I can’t remember how this book got on my list of must-reads but I’m so grateful that it did. The author, Jan-Philipp Sendker is a German with journalistic roots. The Art of Hearing Heartbeats, Sendker’s first work of fiction, was translated into English by Kevin Wiliarty.
Julia Win is a young lawyer in New York City. She and her brother are the off-springs of a marriage between an American woman and a Burmese man. Julia adores her dad and has a lifetime of warm memories of times shared with him, though in recent years she has found some of his eccentricities somewhat embarrassing.
One morning her father kisses her good-bye and leaves, ostensibly on a business trip to Boston. He disappears.
When, after four years Julia comes across an old love letter that her father has written to someone – Mi Mi – in Burma she feels inspired to follow the trail of this faint clue to the other side of the world in hopes of finding him.
What follows is a tale so beautiful and so imbued with Buddhist philosophy that it almost seems like a fable. Julia finds out not only about her dad but also about her own roots. And we learn about life, love and death. We learn to listen deeply and to appreciate each moment.
My initial thought on finishing this book was that the author who created such a story, told with such sensitivity, must be a very special person indeed.