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Sunil Yapa
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Your Heart is a Muscle the Size of a Fist

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message 1: by Eric (last edited Jul 04, 2017 09:37AM) (new)

Eric Anderson (LonesomeReader) | 15 comments Mod
Your Heart is a Muscle the Size of a Fist
A heart-stopping debut about protest and riot . . .

1999. Victor, homeless after a family tragedy, finds himself pounding the streets of Seattle with little meaning or purpose. He is the estranged son of the police chief of the city, and today his father is in charge of one of the largest protests in the history of Western democracy.

But in a matter of hours reality will become a nightmare. Hordes of protesters - from all sections of society - will test the patience of the city's police force, and lives will be altered forever: two armed police officers will struggle to keep calm amid the threat of violence; a protester with a murderous past will make an unforgivable mistake; and a delegate from Sri Lanka will do whatever it takes to make it through the crowd to a meeting - a meeting that could dramatically change the fate of his country. In amongst the fray, Victor and his father are heading for a collision too.

Your Heart is a Muscle the Size of a Fist, set during the World Trade Organization protests, is a deeply charged novel showcasing a distinct and exciting new literary voice.

Let us know your thoughts about this book plus any questions, reactions or topics of discussion you'd like us to talk about in the book club video we'll record together.


Jayne Catherine pinkett | 1 comments Sounds a good read. I will see if my library has it


Mimi (a.k.a Ellen) (MimiLovesToKnit) | 10 comments It was interesting to be reading this book on the weekend when Charlottesville erupted in tragedy here in the US. Certainly, the WTO protest of 1999 was not in the scope of a hate crime like it was in Virginia. But it did make me think about why people protest, how police think of protesters and most of all--and as did happen at both protests--turn tragic in the blink of an eye.

Yet, ironically, nothing in this book really happens in the blink of an eye because the author draws out each significant moment in the most unique way. Have you ever been in an accident or fell off your bike and it seems like it takes you a half hour to hit the ground? I was in a bad traffic accident last summer and while I saw myself ready to hit a red light runner broadside, I thought so many things in that split second: Oh god, I'm going to hit them; oh god my granddaughter is in the car; will I have a heart attack from fear, will I die, where is my husband; where is my son, and a few more. ( I read this is an actual physiological response and time actually does slow down in your mind. . . but I digress).

One incident will take a quarter of the book. Those 10 minutes of action will comprise several chapters. This is the conceit of the book and happens to all the main characters. And the reason is, IMHO, for the author to play exactly what is in our minds over the whole of the relationship, say father and son, just like I mentioned in the accident but much more drawn out. It is a lifetime of thoughts culminating in an end point for each specific person or relationship.

I wasn't sure if I liked this or not in the end. The author's is a poet when he does this. I could see me thinking similar thoughts if I had the time. And perhaps we do think about our relationships in this way, not so much in the blink of an eye experience but over time as we ponder a significant parent, child, friend. So this is something the author brings to the book uniquely.

SPOILERS START HERE

A positive for me in the book was the way each character was good and bad. King was 101% dedicated to making the world a greater place, yet we find out she killed a man once so she could escape a bad situation. The police chief was all hardened cop, but was known as someone who didn't sweat the small stuff when it came to protecting his beloved city, and he loved his prodigal son, even though it really wasn't his blood relation but his wife's child. A rogue and dangerous cop, saved many people in a brave act of heroism in the Murrow Federal Building bombing years earlier. I liked this part because I think it is real.

Where the author fell down was in the small details that tie the story together and if he did a better job this could have been a stunner. Victor was a punk trying to sell weed, yet he becomes a heroic fighter for the WTO just because he was asked. His mom read him Franz Fanon, but he didn't even know what the WTO did. He travelled around the world by doing odd jobs?, and on and on.

The father was the best drawn character to me and I found his aching heart realistic for a man who was a cop; just know that life was going to hurt and that's that. I found the stories about the two other cops and the two other protesters confusing though--all interesting but not sure how they fit into the book.

The discussion of the Sri Lankan minister with the protesters was excellent. The protesters were fighting for him but he was there to beg for his small island to be included in international trade. That was the best part of the book for me. Good lord, does anyone know whats really going on in the world, in other people's lives! And the other part of the book I liked was King realizing she could be in a comfortable bed, home, have food, etc., yet lives on the run. Therefore, she questioned if she was a fraudulent protester as she was more privileged. And why is she doing this? I love those kinds of arguments.

I also thought the topic of the book was great. I wish Yapa just structured it better. And the dying Victor's scaffolded house inside his body at the end was a gorgeous and comforting image. I also think that whole scene was meant to show us that the moment of love they shared, even though it was brief and final,was really a gift--to love and be loved. (less)


message 4: by Amy (new)

Amy Vickers | 6 comments I was in my mid-20s during "The Battle in Seattle," and oddly, I only have the vaguest memory of this happening, so I’m especially grateful that Yapa was able to illuminate this event for me. It was like time traveling to a more optimistic (although naive) time.

I think the multi-perspectives is done brilliantly. I don’t normally enjoy stories with multiple perspectives for a couple of reasons. First, I feel like character depth is sacrificed because overall character development is spread too thin. Secondly, it’s just hard for me to get into a multi-perspective book because every time a new character is introduced, I feel I’m reading the introduction of a story over again. This did not happen at all with this book. Yapa kept me hooked because each character was fascinating from the very start. He also created an impressive amount of depth given the small space afforded each character.

