The Art of Hearing Heartbeats, Jan-Philipp Sendker, Other Press, 2006, (translated from the German by Kevin Wiliarty, published in Germany in 2002), 238 pp.
This was a reading group pick. From the blurbs and reviews I saw I expected an overly sentimental love story. It is an unusual love story and is "poignant and inspirational" as the cover blurb says. In fact, it was way too sentimental for most of the reading group but not for me.
I guess I am a romantic. I do believe in love even though I have learned that love can bring more hurt and disappointment than anything else in life. I loved this book.
The love between the two main characters, a blind young man and a handicapped young woman, began in Burma in the 1950s when it was still called Burma. The two are separated by events beyond their control and the young man ends up in America living an entirely different life.
Years later the story of the two lovers is told by an elderly Burmese man who presents for a Western reader insight into the culture, beliefs, habits, and views about life in a remote village of this ancient society. The combination of the incredible connection between the lovers and their unique culture created a beautiful and moving tale.
How good and deep and magical can true love be? This book told me how. I know it sounds corny but I feel I learned how to create a better love with my husband than I had before reading The Art of Hearing Heartbeats.
"Life is a gift full of riddles in which suffering and happiness are inextricably intertwined. Any attempt to have one without the other (is) simply bound to fail."
"...in some cases the smallest human unit was two rather than one."
(The Art of Hearing Heartbeats is available in various formats by order from Once Upon A Time Bookstore.)