Cover image for The heart
Title:
The heart
ISBN:
9780374240905
Edition:
First American edition.
Physical Description:
242 pages ; 20 cm
General Note:
"Originally published in French in 2014 by Verticales, an imprint of Éditions Gallimard, France, as Réparer les vivants"--Title page verso.
Summary:
Just before dawn on a Sunday morning, three teenage boys go surfing. Returning home, exhausted, the driver lets the car drift off the road into a tree. Two of the boys are wearing seat belts; one is sent through the windshield. He is declared brain-dead shortly after arriving at the hospital. His heart is still beating. The Heart takes place over the twenty-four hours surrounding a fatal accident and a resulting heart transplant as life is taken from a young man and given to a woman close to death.
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Summary

Summary

Just before dawn on a Sunday morning, three teenage boys go surfing. Returning home, exhausted, the driver lets the car drift off the road into a tree. Two of the boys are wearing seat belts; one is sent through the windshield. He is declared brain-dead shortly after arriving at the hospital. His heart is still beating.

The Heart takes place over the twenty-four hours surrounding a fatal accident and a resulting heart transplant as life is taken from a young man and given to a woman close to death. In gorgeous, ruminative prose it examines the deepest feelings of everyone involved--grieving parents, hardworking doctors and nurses--as they navigate decisions of life and death. As stylistically audacious as it is emotionally explosive, Maylis de Kerangal's The Heart has mesmerized readers in France, where it has been hailed as the breakthrough work of a new literary star.


Author Notes

Maylis de Kerangal is the author of several novels in French, including Je marche sous un ciel de traîne (2000), La vie voyageuse (2003), Corniche Kennedy (2008), and Naissance d'un pont (published in English as Birth of a Bridge , winner of the Prix Franz Hessel and Prix Médicis in 2010). She has also published a collection of short stories, Ni fleurs ni couronnes (2006), and a novella, Tangente vers l'est (winner of the 2012 Prix Landerneau). In addition, she has published a fiction tribute to Kate Bush and Blondie titled Dans les rapides (2007). In 2014, her fifth novel, Ré parer les vivants ( The Heart ), was published to wide acclaim, and won the Grand Prix RTL-Lire and the Student Choice Novel of the Year from France culture and Télérama. She lives in Paris, France.


Reviews 4

Publisher's Weekly Review

De Kerangal's first work published in America pulses with life. When teenager Simon Limbres endures a car crash, he enters a state of irreversible brain death, or coma dépassé. The novel tracks-with panoptic precision-the various actors in the tense and quick 24-hour drama of the harvesting and transplant of his organs. Characters include Marianne and Sean Limbres, the grieving mother and father who must face the modern conundrum of their a loved one being both dead and alive; Pierre Révol, the senior doctor on duty, who is fascinated by the notion that "the moment of death is no longer to be considered as the moment the heart stops, but as the moment when cerebral function ceases"; Thomas Rémige, who heads the Coordinating Committee for Organ and Tissue Removal; Claire Méjan, a transplant recipient; and all the other doctors and nurses who play the carefully choreographed roles in the transplant process. It's clear de Kerangal has done extensive research, and the novel contains a wealth of medical knowledge. But her prose is more than just technical; the writing is uncommonly beautiful and never lacking humanity. This poetic interrogation of our contemporary medical reality affords a view only literature can provide. (Feb.) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.


Kirkus Review

Doctors and other medical experts hasten to prepare a young man's organs for transplant and reckon with the need to be both compassionate and precise in a hurry. Acclaimed in France upon its publication in 2014, de Kerangal's fifth novel (and first to be translated into English) reads partly like reportage, detailing how various professionals snap to attention when human organs become available for donation. In this case, the story begins with Simon, a college student left brain dead and on life support when the van he was riding in with his surfing buddies crashed into a pole. A cast of characters enters in rapid succession, including Pierre, the head doctor of the ICU; Cordelia, a new nurse; Thomas, the staffer who assists Simon's parents as they agonize over whether their son would want his organs donated; Marthe, the donor database manager charged with finding appropriate matches; and so on. But de Kerangal also means to explore how what looks like a fine-tuned clinical process from the outside in truth masks roiling emotional complexity. The most fully formed character in both cases is Thomas, who's a classical music fan (fitting for his role as orchestrator) and who owns a goldfinch ("guarded like treasure") that's even more nakedly symbolic in a book about matters of the heart. In the first half of the book, de Kerangal's balancing act is winning and effective, particularly as Simon's parents must weigh reason and raw emotion while the clock is ticking. (And translator Taylor ably shifts between the book's plainspoken and more lyrical registers.) But once the crucial decision is made midway through, the remainder of the book feels anticlimactic. Though there's some drama in finding a recipient for the heart and performing the transplant, the chief drama is settled early. A sophisticated medical drama whose pulse-pounding strength diminishes a touch too quickly. Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.


