From Left to Write February 2012 Book Club: The Art of Hearing Heartbeats | Why the End Isn't the Reason Why We Begin

When Julia travels to Burma to search for her missing lawyer father, she discovers much more than she expected. Join From Left to Write on February 1 as we discuss * by Jan-Philipp Sendker. 

As a member of From Left to Write, I received a free copy of the book to read and review. As always, the thoughts and opinions in this post are 100% my own.


All of my three children learned to read by the time they were five.  The only credit Knute and I can take for their early literacy is that reading out loud to them was a part of their every day routine from the time they were babies.  Bed time meant story time and there were many nights when we would find ourselves reading the same tale again and again and again until our own heads began to nod.  I imagine I'll be reciting, "The truffala trees!  The truffala trees!  All my life I'd been searching for trees such as these!**" and other Seussian lines under my breath in odd moments for the rest of my life.

These days, Knute and I don't find ourselves often reading aloud to the kiddos; they curl up each night in bed (after what feels like half an eternity of wrangling, silly bantering, and outright belly-aching about our repeated requests to brush their teeth, get their jammies on, and!) with a book, their bedside lamps on for another half an hour of reading time.

In some ways, I miss those years of reading stories with them.  There was the delight in discovering new children's tales together, ones that made both of us - child and adult - laugh out loud.  (Read any kids books by Doreen Cronin, Kathi Appelt, or Jamie Lee Curtis and you'll be laughing, too.)  There was the comfort of the end-of-day routine.  And there was the great satisfaction of opening the pages of an oft-told tale, one whose ending we already knew.

I was not far into the pages of The Art of Hearing Heartbeats before I had a clear idea of how the story would end because it is so skillfully and - bear with me on this pun - so artfully foretold.  While foreshadowing, when done clumsily, will absolutely ruin a story for me to the point where I will put the book down without finishing it, it works beautifully in this fine novel by Jan-Philipp Sendker because the end of the story is not the purpose of the story.

The telling of the story, as recounted by one character to another, is the purpose of the story.

How often in life do we see the end as the purpose, the reason, the driver to all we do?

Today, I flipped over my calendar from January to February.  One month gone already in 2012, thirty-one days where one of the leading topics across main stream media and new media alike was the subject of resolutions.  Early in January, the topic skewed toward making resolutions.  During the middle of January, the topic shifted toward keeping resolutions.  As January wrapped itself into the annals of history, the topic shifted again toward re-kindling resolutions or getting back up on the ol' resolution horse as February approached.

So many resolutions.  So many goals.  So many ends to meet, so many finish lines to cross.

When we race forward, always forward, relentlessly forward, the life around us begins to blur like the view seen from the window of a car speeding down a highway.  When we finally reach our destination, we have trouble remembering what we saw along the way.

We're finally there, yes; but the journey is over and we have few memories of our travels.

Reading and reflecting on The Art of Hearing Heartbeats made me consider my own TypeA approach to life: To Do lists; goal setting; looking forward.

Always forward.

While I know myself well enough to know that I won't ever stop pushing onward, striving upward, I'm reminded of how important it is to remember to slow down, to turn my head to see and experience what is around me.

I'm reminded that the end should never be the only reason we begin.

*Disclosure: This post contains my Amazon affiliate links through which I earn enough spare change to buy approximately (1) Starbucks Skinny Mocha every six months or so.  Thanks.  ;-)

**From "The Lorax," by Dr. Seuss, one of my youngest's faves to this day.