Set in Burma The Art of Hearing Heartbeats succeeds in being both a poignant love story and also 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.
Using a story within a story structure peeling back layer after layer over a series of conversations with a ‘stranger’ called U Ba the book describes the daughter Julia’s discovery of her father Tin Win’s early life growing up in a poor Burmese village and the progressive development of his relationship with his first and life-long love Mi Mi.
As the story develops with our star crossed lovers, the book explores the depth of connection that two people can have for one another and the impact on their relationship of other obligations interrupting their lives. As readers, we are pulled into Tin Win and Mi Mi’s slow unfolding relationship through Julia's perspective.
Our book group members particularly enjoyed the expressive beautiful language and imagery used by the author to describe this haunting and endearing love story.
We also enjoyed how the author effectively intertwined into the story aspects of Burmese culture and Buddhist tradition. There were a few minor areas of the narrative that some members felt were too cliché or ‘contrived’ (such as Braille books for Tin Win to read miraculously appearing in the Burmese countryside and being donated by a friendly British Officer) but on the whole we unanimously enjoyed the book.