Jan-Philipp Sendker translated from the German by Kevin Wiliarty

A Well-Tempered Heart

A Well-Tempered Heart

Publication Date: Jan 21, 2014

320 pp


List Price US $12.99
ISBN: 9781590516416

Trade Paperback

List Price US $15.95
ISBN: 9781590516409

The sequel to the international best-selling novel The Art of Hearing Heartbeats
Almost ten years have passed since Julia Win came back from Burma, her father’s native country. Though she is a successful Manhattan lawyer, her private life is at a crossroads; her boyfriend recently left her, she has suffered a miscarriage, and she is, despite her wealth, unhappy with her professional life. Julia is lost and exhausted.

One day, in the middle of an important business meeting, she hears a stranger’s voice in her head that causes her to leave the office without explanation. In the following days, her crisis only deepens. Not only does the female voice refuse to disappear, but it starts to ask questions Julia has been trying to avoid. Why do you live alone? To whom do you feel close? What do you want in life?

Interwoven with Julia’s story is that of a Burmese woman named Nu Nu who finds her world turned upside down when Burma goes to war and calls on her two young sons to be child soldiers. This spirited sequel, like The Art of Hearing Heartbeats, explores the most inspiring and passionate terrain: the human heart.

Excerpt from A Well-Tempered Heart

“Can you also hear heartbeats?”
“Too bad.” Thar Thar looked at me. “I once knew someone who could tune a heart.”
“Tune a heart?” I asked, wondering if I had understood him correctly.
“Yes, like an instrument. If a heart was out of tune, he would retune it.”
“How can a heart be out of tune?” I asked.
Thar Thar cocked his head to the side and smirked. “The daughter of a heart listener really ought to know that.”
Was he making fun of me?
“Alas, there are many ways. Have you never heard of irregular heartbeats, rapid heartbeats, premature heartbeats? If life has made you mean, or if disappointments have made you as bitter as a slice of tamarind, your heart beats too deeply. If you are afraid, it starts to flutter like a young bird. If you are sad, it beats so slowly that a person might expect it to stop completely any minute. If your spirit is overwhelmed by confusion, it beats most irregularly. Is it different in America?”
“No. But when we have arrhythmia we go to a cardiologist.”
“That’s a different matter. They are mechanics of the heart. They have nothing to do with tuning a heart.”
“How does one tune a heart?” I asked quietly.
Thar Thar cleared his throat, stuck the knife into the cutting board, and fell silent. He did not answer.
“Does it require a special gift?”
He looked past me. His lower lip began to quiver.
“What does it take to be a heart tuner? Who can do it? A magician? An astrologer?”
He shook his head. Without a word.

“An absolutely transcendent novel that doesn’t just dare to understand the human heart, it inhabits it. About love, unspeakable loss, and coming to know what really saves us in life, this is the kind of stunningly perfect novel that changes lives. I know it did mine. To say I loved it is pure understatement.”—Caroline Leavitt, New York Times bestselling author of Pictures of You and Is This Tomorrow

“Sendker’s follow-up to The Art of Hearing Heartbeats…opens readers’ eyes to a history of buried atrocities…[and] takes pains to develop a realistic world…”  —Publishers Weekly

“An absorbing, moving sequel.” —Booklist

“In…Sendker’s sequel to The Art of Hearing Heartbeats…[Julia] returns to Burma…for further lessons in love.  Sendker [is] a mesmerizing storyteller.” —Kirkus

“Very literary, it is a story of emotion, of magic, of belief, of many kinds of love and of hope. Like the previous book, The Art of Hearing Heartbeats, the sequel is beautifully written…in this series, the mystical elements are as important as the mundane…Many readers will find A Well-Tempered Heart incredibly beautiful and moving.” —RT Book Reviews

“Earnest and endearing, this just-arriving-in-translation sequel to the international mega-bestseller, The Art of Hearing Heartbeatsis a through-the-night read that will leave you sighing and swooning…German journalist Jan-Philipp Sendker‘s novels somehow manage to provide a rare, cleansing catharsis…Just as her father followed his heart home, Julia is called back by a desperate stranger with impossible questions from the other side of the world…But before Julia can answer, she must learn in her own heart ”what is important”… might I add, surely a life lesson for us all.”—BookDragon

“Jan-Philipp Sendker delivers another intriguing tale with A Well-Tempered Heart.” –RT Books

“When Jan-Philipp Sendker penned the sequel to his international bestseller The Art of Hearing Heartbeats, romantics worldwide breathed a sigh of relief. In this book readers have the chance to follow Julia Win, a Manhattan lawyer who stumbles upon a journey of self-reflection while picking up the pieces of her personal life. This story of love, loss, and understanding is sure to leave an impression on your heart.”  —Ladies Home Journal

“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.” —Shelf Awareness

“…[L]ike poetry.  A story within a story, where the main characters are entwined…[A Well-Tempered Heart] will transport you to the spot where everything happens, then leave you breathless wanting more.” –Serendipitous Readings 

“A winning locale and a lost soul seeking something she is unsure of what make for a delightful sequel.” –Genre Go Round Books

“[A] hauntingly beautiful sequel to The Art of Hearing Heartbeats… A Well-Tempered Heart touches the reader on many levels. It is a love story:  love of a mother for her sons, love between a sister and brother, and love between a man and a woman.” –The Freelance-Star

“Once again, author and translator alike, have magically strung a beautiful piece of writing together. This book, like it’s prequel is a beautifully written story with a lyrical style that leaves you wanting more.Good Book Fairy

[T]ruly an original, the author’s prose flawless and evocative.” –Historical Novels Review

“Engagingly drawn.” —BookPage

1. In the beginning of the novel, the voice in Julia’s head asks her, “Why do you live alone? To whom do you feel close? What do you want in life?”.  How do Julia’s answers to these questions develop throughout the story?  What do these answers signal to us about her evolution as a character?

2. What role does Burma play in this novel?  How does its landscape, history and ethos provide fertile ground to tease out both Julia and Nu Nu’s journeys?

3. Why is it Nu Nu’s voice that enters Julia’s consciousness?  How are their stories interwoven, and how does Nu Nu’s tale of love and loss both relate to and differ from Julia’s?

4. Nu Nu wonders whether people come into the world with an allotment of good fortune that they can enjoy during their lives, and whether they ought to be more sparing with their intimacy…or is everything that happens mere caprice and chance?  How do you think this book answers those questions?

5. After Nu Nu has her first child, her feelings for her husband change.  Why do you think this is, and what does the book say about the mutability of relationships?

6. If The Art of Hearing Heartbeats was Julia’s quest to find out who her father was, what is it she’s setting out to uncover in this sequel A Well-Tempered Heart?

7. What role do signs play in the lives of Julia, Nu Nu & Thar Thar?  How do these omens help them to make sense of the mystery and purpose of their lives?

8. Nu Nu asks, “Can a troubled spirit transform into a serene one? A sorrowful spirit into a joyful one?”  What do you think this book says about the possibility of changing the direction of one’s life?

9. Julia gradually learns about the horrors that Thar Thar had to endure as a young man.  How is Thar Thar able to overcome his trauma? What does he draw upon for strength?

10. After she hears his story, Julia feels a connection with Thar Thar unlike any other she has known.  Why do you think this is?  What accounts for their connection despite their many differences?

11. Why does Thar Thar decide to sever the potential relationship with Julia?

12. At the end of the book, Julia decides not to return to her life in New York.  What do you think ultimately informs this decision?  How has her time in Burma changed her?