After Maggie O’Farrell’s Instructions For A Heatwave, the story about how the missing patriarch in a family provokes self-examination on the part of every family member, I’m intrigued to find, in the galley cart at work, The Art of Hearing Heartbeats by Jan-Philipp Sendker. This is why:
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 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.
A missing parent unearths secrets that were meant to be buried. In O’Farrell’s novel it turns out the story hinges on as much the family as the old man who disappeared. In Sendker’s it’s about history of Second World War in Burma. Another that comes in mind is Please Look After Mom by Kyung-Sook Shin. The book is about the selfish family of Park So-nyo, a woman who got lost in the crowd at a train station in Seoul and has not reappeared.