Most importantly, this as a timely book. I see it as a microcosm that is representative of the macrocosm of today’s world.

I’m so glad that Yapa doesn’t leave out the perspective of a diplomat from Sri Lanka. We see what it is like to represent a tiny nation that has little to offer, but desperately wants to see his people benefit from global trade. Instead of just focusing on the protesters and police, it’s also a little bit about what these protests were all about.

He shows the complexity of the police force by offering a few POV's. We have an emotionally scarred cop who breaks the law immediately, a cop who retired from the LAPD after the Rodney King riots and rationalizes police brutality as a necessary evil, and the chief of police who is at the mercy of politicians. From the POV of the chief, he writes, “Well the days of community policing were over. The world was a bottleful of sparkling darkness and cops the ones charged with keeping the cork in while the rich shook and shook.”

I thought he did a great job with both King and Victor. I enjoyed how Victor evolves from a directionless wanderer, so intent on his own pain that he can’t see the forest through the trees, to someone who can (maybe) see the world as it is, in a “let’s appreciate this gorgeous mess” kind of way. I appreciate the sentiment that chaos can lead to a better world, especially these days.

In the end, this change affords him the focus he’s been lacking in his wanderings which gives him all he’s been seeking. This includes the ability to connect to his father and the purpose he needs to move forward in his life. Again, while the conflict is written as personal, I got the heavy impression that he is representative of those of us who are a product of the establishment, struggle with the world as it is, but feel powerless to do anything about it.

Great book, Eric and Anna. I'm looking forward to the video!


message 5: by Amy (new)

Amy Vickers | 6 comments Mimi (a.k.a Ellen) wrote: "It was interesting to be reading this book on the weekend when Charlottesville erupted in tragedy here in the US. Certainly, the WTO protest of 1999 was not in the scope of a hate crime like it was..."

I like your assessment of the characters. The contradictions made them seem a lot more realistic to me. I loved the inclusion of the Sri Lankan diplomat, too, and how he was educated by the protesters!

I didn't have the same issues regarding the structure of the novel. I'm not big into multiple perspective books, but I thought this one was done particularly well.


message 6: by Eric (new)

Eric Anderson (LonesomeReader) | 15 comments Mod
Mimi (a.k.a Ellen) wrote: "It was interesting to be reading this book on the weekend when Charlottesville erupted in tragedy here in the US. Certainly, the WTO protest of 1999 was not in the scope of a hate crime like it was..."

It was so excellent reading your thoughts about this, Mimi. I have a feeling this novel will linger in my imagination whenever I witness any social clash between protestors and police. Just today I was thinking about it reading about the voting booths in Catalonia being forcibly closed by police and the brutal treatment peaceful people wanting to vote received. The novel does show the flaws and complexity of people on both sides of the line, but also makes you so powerfully feel the fear and horrific violence of the skirmish - as you describe so well in how time seems to slow down in those split seconds before something horrible happens.
I wasn't sure about the inclusion of the Sri Lankan minister at first where his encounter with the celebrity seemed a bit cliched, but I agree his storyline became one of the most powerful for the way in which he was caught in the middle of this battle that was both physical and one of warring ideologies.
Thanks so much for your thoughts!


message 7: by Eric (new)

Eric Anderson (LonesomeReader) | 15 comments Mod
Amy wrote: "I was in my mid-20s during "The Battle in Seattle," and oddly, I only have the vaguest memory of this happening, so I’m especially grateful that Yapa was able to illuminate this event for me. It wa..."

Thanks for your thoughts and comments, Amy! I agree that this novel is so timely and, although it's about a specific historic event, the ideas it contains about social conflict can be applied to so much of the things which divide society today. It really embodies the frustration a lot of us probably feel wanting to see positive change yet feeling helpless to change things which are so complex.
We'll hopefully be filming a discussion video about this and Under the Udala Trees soon, but Anna is overwhelmingly busy at the moment so it might be slightly delayed.


message 8: by Amy (new)

Amy Vickers | 6 comments Eric,

Thank you for taking the time to read and respond to my comment. I really enjoyed the book.

Thanks for updating me on the status video. Yesterday I was starting to wonder if you'd posted it and I'd somehow missed it. I totally understand life getting in the way of projects. I hope things quiet down for Anna soon.


Mimi (a.k.a Ellen) (MimiLovesToKnit) | 10 comments Hi, Amy and Eric. I, too, was thinking about the book reading about the Catalonia situation. it's surreal all the violence in this world now.

Amy, if you haven't read All We Shall Know for next month, I highly recommend it. It's been my favorite book of the year and thanks to Anna and Eric for recommending it.


message 10: by Amy (new)

Amy Vickers | 6 comments Mimi (a.k.a Ellen) wrote: "Amy, if you haven't read All We Shall Know for next month, I highly recommend it. It's been my favorite book of the year and thanks to Anna and Eric for recommending it."

Really? I already got Bone Gap, but maybe I'll read both. Thanks for the recommendation.


message 11: by Eric (new)

Eric Anderson (LonesomeReader) | 15 comments Mod
Amy wrote: "Mimi (a.k.a Ellen) wrote: "Amy, if you haven't read All We Shall Know for next month, I highly recommend it. It's been my favorite book of the year and thanks to Anna and Eric for recommending it."..."
Both are quite short reads so probably won't take long to get through and I can't emphasize enough what a beautiful & powerful novel All We Shall Know is. But, no pressure!


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