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The Art of Hearing Heartbeats

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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.

325 pages, Paperback

First published January 1, 2002

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Kevin Wiliarty

4 books8 followers

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5 stars
27,835 (35%)
4 stars
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3 stars
15,323 (19%)
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Displaying 1 - 30 of 7,544 reviews
Profile Image for Kate.
649 reviews96 followers
October 3, 2012
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 to give backstory--he has Julia's mother gas on and on about her husband. And she speaks, not in her own voice, but in the voice of the narrator, as if the narrator is saying "See Reader? This here's the BACKSTORY, and the only way I can figure out how to communicate it is by having Julia's mother basically just blather on about the whole thing in monologue." After the mother relates this, she pretty much disappears from the novel, because the only reason she was in the book in the first place was to act as freakin' Greek Chorus. Stupid. Good writers are supposed to create the plot through action and not explain it, so he fails here. Really annoying. Second device: throughout the entire novel, he voices questions that the characters are thinking, one after the other. Reminded me of old-fashioned announcer voice-overs of "cliffhanger" moments at the end of a daily 1950's soap opera. "Did Sam turn left because he loved Lucinda? Did Sam turn right because he wanted to ignore Abigail? Or is Sam simply directionally challenged? Tune in tomorrow to find out on 'As the World Turns'!!!" (organ music swells and fades. Cut to Brillo Pad commercial). Third, the evil uncle's name was U Saw, and he's the guy who gives main character Tin Win (whom I kept wanting to call "Win Tin" as in "Win Tin Tin!") his sight back. Get it? U SAW helps Win Tin Tin SEE!!! nyuck! nyuck! nyuck! Fourth, Sendker forgets that he has another character relating the central story, which involves bits that there's no way he could have known. Finally, Sendker's ending was Sooooooo melodramatic and sappy! The love story in the middle was lovely, but, I'm sorry, it should have ended better. So, there you have it. The Art of Hearing Heartbeats gets a two from me.
Profile Image for Liz Crowe.
Author 95 books1,197 followers
August 10, 2012
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 that have been poured into every line. And that just wears me out.

Then, when I listen to my mother and read a book she insists that I simply must, I am never disappointed. The last book I raved about here: What Alice Forgot, was such a book.

So is the Art of Hearing Heartbeats. Never has so much been said in so few lines. So much tenderness, sweet sexual awakening, and sheer joy expressed with an incredible economy of actual words -- it makes me want to sit and stare at the walls and roll the story around in my head over and over again.

A tender coming of age tale, wrapped up in a modern woman's journey to find out the truth about her mysterious, exotic and ultimately unreachable father, this book will mesmerize you with its many poetic turns of phrase. But in the end you will feel like a better person for having experienced a love story that spans ages, continents, cultures and families.

I am sorry I had to finish it. But feel like a better human, and hopefully a better writer, for having done it in one sitting.

Profile Image for Walker .
230 reviews8 followers
March 17, 2012
I am somewhat outraged by this book. It is marketed as an inspirational love story, and I would like to say that I strongly disagree. The premise is that Julia's father has disappeared, and she travels to Burma, where he is from, to solve the mystery of her father's disappearance. Let me mention that Julia's parents are still married when he disappears. When Julia gets to Burma, she meets a man who tells a long and somewhat uneventful story of her father's life before he came to the U.S. He was in love with a woman named Mi Mi, who he was wrongly separated from because of a meddlesome uncle. It turns out her father has traveled back to Burma to be with Mi Mi. After Julia comes to terms with this so-called romantic story, she wants to see her father. But, oh wait, it turns out he and Mi Mi are both dead now.

But here is what bothered me: what about his family in the U.S.? What about his wife who he committed to be with forever? Are we supposed to overlook the fact that he did a pretty horrible thing by disappearing on his family, who thought he loved them? All because he had this "love story to move mountains" with a woman he knew forty years ago? Why couldn't he just tell his family why he needed to travel to Burma and have the decency to come clean?

UGH!!
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Jennifer.
748 reviews87 followers
May 16, 2013
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 with Mi Mi why would he get married to someone in the US rather than return to Burma for her?? His original departure is explained but there is nothing to really support the fact that he completely gave up and created this other US life. And if we romanticize this Burmese love, what does that say about the lie he's been living with his American family? It's actually quite dodgy if you give it much thought....

