Welcome to the Daylight Savings edition of Sunday Morning Reads. I’m very grumpy this morning because I’m not a fan of “spring forward” at all. It means an hour of sleep is stolen from us, which is frankly unforgivable. I have no other choice than to read unnaturally fast to make up for the lost time! Hopefully reading will put me in a better mood :]
Anyway, I will finally get around to reading a book I bought during the beginning of February. Your Heart is a Muscle the Size of a Fist is yet another debut novel I’m thrilled to read this year, written by Sri-Lankan American Sunil Yapa.
I listened to an NPR interview with Yapa recently, and apparently the original manuscript for this novel was lost/stolen. It was over 600 pages! What a tragedy. However, Yapa did not give up on his idea and mustered the will and clearly had the wherewithal to write it all over again because he believed in his work. The story takes place 17 years ago, but the ongoing conflict between citizens/protesters and the police force proves to be strikingly relevant today.
Synopsis from Goodreads:
The Flamethrowers meets Let the Great World Spin in this debut novel set amid the heated conflict of Seattle’s 1999 WTO protests.
On a rainy, cold day in November, young Victor–a boyish, scrappy world traveler who’s run away from home–sets out to sell marijuana to the 50,000 anti-globalization protestors gathered in the streets. It quickly becomes clear that the throng determined to shut the city down–from environmentalists to teamsters to anarchists–are testing the patience of the police, and what started as a peaceful protest is threatening to erupt into violence.
Over the course of one life-altering afternoon, the lives of seven people will change forever: foremost among them police chief Bishop, the estranged father Victor hasn’t seen in three years, two protestors struggling to stay true to their non-violent principles as the day descends into chaos, two police officers in the street, and the coolly elegant financial minister from Sri Lanka whose life, as well as his country’s fate, hinges on getting through the angry crowd, out of jail, and to his meeting with the president of the United States.
In this raw and breathtaking novel, Yapa marries a deep rage with a deep humanity, and in doing so casts an unflinching eye on the nature and limits of compassion.
I’m jumping into this book nearly blind. All I know about it is the premise and what little I recall about the protests of the World Trade Organization in Seattle. Reading this novel will definitely be a learning experience.
You can read the opening paragraph below. It’s a little long, but very good.
THE MATCH struck and sputtered. Victor tried again. He put match head to phosphate strip with the gentle pressure of one long finger and the thing sparked and caught and for the briefest of moments he held a yellow flame. Victor– curled into himself like a question mark, a joint hanging from his mouth; Victor with his hair natural in two thick braids, a red bandanna folded and knotted to hold them back; Victor– with his dark eyes and his thin shoulders and his cafecito con leche skin, wearing a pair of classic Air Jordans, the leather so white it glowed — imagine him how you will because he hardly knew how to see himself. He was nineteen years old and should have felt as sweet as a bluebird in the dew, but in the awful damp of the early morning, after another night of sleeping on cold concrete — or not sleeping — he moved like an old man, grumbling like the world was out to get him, had in fact perhaps already gotten him, struck him down without mercy or care or intent as if it hadn’t even seen him standing there, he had just been in the way.
Have you heard of this novel before? What do you think?