very clever in his choice of subject. In making the setting a mountain province of Burma, a country not much opened to the outside and stuck in a pre-WWII lifestyle, things had not changed significantly since the 1950s and if they had, very few English-speaking eyewitnesses would...more
Alice
There was a day when I would have deeply loved this book. It is a modern-day fairy tale and a solid work of literary art. The story follows Julia, a lawyer from New York looking for clues as to her father's sudden (not accidental) disappearance. When her mother gives her a love letter her father had once written to someone -- someone named Mi Mi -- a long time ago, Julia decides to follow the address all the way to her father's hometown in Myanmar. There she encounters U Ba, who tells her the st...more
Jennifer
As I was reading this book I was fully engaged and enjoying the story, the Burmese setting, the fairy tale quality to the narration....but as soon as I finished and started to reflect on it, the whole thing imploded like a house of cards. As much as I really wanted to like this book, it hit several of my hot buttons:

I have a real problem with books that are about unrealistic love - the "our love is better/stronger/more meaningful than anyone else's love" kind of love. If Tin Win was so in love w...more
Mimi
This book is a perfect example of what I consider "book club bait." A compelling blurb, major publisher's backing, glowing reviews, eloquent prose, family drama, journey of self-discovery, troubled self-sacrificing protagonist who just wants to do "the right thing."

Book clubs fall for these things all the time. While I'd like to think my book club is above the baiting (because we're pretty good at weeding them out), once in a while a book like this one comes along and catches us off guard for wh...more
Julie
Essentially a fairy tale so sweet that at times I had to lick the syrup from my fingertips before turning the page. Tin Win and Mi Mi were beautifully rendered, though I felt their story was hampered by the clumsy structure of the book. Julia, the daughter searching for her father, was altogether frustrating as a narrator. The author frequently resorted to long-winded lists of unanswerable questions, such as, "What do we know about our parents, and what do they know about us? And if we don't eve...more
Gary the Bookworm
This sweet, sentimental tale of two disabled Burmese villagers who find each other as children and forge a love so overpowering that it sustains them despite lives lived apart has been compared to a fairy tale. For me it was more like the world's longest fortune cookie. It's not that I didn't get caught up in their ardor-I'm a sucker for love stories- but the simplistic dichotomy it sets up between the life-affirming wisdom of the East and the mercantile obsessions of the West left me cold. I ta...more
Carol
This is a love story and a fairy tale with Buddhist undertones. I loved this book.
A New York lawyer inexplicably disappears. His daughter Julia, also a lawyer, goes searching for him in Burma based on an old letter he had written which her mom gave her as part of his belongings.
Julia meets a man who has been waiting for her to come, a man who had met her father 4 years ago and has a story to tell her.
The story is about two who met when young, a young boy who was blind and a young girl who was un...more
Natalie
This is the first review I have written and whilst I could give a plot summary, I feel no need as many others have done a brilliant job of this. I write factual and complex assessments as a part of my job, so feel no desire to analyze this book. I read primarily for enjoyment and relaxation and occasionally enjoy a challenging read. I chose this novel hoping that it would be perfect holiday read, something to savour and delight in, and I was not dissapointed. The Art of Hearing Heartbeats was an...more
Christina George
Jun 03, 2013 Christina George rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommended to Christina by: my nephrologist!
Shelves: favorites
The Art of Hearing Heartbeats is unlike any other story I have read. The tale carries the reader through the life of a family man living in New York to his roots in Burma. It is told in such a way that I was perhaps more anxious than the character listening to the story about him to discover how it would unfold!

I could not decide on which 'shelf' to place this book. Yes, it is fiction. But it reads as like a very good non-fiction or biography book would. Better, yet, I personally found gems of i...more
Stefanie
If there could possibly be a perfect book for me at this precise moment in my life, having just lost my father who was very precious to me, this was it. Set in Burma, it reads like a fairy tale that is real enough you don't have to completely suspend disbelief but magical enough to draw you into all of the beautiful hidden messages that hover just below the main plot of the story. As I read ... slowly so as to savor it and not finish too soon ... I found myself thinking about love, loyalty, imag...more
John
"There is only one force stronger than fear."

This book begins as the story of a daughter (Julia) looking for her father in Burma--the land of his birth. It becomes a potent love story. Love stories--really good love stories--are hard to find, and by extension, must be hard to write. I think that's because in order for a reader to accept the love story, they themselves must, in some measure, fall in love with the characters, or maybe the setting, or circumstance, or writing. At any rate, there ne...more
Genia Lukin
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
K
Meh. Just not my kind of book.

The frame of the story is that Julia's father has disappeared, possibly to his hometown in Burma, and that Julia travels there to find him. Julia is then treated to a fairy-tale-like story of her father and his childhood (but everlasting) love, growing up in rural Burma. Her father was blind, his love Mimi was crippled, the two of them were good-looking, saintly, perpetually lovable, and had a passion at 20 that somehow outlasted decades of separation with each of t...more
Yomna Zaki
A beautiful story about unconditional love and trust.

How would you feel if you keep sending letters to the one person you love in this whole world, every single day, for 2 years, and never get a single response back?
Read this novel and you'll be surprised.

To me, the plot was very unpredictable, I couldn't expect what's going to happen next. One of those novels that you'd find yourself tearing up every couple of pages.

It left me with a lot of unanswered questions. I'm not sure if the author mea...more
AmmarMajali
I love this book and the discussion I am having with my friend about it. Honestly this is one of the best books I read this year.. smooth,,deep, lovely, wonderful expressions. A perfect gift for a loved one. I want to hear heartbeats and this should be made into a movie.
Karen
This book is about love.