I'm also not crazy about characters who tell stories about things that they couldn't possibly know. Tin Win's story is told to Julia by U Ba, an old man that approaches her in a Burmese cafe. He doesn't just know facts, he knows emotions, inner thoughts, struggles, joys, intimate details of her father's relationships etc. I know I used the word fairy tale earlier so I tried to use that to justify this storytelling device...but I think that the book would have worked better for me if we heard this story either from Julia's father directly or from an omniscient narrator because then I wouldn't have to stop myself from thinking "He couldn't possibly know that!!!"

The ending is a little too neat for me but I will let this slide since that is how fairy tales tend to be. And they all lived happily ever after. In reality Julia is going to need lots of therapy for her abandonment issues, but maybe that is the sequel?
Profile Image for Nicole R.
965 reviews
February 19, 2016
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 is following in his footsteps. Then one day, her father just leaves, not to be heard from for the next four years. Julia is at a loss as to what could make him abandon her and she heads to Burma, her fathers homeland, in search of answers. Who was this man she thought she knew? Why has he never spoke of the first 20 years of his life in a small Burmese town? Why does he have secret love letters to a woman named Mi Mi hidden with his belongings? Does he still love her?

In Kalaw, Julia meets U Ba, a man who seems much older than his years. He uncannily knows about Julia and proceeds to tell her the unknown beginnings of her father's life. His traumatic childhood that had so much heartache, his relationship with Mi Mi that made him finally feel alive, and a sense of family duty that led him down a path so different from the one he envisioned. It soon becomes clear that perhaps he wasn't abandoning his family in America so much as finally following his heart by coming home.

First and foremost, Sendker is a beautiful writer. The words flow effortlessly off the page to paint a picture that you not only see, but can hear as well. Tin Win and Mi Mi have one of the most amazing love stories I have ever heard. It was not rushed or selfish and it has no end. While fictional with just a touch of magical realism, it embodied everything I associate with true soul mates who are destined to be together. And while I fully expected to be a sobbing mess by the end of the book, I closed it dry-eyed and with a smile on my face.

U Ba telling the story to Julia resulted in an interesting cultural comparison between the slower, family-oriented life of the people of Burma and the fast-paced, career-centric life of the typical New Yorker. She could not understand why he chose to live in Burma and he could not understand why she thought he had a choice. Aside from the main story of Tin Win and Mi Mi, I thoroughly enjoyed the juxtaposition of the cultures and how it made me truly think about what is important in my life.

I usually like to give a critique of each book I read, but there was honestly not one thing about this book I would change. I can't imagine making it better. It may not be the perfect book for everyone, but for me, Mr. Sendker seems to have heard my heart and made me fall in love.
Profile Image for Genia Lukin.
226 reviews172 followers
April 3, 2014
This is the story of a young boy who, born under an unlucky star, goes through great trials and tribulations with his star-crossed love, becomes blind during childhood and, after a period of maladjustment, gains zen superpowers and becomes a celebrity lawyer.

If it sounds like I may be mistakenly writing a review for a Daredevil comic, that's not an accident. Because this appalling book, if summarised for, say, Twitter, would be exactly that. Sadly, this story, while being about Daredevil, isn't nearly as cool. It would be tremendously improved if the protagonist started running around beating people up with amazing martial arts moves using his cane. Sadly, that's not what it does. Instead, it explains how blind people, in order to gain competence and freedom in their lives, must through the rejection of fear and anger (because disabled people must not feel human emotions, or they cease to function) gain superpowers, and why it will make them inspiring. Buckle in and let's go for a ride.

I may choose to be lenient, and blame its choppy, awkward, writing, and the horrifyingly overwrought dialogue in the first-person narrator parts, on the translator, rather than the author, but the rest of it is definitively the author's fault. So let's begin at the beginning, and take a closer look.

This is the story of young Tin Win, whom, the astrologer prophesies, will bring much suffering to his family. We never see him do this, perhaps because his father dies in an accident, and his mother ditches him. That very week, while he is sitting for days on end squatting and waiting for her, the vision loss begins to settle in. Rather on the coincidental side, I suppose, but tolerable so far.

Then Tin Win goes entirely blind. And, after a great deal of doing nothing and bumping into things, becomes inspiring through the power of zen and calm, which allows him, after the proper revelationary enlightenment, to hear everything, and I do mean everything, including, for example, birds growing in the egg, and people's heartbeats (that also serves him as a lie detector later on in life - Daredevil says hi again). Being, myself, visually impaired from birth, I can tell you that disability is not inspirational, it ain't magical, and it sure as heck doesn't give you superpowers.

