The Heart is a Muscle the Size of a Fist

Finished The Heart is a Muscle the Size of a Fist by Sunil Yapa.  I received a copy from the publisher for review.

Summary (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.”

This is an absolutely stunning debut (which is also launching a new imprint at Hachette).  It’s based on true events, but somehow I had either never known or entirely forgotten about them (I am on the East Coast, granted, but I was 19 at the time, and I can’t imagine it wasn’t covered extensively).

But you don’t need to know about them to enjoy this book.

Well, okay, “enjoy” might be a strong word.  This is an incredibly intense book and there is a lot of suffering and a lot of people behaving badly.  At the same time, there’s such a strong current of humanity and kindness running through it—people risking their own safety to save others—that it gives and takes away my hope at the same time.  (I know that doesn’t really make sense.)

This is the kind of book that changes people.

Recommended.

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