I usually do not read books about love, unless the writing captivates me and the words/phrases in the book make me think. This book drew me in from the first page until the end. The book was written in a narrative, story-telling style that is very intriguing and mythical. Having the majority of the story taking place in Burma also added to the allure.

The story begins when Julia Win arrived Burma, looking for her Father who left suddenly without a trace 4 years ago, leavin...more
Kelly
I liked this book. I wanted and expected to love it. After reading the book blurb I thought it would be one of those lovely heart wrenching books for me. It wasn't. My heart did ache for the young Tin Win and for Mi Mi but I never really connected with them. The constant detailed descriptions of everything drove me to start skimming them after the first half. Plus as I read there were inconsistencies that nagged the back of my brain and lessened my enjoyment. (view spoiler)...more
Bobbi
Oh. My. Goodness! There are very few books that I would classify as un-put-downable, but this one definitely makes that list! The version I read was a large-print edition from the library, which was fortunate because it helped my poor old eyes as I read far, far into the night. To say that it is an unusual love story does not begin to address the tale the author has created: the connection between Tin Win and Mi Mi is all-encompassing and enviable and endearing. The depth of sensory detail is br...more
Kathie
I never give books 5 stars but I can't seem to imagine any flaws or way this author could better tell this tale and get his message across. The book is a short,fairytale-like story of the uplifting power and possibility of true love where physical challenges and human flaws become unimportant.

Julia Win's father, Tin mysteriously disappears after her graduation from law school. Her search for him takes her to Burma, the place of his birth and the home of MiMi, the burmese woman named in an unmai...more
Holli
Sometimes I hate giving stars. I waffled between 3 and 4 on this one. Based on the title and a review I read, I wanted this to be one of my favorite books of all time. Unfortunately, the writing didn’t sing for me. But since it is a translation, I am giving Sendker the benefit of the doubt and assuming that it would have if I had been able to read it in German.

The reason I am being so lenient is because I think this book has an important message for us Westerners. In several of the other Goodrea...more
Jackie Morrison
Originally published in TheCelebrityCafe.com: http://thecelebritycafe.com/reviews/a...

This is perhaps the most splendid love story in decades. Originally a bestseller in Germany, The Art of Hearing Heartbeats is a romance that spans five decades and is set off by a mysterious disappearance. A prominent Burmese-American celebrity lawyer in New York vanishes without a trace on a routine business trip to Boston by switching to a plane bound to Thailand. In the years since he went missing it is the...more
Chrissie
Wonderful lines about love, death, happiness and the senses. Traditional Burmese beliefs described within the story. You must pay careful attention or you will find yourself confused. I was a bit upset at the end when I was not sure who one main character was. (view spoiler) That is why I gave it three rather than four stars. This could have been my fault rather than the book’s.
Jana
Beautiful story of the perfect love between two people. I am sorry that it had to end. I wasn't ready to leave Burma. Highly recommend the book and can't wait to meet the author next month!

Alena
"Learn to perceive the essence of a thing. Eyes are more likely to hinder you in that regard. They distract us. We live to be dazzled."
In the same spirit, Jan-Philipp Sendker writes THE HEART OF HEARING HEARTBEATS as the slow unveiling of a story. We meet Julia on her quest to find her father, who disappeared without a trace. She’s on her way to a small town in Burma, with a single love letter as her only clue. Stumbling into a café, jet-lagged and heart-broken, she meets a man who begins to tel...more
Brooke
Disclaimer: I’m not even sure the following is coherent. I haven’t felt the need to gush like this in a long time. Please forgive my lack of professionalism (or at least the pretend professionalism I’ve tried to establish in past posts). This post proves that I will never be able to write about Harry Potter. Now I’m way off topic – someone needs to shut me up.

The Art of Hearing Heartbeats is my first ‘February’ themed novel. I heard of this book through the Books on the Nightstand podcast as one...more
Kristine
Two worlds + the universal language of love = an international hit.

***2014 ALERT: a SEQUEL titled A WELL-TEMPERED HEART (translated from Jan-Philipp Sendker's German by Kevin Wiliarty) is now available. Published January 21st 2014 by Other Press (paperback). The author is also working on a third book!
........................
***Book groups in the mood for sentimental/relationship style read note: reading group guide questions are available for both THE ART OF HEARING HEARTBEATS and A WELL-TEMP...more
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Confusion 5 105 Apr 28, 2014 06:31AM  
Coffee Talk: December 2013, BoM, The Art of Hearing Heartbeats 62 40 Jan 01, 2014 07:42AM  
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Jan-Philipp Sendker, born in Hamburg in 1960, was the American correspondent for Stern from 1990 to 1995, and its Asian correspondent from 1995 to 1999. In 2000 he published Cracks in the Great Wall, a nonfiction book about China. The Art of Hearing Heartbeats is his first novel. He lives in Berlin with his family.
More about Jan-Philipp Sendker...
A Well-Tempered Heart Das Flüstern der Schatten Drachenspiele Risse in der Großen Mauer Kunsten å høre hjerteslag

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“I have often wondered what was the source of her beauty, her radiance. It’s not the size of one’s nose, the color of one’s skin, the shape of one’s lips or eyes that make one beautiful or ugly. So what is it? Can you, as a woman, tell me?
I shook my head.
I will tell you: It’s love. Love makes us beautiful. Do you know a single person who loves and is loved, who is loved unconditionally and who, at the same time, is ugly? There’s no need to ponder the question. There is no such person.”
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“And so there must be in life something like a catastrophic turning point, when the world as we know ceases to exist. A moment that transform us into a different person from one heartbeat to the next.” 28 likes
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