Then Tin Win meets Mi Mi, who is also disabled and cannot walk, and who is also inspirational and magical, possessed of the most wonderful voice that is rumoured to preserve and prolong life, and a completely unnatural dignity and dirt-repelling charms, while she crawls (in a dignified way, f course) on all fours on the floor.

Thanks, author! First you give us the blind guy who can't do anything with himself and never gains confidence until he gains superpowers and becomes able to "see" the world by radar, then you give us the girl who, instead of illustrating for us the genuine troubles and trials of a person who cannot walk, and who can't get a wheelchair, and remain dignified despite that, magically avoids all these very real issues.

Then the unfortunate implications get even worse, as Tin Win Becomes mobile and independent carrying Mi Mi on his back - not, in any way, recalling that parable about the blind man and the lame man who have to get out of the forest, oh no - and having her see and interpret the world for him, aptly demonstrating to us how a blind person needs to have "eyes" in order to make sense of his surroundings and see for him. When, later on in the book, they are (inevitably) separated, Tin Win, even with his awesome superpowers, completely loses his ability to do much of anything, because all these years of being blind obviously didn't teach him to test his environment in a cautious and independent manner.

In fact, the two are so much in love that, whenever they are separated for any period of time, Tin Win becomes terminally ill. Because this is precisely the kind of romantic attachment that one should wish to promote, and carries with it no connotations whatsoever of sick obsession, but rather is indicative of an exceptional ability to love, and is a culmination of zen teachings. From now on, every time my husband is out of the house without my knowledge, I have the perfect excuse to play dead. I'm just so much in love, you know!

Tin Win's evil uncle restores his sight by removing his cataracts, an act which may or may not in and of itself be evil, and decides to keep him around as a good luck charm, for which purpose he purloins Tin Win's letters to Mi Mi, and vise versa. For years.

And for years Tin Win, who is supposed to be quite brilliant, and possess an almost eidetic memory, as well as be a living lie detector, never thinks to ask himself whether his uncle may have been tampering with his mail! Not once! He just accepts the lack of response knowing that his Mi Mi loves him. Holy hell. Then, when the uncle sends him to America, instead of trying to run away, or contact her behind his back, he just goes, never seeing her again for fifty years. If that is not a contrived plot device intended to lend the story its proper dramatic tone, I honestly don't know what is - get a damn envelope and mail it without your uncle's knowledge boy!

In America he marries (for some reason), has children, only in order to, without ever telling them a word about his past, disappear thirty years later to find the love of his life. how this makes sense is utterly beyond me, but I'll give the moral implications involved a pass for now, because otherwise I'll run out of room.

Finally, to top off this comedy of the absurd, Tin Win arrives in Burma (it's called Myanmar now, by the way) and finds Mi Mi, in order to spend a night of amazing passion and all that other good stuff, right in time. That night, with no rhyme or reason, they both die in each other's arms.

That's it. In this case, the less said, the more illustrated, and so I leave you. If you want a good portrayal of a disabled protagonist, seriously, read Lois McMaster Bujold. It's a better story, too. In space.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Mimi.
691 reviews187 followers
September 20, 2013
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 whatever reason, and we don't realize what we'd gotten ourselves into until we're half way through the self-sacrificing, self-discovery journey.

That's not to say this book is "not good." It's well-written, and the author has a great handle on turning phrases to make them stick with you long after you're done reading. It's just not right for me. The story did not and still does not sit right with me. I've been through one too many of these eloquent, poignant, world-travelling, "deep" self-discovery journeys already, both fictional and nonfictional, and am so very tired of these tropes.
Profile Image for Sara.
195 reviews141 followers
July 25, 2019
This book is so beautiful and realy moved me to tears a couple of times , I also love the setting and I found in this book so much wisdom, I realy learnt from this book
Profile Image for Natalie.
3 reviews2 followers
January 14, 2014
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 absolute joy to read.

Translated (I thought) beautifully from German, it was a love story written with wonderfully descriptive language and an almost lyrical quality. I found myself lost in the small village in Burma, thoroughly engaged in the poignant story being told. I was happy to accept this book for what it is...I know that many readers have identified a number of perceived flaws...but I enjoyed each and every page, and found myself not wanting this beautiful story to end. I finished The Art of Hearing Heartbeats in a flood of tears, emotionally connected to the main protagonists.

Poignant, thoroughly enjoyable, thought provoking and overwhelmingly joyful. I loved this book!
Profile Image for Trish.
1,352 reviews2,394 followers
May 21, 2012
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 be able to refute it.

