Book Review: A Well-Tempered Heart, by Jan Philipp-Sendker

Originally published in the January 28th, 2014 issue of Shelf Awareness for Readers. Reprinted here with permission. If you don't already receive it, sign up here to receive a bi-weekly dose of readerly goodness in your inbox.

Jan Philipp-Sendker's debut novel, The Art of Hearing Heartbeats, introduced readers to Julia, a young woman who travels to Burma to try to find her missing father. A Well-Tempered Heart takes Julia back to Burma nearly a decade later. This time, however, she is s
earching not for a missing person, but a better understanding of herself--and the woman's voice she has mysteriously started to hear in her head.

Thinking she is going insane, Julia revisits Burma as a last resort, hoping to spend time with her half-brother and clear her head. The voice warns her against the journey, fearing the secrets it may uncover. And uncover secrets it does, as Julia and her brother look not only to identify the woman speaking to Julia, but understand why she lingers in Julia's mind. Along the way, they learn of Burma's violent past, rife with civil wars and wounds that have not yet healed in the hearts of the Burmese people.

What sounds fantastical in our description is accepted with no raised eyebrows in Philipp-Sendker's Burma, where portents and signs are accepted as truth. In this world, so very different from the fast-paced Manhattan to which she is accustomed, Julia learns not only about the woman speaking to her, but about the power of intuition, forgiveness and love--as well as second chances. What begins as a problem-solving quest becomes a journey of self-discovery, sure to resonate with anyone who has ever sought to reinvent oneself.


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The Art of Hearing Heartbeats, by Jan Philipp-Sendker


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A Well-Tempered Heart | Jan Philipp-Sendker | Other Press | January 2014 | Paperback | 400 pages

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