Like the stereotype of a bookish woman, I am extremely near-sighted. Without my contacts even a large human nose and bushy eyebrows blur together into one muddy featureless head. With my contact lenses, the world sharpens into clear shapes, colors and forms, and yet I am often surprised by how unobservant I am. I can rarely remember what people wear, notice a new haircut, or find my way again to an address I’ve traveled to before.
As the world comes into a new focus for Tin Win, he meets a young disabled woman, Mi Mi, and falls in love. With her words, Mi Mi helps Tin Win give names to the different sounds that he hears. Crawling about, she explores till she finds the worm that Tin Win heard or the egg in which beats the chick’s little heart. With Mi Mi, Tin Win learns the truth of his teacher’s promise, that nothing is more powerful than love. His blind world, now no longer empty because of his love for Mi Mi and his magical hearing, lights up.
The Art of Hearing Heartbeats is a love story, a mystery, and a tale of the magic in ordinary things. For Mi Mi and Tin Win their love is a source of inner happiness whether they are together or separated. Carried on the gentle waves of this lovely novel, I could glimpse both the selflessness and the selfishness of their love and the impact it had on the lives around them.
Sight and blindness come in different forms. Seeing eyes do not see everything, but -- much though I would wish to have a hearing gift like Tin Win’s -- neither does a listening heart. The humanity in this book, the tragedy of decisions made and connections severed and kept, make this novel linger in my mind over two weeks after I finished it.
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