In addition, Sendker gave his main character a disability, blindness, which gave Sendker the latitude to describe through the voice of another person what the main character was meant to be seeing. Not only does this help us, but it helps the author, in that readers are a little like blind men: the author must describe everyday things giving focus to sounds, smells, colors. If the reader has any experience in a Southeast Asian country, the descriptions trigger unforgettable memories.

But Sendker did more than just excel in describing what any reader could see. He delved into the psyche of the Burmese and showed us folk tales, beliefs, habits, and ways of living. A novel is always suspect in what it reveals, but in this case we can understand as outsiders understand, a way into a South Asia culture that is so remote and so different from modern-day Western culture.

All this and I haven’t mentioned the novel is a love story. But not an ordinary love story—it tells of a love that any of us would be happy to call our own. Some reviewers may call this a fairy tale, but I would merely say it was an especially daring and insightful attempt to create a plausible story that works on many levels. And so it does.

Special kudos go to Other Press, for republishing this story at this time of the opening of Myanmar to the outside world (2012, originally published 2002), and to Blackstone Audio for making a very good audio version of the title with American-accented Cassandra Campbell. I have to admit the Americans in the novel were so much less spiritual, likeable, and accepting than the Burmese that one can see the stark contrast in our approaches to the world. Let’s hope these differences do not keep us apart. We’d all do better if we had just a little more influence on one another.
Profile Image for Diane S ☔.
4,687 reviews14k followers
March 3, 2012
I loved everything about this book, from its cover, the title and the beautiful prose that evoked images and sentiments that were magical. This is a book about a love that lived for over 40 yrs. and a daughter's quest to discover the father that disappeared and the father she never really knew. Most of the book takes place in Burma and is told with a mix of Burmese folk tales and superstitions and in a story related by another to the daughter who comes searching for her father. It is about a boy, who at the age of 6 finds himself abandoned and blind, but who other senses become magnified to that extent that he can hear and tell people from the heartbeats from quite a distance away. To read this book is to take a fabulous journey, not only into Burma but into the hearts greatest secrets.
Profile Image for Chris George.
83 reviews1 follower
June 3, 2013
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 inspiration in the book - beautiful takeaways for daily life. Were I able to select more than one category, I certainly would!

After reading this book, I posited those gems in my heart and one by one I am sharing them with others, hoping the 'truth' I felt might be shared.

Even if my sharing it is not well received, still yet have I grown, for just this morning I was out in my garden pulling weeds, and I realized that I was detecting more than just the usual (the sweat dripping down my body, the irritating insects dive-bombing my head, my knees and abdomen aching from bending) - I was actually hearing things that I otherwise had not noticed!

The Art of Hearing Heartbeats might be unattainable to me, but perhaps I can be more attune to the world around me, if I just quiet myself a little.
Profile Image for HBalikov.
1,695 reviews629 followers
October 3, 2018
We all come to forks in the road of our life. Julia Win chooses to take the path that may lead to her understand why, with no real hint of the decision, her father one day gets on a plane and never returns.

This book isn't a Roshomon, a look at the same event from the perspective of various individuals. Instead, it is an intertwining of threads: Julia's, her father's, and people she meets or learns about when she arrives in the highland Burmese town of Kalaw.

More than anything else it is about "mindfulness" and Julia's journey to a place where she can view her father with equanimity. Charting this journey must have been a real challenge for Sendker. At a minimum, he opens the door for his readers to step into a world with which most will not be familiar. If the emotional notes are not quite consistent, the effort needs to be acknowledged.

Sendker asks a very important question about what we really know about anyone, and he shares with the reader what it could be like to fully use all our senses.
Profile Image for Julie.
137 reviews10 followers
January 17, 2013
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 even know the individuals who have accompanied us since birth--we not them and they not us--then what do we know about anyone at all? Don't I have to imagine, from that perspective, that anyone is capable of anything, even the most heinous crime? On what or whom, on which truths, can one ultimately depend? Are there individuals I can trust unconditionally? Can there ever be such a person?"

Certainly these are questions worth pondering, but I'd prefer to draw them out from the writing myself rather than being handed a pop quiz within a paragraph.

The wild swing between Julia's uncertainties and U Ba's nearly omniscient narration gave rough edges to what was otherwise an artfully imagined story. I do wonder how much was lost in translation.

