1. In your opinion, what does the back-and-forth between Julia's
and U Ba's narratives add to the telling of the love story between
Tin Win and Mi Mi? How do these stories interrelate?
2. Tin Win is born to parents who abandon him as a child but Mi
Mi is born into a close-knit family. Mi Mi's mother, especially,
adores her daughter. Do you see this developmental difference
reflected in the adult each one becomes, or in the way the two
relate to one another?
3. After he loses his sight, Tin Win spends several years in a
monastery under the tutelage of the abbot, U May. In your opinion,
what does U May model for Tin Win? How does Tin Win grow in these
4. Tin Win's wealthy uncle, U Saw, finances Tin Win's eye
operation and subsequent education abroad. But to U Saw's
discredit, his motives are self-interested, and for his own
convenience, he obstructs all communication between Tin Win and Mi
Mi. Is U Saw portrayed as a villain-or is he even villainous?
5. A portion of the novel is in the form of letters. Does this
change the mood or the flow of the novel? The way you see the
6. Tin Win and Mi Mi develop an intense, literally symbiotic
relationship: he walks for her; she acts as his eyes. They become
inseparable, but then they are separated for decades. Given what
you know about each character, how do you think they are able to
withstand the time apart?
7. Discuss the role of memory in the novel, both individual and
8. Burma (now known as Myanmar) was occupied by the British from
the nineteenth century until 1948. How important is this colonial
history to the major events of the novel?
9. Prophecy and superstition play a significant role in Burmese
culture. Do you think this belief system inspires a fundamental
feeling of security or of anxiety in the main characters of the
novel, and why?
10. The novel contrasts Western and Eastern values:
individualism and personal achievement versus kinship and
transcendence. Where and how are these differences brought to
A poignant and inspirational love story set in Burma, "The Art of Hearing Heartbeats "spans the decades between the 1950s and the present. When a successful New York lawyer suddenly disappears without a trace, neither his wife nor his daughter Julia has any idea where he might be...until they find a love letter he wrote many years ago, to a Burmese woman they have never heard of. Intent on solving the mystery and coming to terms with her father's past, Julia decides to travel to the village where the woman lived. There she uncovers a tale of unimaginable hardship, resilience, and passion that will reaffirm the reader's belief in the power of love to move mountains.