I did particularly like this thought that was spoken by U Ba, encapsulating the theme of the novel: "We see only what we already know. We project our own capacities--for good as well as evil--onto the other person. Then we acknowledge as love primarily the things that correspond to our own image thereof. We wish to be loved as we ourselves would love. Any other way makes us uncomfortable. We respond with doubt and suspicion. We misinterpret the signs. We do not understand the language. We accuse. We assert that the other person does not love us. But perhaps he merely loves us in some idiosyncratic way that we fail to recognize."
Profile Image for Lacie.
49 reviews11 followers
December 4, 2012
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 story about her father Tin Win and his long-separated lover Mi Mi. The story moves slowly enough to capture every picturesque detail of the town with its market and dirt roads, the monastery where Tin Win was educated and where he first encounters Mi Mi and her heartbeat, the trees and lakes around which Tin Win felt most comfortable, and most of all, the blind young Tin Win and Mi Mi the love of his life, the girl with underdeveloped feet. You watch them weave themselves together in a way that transcends the distance and time that they are apart.

It is beautifully, evocatively written (even in its translated English version) with a fantastic ending, and a good lot of people have given it full stars. I don't begrudge anyone this at all; it is a great book. The only thing is that I have little empathy for fairy tales lately -- sourpuss, I know. Nevertheless, I can see that those who love fairy tale love stories and exotic locations will definitely find this book a gem.
Profile Image for Naomi.
163 reviews39 followers
April 5, 2017
Nope. No. Nooo. This was so bad on so many levels. I mean, if you like Paulo Coelho you'll eat this shit up, but ughh. It's so sickly sweet, like eating 17 cubes of sugar and swallowing it down with soda. Had it been written by another author who actually CAN write it might have been pretty OK, but this? Hell. No. It's one of the worst pieces of literature I've ever had the misfortune to come across. It lacks depth, even of it tries really, really hard, and it barely scratches the surface of any kind of real emotion. It's just so simple. The writing is so incredibly sloppy, I cannot even begin to understand how this atrocity of a book could be published without someone actually realising that it's like a fucking 15-year-old wrote it.

It's a sappy, gross fairytale with ridiculous one-dimensional characters who just magically solves every. fucking. issue they ever come across because their hearts are so pure, so full of unconditional love. Allow me to fucking vomit all over this unrealistic, stupid mess.

I loathe everyone and everything in this "book". It has taught me nothing except unconditional hate.
Profile Image for Petra.
1,102 reviews22 followers
May 10, 2018
I really enjoyed listening to this story. The story of Tin Min and Mi Mi is really touching. Their lives unfold in a manner that each would have changed, if they could, yet they stayed true to each other. Their love never faltered and they were bound together always.
A few reviews mention a fairy tale feeling. That's true. I hadn't thought of that while listening; there are sensitive people who do hear and feel differently than most, their senses are tuned differently. I took Tin Min and Mi Mi at this level. But.....the story has a fairy tale aura around it because of that different way of hearing and seeing and being.
I'm doing something I don't usually do....I'm requesting the second book right away. I hope it holds the mystique and wonder of this book.
Profile Image for Angela M (On a little break).
1,270 reviews2,217 followers
October 30, 2013
I thought I would like this book more but it just didn't grab me as much as I thought it would . There's some lovely writing but what should have been a beautiful love story for me was a bit shallow. More like 2 & 1/2 stars.
Profile Image for Carol.
364 reviews24 followers
February 26, 2012
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 unable to walk. She became his eyes and he became her feet. The freedom and joy of living they encountered with each other was to last a lifetime. The story of the boy and the story of the relationship fills most of the book. In an attempt to follow the advice of astrologers and do a good deed for a family member in great distress, the boys uncle U Saw brings the boy from his village to the city to offer him medical care and send him to school. The boy excels in school and is then sent to the United States for further education.
I won't offer too much info other than to say the two do eventually get back together.
There were many fabulous quotes in the book and following are some of my favorites:
"a person's greatest treasure is the wisdom in his own heart"
"the true essence of things is invisible to the eyes"
"life is a gift of riddles where suffering and happiness are inextricably intertwined"
"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..."
This book was published in 2002 in German and has become well loved in both Germany and Switzerland. I hope the same happens in the U.S. This book is truly a classic.

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Profile Image for Gary  the Bookworm.
130 reviews125 followers
August 26, 2016
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 take aphorisms about life and love seriously, but I prefer some General Tso's chicken first. It's an easy read and you'd have to be a heartless plutocrat not to shed a couple of tears, but over all it's as insubstantial as the vapor rising from a cup of wonton soup. Its most lasting impression on me is how to conjure up some positive thoughts about it to share with my book club.

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Profile Image for Kathryn in FL.
716 reviews
January 30, 2022
8 CD's

Minority Opinion (2 as in it was okay). Apologies to any who loved this one, I'm sure I'd love it more when I enjoyed reading romances in younger years.

Constructive Review

This is a lovely coming of age and love story couched in a mysterious disappearance. It has enough to make it a great short story but unfortunately the author expanded to a novel. That along with the overly descriptive encounters of the lovers seemed to taint my enjoyment. Additionally, I felt the all the characters were one dimensional. The mystery was intended to carry the story but after CD #2, I had lost most of my interest.

The choice for narrator, who had a soothing, monotone voice made it quite challenging to note shifts in storyline (especially when driving). Though it was to be a lovely escape and a melodious tale of first love, its mechanics made it confusing and the descriptive language unnecessary. The author would have used those words to develop the characters better, particular when describing daily living.

I doubt I would read more by this author or the narrator.

Critique in Rant Form

The premise of the story sounded so intriguing to me. I wanted to travel with a 30ish woman, who travels to Burma seeking answers and locating her missing father of 10 years past. A successful Burmese lawyer in a New York City firm, she can't understand his choice to abandon his American life. When she finds his hometown, she is puzzled that upon meeting an older man, who claims to know her father, will share details of her father's past, but not of his current circumstances. As she listens to the old man's tale, she is confused (so was I) about his knowledge and if what he relates is truly connected with the father she knew (this I later realized was intentional). The man in the story is disabled but the woman knows a father, who is not handicapped. The story focuses on this young boy then child, then teen, who is in love of a young girl, who suffered a different debilitating affliction (one of them is blind) and how the two found joy in their shared love despite these challenges.

I would have been okay if I had realized immediately that this was going to head into a love story, rather than a mystery. However that was not apparent for some time through first quarter of the book. I was lost and confused by the shifts within the story (which was further hindered by the narrator's monotone voice). As a result, I ended up having to relisten to understand context and direction, sometimes even three times (not a happy camper). The near monotone narration was detrimental to my overall understanding of the story. Although I saw one review really champion listening to the audio, I do not.

Once the story unfolded I felt like I was listening to porn! The story was overly descriptive, breasts, thighs, hips, her private parts discussed repeatedly. I got the picture, thanks. Did I mention that it was repetitive? Annoying, right? Doesn't the author trust us to figure out the guy loves sex? That's a shocker and again, not a mystery!

Also, the story itself was too drawn out! I got bored, I'm nearly 60, I don't need lots of graphic details, I am not a preteen seeking sex ed information. So perhaps a very young audience 20's or 30's may connect better to this, perhaps I am even a cynic, possible, however it wasn't just the sexual tone of the book, which repeated. I think the author was going for page count. This was a short story and though the page says 7 CD's it was actually 8 very long, overblown, dramatic, meandering, repetitive, lots of adjectives, yada yada yada.

I nearly abandoned this because the shifts failed to be immediately apparent on audio. The narrator is at times omniscient and at other times not. There is dialogue in sections but others not so but these shifts at times were subtle so I would be asking "what just happened?" since the story moves forward and backwards in time repeatedly. Again, I wouldn't recommend listening, I think I would have enjoyed this far more as a book. I did plan on switching to a hardcopy but by the time the library made it available I was 90% through the audio CD's so that didn't benefit me. When disc 7 finished and the story not complete (I actually swore, okay, it was a stressful week but I don't swear often and not typically when engaging in entertainment to relax).

The labeling by the publisher is a fail. The mystery was a device to tell you a love story that is rated R. At this stage of life, I infrequently read romance, perhaps I see them as unrealistic verging on fantasy (another genre I skip). This was not the love story of the ages - least not for me... Don't get me wrong, I love Dr. Zhivago and Love Story, they had me in tears. I sobbed throughout "When Breathe Becomes Air" not to long ago, which had a love story aspect and was autobiographical. I guess I should have read more reviews, prior to picking it up but I like going in blind, no pun intended.

I hope this review brings at least a bemused attitude - - it would be sad for all this negativity to just fester as a wound. Seriously, if life were slightly more positive I may have found this more tolerable but right now 3 stars is just to generous for me. I am sorry I sound ugly here. I should have disengaged early on, but then it became a showdown...would the book improve? Unfortunately, not for me.
Profile Image for Literarischunterwegs.
271 reviews33 followers
September 24, 2019
Endlich mal wieder ein Buch, dem ich ohne zu zögern 5 Sterne geben kann, und das, obwohl ich dieses Buch erst nach einigen Anläufen gelesen habe. Empfohlen bekam ich es bereits vor mindestens einem Jahr von der lieben Freundin, die es mir jetzt zum Geburtstag schenkte, weil sie unbedingt wollte, dass ich es endlich lese. Da ich mich mit Empfehlungen immer etwas schwer tue, aber von ihr schon mal ein wirklich tolles Buch empfohlen bekommen habe, habe ich es direkt zu lesen begonnen. Und, was soll ich sagen? Wieder einmal ein wirklich perfekter Tipp und nun auch zur perfekten Zeit.
Dies wiederum beweist meine Theorie, dass die Bücher, die Dich wirklich finden wollen auch finden werden und auch dann schlussendlich zu Dir kommen, wenn die Zeit dafür passt. So auch bei den Büchern, denen ich eine 2. Chance gebe, was ich genau aufgrund besagter Theorie heraus auch deshalb tue: Büchern eine 2. Chance geben! Denn dann werden sie, es gibt auch Ausnahmen, in einem Rutsch gelesen, sodass ich denke: "Wieso habe ich es beim ersten Lesen nicht so empfunden?"
Nebenbei lehrte mich diese Geschichte, dieses Buch wieder einmal mehr, bei meiner Auswahl nicht zu sehr auf den Klappentext, den Titel oder gar das Cover (hier das alte Cover, denn das vorliegende neue Cover ist wunderschön) zu achten, sondern das Buch wirklich anzulesen und die ersten Seiten auf mich wirken zu lassen. Das mache ich nämlich viel zu selten. Ich möchte gar nicht darüber nachdenken, wie viele solcher Leseperlen mir dadurch vielleicht schon entgangen sind.
Ihr spürt schon meine Begeisterung - aber nun zum Buch:
Zu Beginn des Lesen zog mich die Geschichte sofort in einen Lesesog, der bis zum Schluss anhielt. Während des Lesens begleiteten mich immer wieder folgende Adjektive, die für mich das Buch am besten beschreiben:
leise, warmherzig, entschleunigend, beruhigend, hoffnungsvoll, poetisch, spirituell, philosophisch, authentisch, wahr, mystisch, geheimnisvoll...
Die Geschichte beschreibt genau das, worum es im Leben tatsächlich geht: die wahre authentische Liebe, nicht nur zu einem anderen Menschen, sondern vor allem zu einem selbst und dem Annehmen dessen, was ist, ohne zu hadern und ohne zu verzweifeln, auch wenn man nicht alles gut heißen oder akzeptieren muss. Denn erst, wenn man dies für sich erkannt hat, ist man auch in der Lage, diese authentische und bedingungslose Liebe für einen anderen Menschen zu empfinden. Mi Mi und auch Tin Win beweisen und leben dies in wirklich sehr eindrucksvoller und auch mutiger Weise.
Völlig frei von Kitsch, Klischee und plakativen philosophischen Allgemeinsätzen beschreibt Sendker dies in einer Art und Weise, die das Buch zu einem sehr nachhaltigen und nachdenklichen Leseerlebnis werden lassen. Trotz vieler trauriger Aspekte ist die Geschichte für mich ein Hoffnungsträger, Hoffnungsträger für jeden Leser, jede dahinterstehende Biografie und die Menschen dieser Welt.

Hier noch ein wunderschöner und sehr wahrer Satz, der mir persönlich sehr gut gefällt:
"Wir trauen dem anderen immer nur zu, wozu wir selbst in der Lage sind, im Guten wie im Bösen!"
Profile Image for Joy D.
1,690 reviews205 followers
October 26, 2021
“We see only what we already know. We project our own capacities—for good as well as evil—onto the other person. Then we acknowledge as love primarily those things that correspond to our own image thereof. We wish to be loved as we ourselves would love. Any other way makes us uncomfortable. We respond with doubt and suspicion. We misinterpret the signs. We do not understand the language. We accuse. We assert that the other person does not love us. But perhaps he merely loves us in some idiosyncratic way that we fail to recognize.”

This is one of the few books I have read set in Myanmar (back when it was called Burma). It opens with Julia, a New York woman, searching for her father, Tin Win, who had abandoned her family. She travels to Myanmar and stays with a man, U Ba, who knows her father’s story.

This is a classic love story between two young people separated by circumstances, family interference, and distance. Both Tin Win and Mi Mi have a disability, which initially brings them together and enables love to blossom. Tin Win develops a condition with his eyes, such that he becomes blind, and Mi Mi is born with a defect to her feet. The title comes from Tin Win’s ability to distinguish different heartbeats, since his hearing has become more acute. It is beautifully told, with vivid images of the landscape, ways of life, and culture of Myanmar.

It reads almost like a fable. It is a story of the many facets of love and of children learning to accept that their parents led eventful lives before they were born. It evokes a quiet sense of dignity and patience, which are important to the main characters, and integral to the Buddhist spirituality, which plays a key role in the narrative. It is a moving story about loving and being loved.
Profile Image for Huy.
722 reviews
November 1, 2017
Chọn đọc cuốn này vì đọc nội dung thấy bối cảnh ở Myanmar, vì yêu Myanmar quá nên không thể từ chối được, bìa bản tiếng Việt khá đẹp với hình ảnh khá đặc trưng cho Myanmar là vùng đất cổ Bagan xinh đẹp, nhưng mà đọc sách mới thấy bìa hơi.... không liên quan, vì bối cảnh của cuốn sách chủ yêu ở vùng Kalaw, có dính tí xíu Ragoon chứ tuyệt nhiên không có Bagan đâu có, chắc bạn làm bìa không tìm hiểu mà cứ thấy Myanmar là lấy ngay địa danh nổi tiếng nhất áp vào.
Về nội dung cuốn sách thì khá hấp dẫn, kể về việc Julia đi truy lùng quá khứ của người cha mà không ai trong gia đình được biết để dẫn đến một mối tình kéo dài tận 50 năm, vấn đề của cuốn sách chỉ là nếu thay Myanmar bằng bất cứ đất nước nào khác thì câu chuyện cũng sẽ chẳng thay đổi gì, những biến động của đất nước rối ren này có lẽ sẽ có rất nhiều điểm để khai thác và khiến câu chuyện trở nên đặc biệt, thế nhưng tác giả đã biến cuốn sách thành một cuốn tiểu thuyết tình yêu bình thường với thông điệp xưa hơn trái đất, những phong tục, tập quán, con người, biến động lịch sử của Myanmar không được làm nổi bật lên (điều mà mình rất trông chờ).
Profile Image for Cheri.
1,688 reviews2,242 followers
April 15, 2012
I chose this book somewhat by random reviews, with hopes that it would contain a compelling storyline, and/or wonderful prose. In fact, it does, but more often than not the writing is a little too simple, the storyline a little too unbelievable, and the characters make transformations in attitude for no apparent reason. The storyteller portion of the book drew me in, the story of Mi Mi and Tin Win is touching and sweet enough to keep you reading, but between the jagged and abrupt flashbacks take you out of the story and into the analysis of the writing - and then whatever magic has been drawn is lost. The story still has charm and is worth reading, and really, I had wanted to give it four stars, but ... I just can't. I loved portions of the book, but I disliked the segments which were disjointed, and I felt they were a detraction from the beauty of the portions which were beautifully written. In the end, I felt the author redeemed the story just enough.
Profile Image for ☮Karen.
1,450 reviews9 followers
February 22, 2015
This on audio was read very slowly and methodically, which seemed quite appropriate. The wrong voice, the wrong inflections could have made this too sweet to bear. And I just cannot imagine this being half as beautiful if read in its original German language. Ach, nein!

But the story slowly pulled me in and made me feel an appreciation and awe for the world we live in, for beauty in nature, for young and enduring love. 3.5 stars.
Profile Image for Skip.
3,226 reviews394 followers
April 4, 2015
A heartwarming story about love, death, happiness and the senses with traditional Burmese values and beliefs included. A young lawyer travels to a small village in Burma in search of her father, who abandoned his U.S. family. Once there, she finds an old man, who tells her a story about two children with handicaps, who find soulmates, each completing the other. Author Sendeker does a good job weaving the past and present, but it's cliché in many ways.
Profile Image for Christina .
231 reviews20 followers
March 2, 2021
Was für ein schönes Buch. Passend für so viele Gelegenheiten. Es hat mich definitiv aus meiner Leseflaute geholt und es holt einen auch runter, wenn alles um einen herum ein etwas trubelig wird. Soviel Ruhe, Kraft und Achtsamkeit liegt darin. Man ist immer so schnell mit seiner Meinungsbildung und glaubt, vieles schon zu wissen. Wenn man sich aber die Zeit nimmt, zuzuhören, ergibt sich oft eine ganz neue Wahrheit. Ein Buch über das Besinnen auf das Wesentliche - die Liebe.
Profile Image for Marialyce (absltmom, yaya).
1,910 reviews727 followers
Read
June 1, 2018
I was enamored with the title, not so with its content. The writing was just flat and the characters did not come alive to me at all. Disappointing!
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