Booklist Review

*Starred Review* Surfing is 19-year-old Simon's ruling passion. One cold morning, he and two friends rush out before dawn to drive to the northern coast of France to catch a rare and perfect wave. Simon ends up on life-support, and now a very different sort of race ensues. Will his shocked parents allow their son's organs to be used in urgently needed transplants? Kerangal, a prize-winning French novelist, rides a surging stream of consciousness in this ravishingly detailed, high-velocity, 24-hour, medical and metaphysical drama, bringing us into the agitated minds of Simon's mother and artistic girlfriend, the intensive-care-unit doctor and nurse, the nurse in charge of the organ donor process, the head of a transplant agency, and the potential recipient of Simon's heart. Not only does Kerangal spellbindingly express her characters' inner voices, she also uses them as vehicles for richly faceted inquiries into the history and procedures of transplants, profound questions about the body and the soul, the art of surfing, the engine of lust, and the joy and anguish of love. Everything is alive and scintillating, from a rowdy soccer game to a trip to Algiers, where endangered goldfinches are captured for their exquisite songs. Kerangal infuses each beautifully rendered element with multiple dimensions of meaning and emotion to create a sensuous and propulsive novel of tragedy and hope.--Seaman, Donna Copyright 2015 Booklist


New York Review of Books Review

WE OPEN THIS NOVEL with the understanding that there will be death. It is a certainty. A story about a heart transplant is impossible without this inevitable equation: One body must give, and one must receive. From the first line of the French writer Maylis de Kerangal's layered, meditative novel, we know that 19-year-old Simon Limbres will lose his heart. But first, in a joyous, teenage moment, three boys go surfing. The black, predawn water is "dark, marbled, veiny," and Simon and his two friends thrum with life. We meet the living Simon only briefly. We surf one cold, heavy wall of water with him, and then in a road accident, he is gone. Throughout "The Heart," he remains elusive - a secretive teenager, his life left unfinished and unknown. Even in flashbacks, he is closed and contradictory. We watch as the people who love him subjectively recreate him, and the effect is hollow and fractured. We come away with the impression of an absence rather than a presence. The story unfolds in an intricate lacework of precise detail. Each character is introduced in particle form, and then the details compound until a wholeness is reached, a person takes shape and steps forward. We meet Simon's mother, Marianne, who, not sensing disaster, falls back asleep when she first hears the phone ring, and who clings to each moment of borrowed time before the unimaginable understanding breaks over her. We meet Simon's father, Sean, to whom Marianne must relay the news. She listens to her husband's unsuspecting voice knowing that "it was the voice of life before," and that she will never hear it again. We meet the doctor who must gently extinguish all hope. And we meet the organ-coordination nurse, a man of enormous, delicate integrity, who must broach the subject of donation. He sings to know he is alive, keeps a goldfinch and, despite the presumed-consent laws of France, believes in respecting the wishes of the family absolutely. These characters feel less like fictional creations and more like ordinary people, briefly illuminated in rich language, beautifully translated by Sam Taylor, that veers from the medical to the philosophical. "The Heart" takes place over the course of a single day, but plot is not what drives the narrative. Once the decision is made to donate Simon's organs, inevitability sets in, and what follows is a foregone conclusion. Instead, the story is propelled by a series of recognitions - incremental, articulated, human moments: narrative earthquakes that break open and pull us deeper into the story. Some moments are defined by essential questions about the wide, gray line between life and death. Here, death has been reimagined by science, and the heart has lost its medical sovereignty. It can still beat after death is declared. But what about the "iceberg of ancient terror," Kerangal writes, "being declared dead, by doctors, when you are still alive"? Science cannot resolve this primal fear, and the frayed, unanswered question shadows the air. Simon's bewildered parents must trust the doctors, doctors who deal in brain death rather than body death. There are the grim details of the machinery, the practiced choreography of the procedure, the surgical horse-trading over inches of artery and vein, and at the center is a 19-year-old whose parents want him to hear the sound of the sea as his heart is surgically removed. And in another register, there is the language of the heart itself. The writing returns us again and again to this lyric muscle. It is the lens through which emotion and experience are filtered. Marianne recalls the first time she heard Simon's heart beat on an ultrasound. A doctor's heart, a nurse's heart, and in the wreckage of their family, Marianne and Sean's hearts beat together. This novel is an exploration not only of death but of life, of humanity and fragility, "because the heart is more than the heart." PRIYA PARMAR'S novel "Vanessa and Her Sister" is now available in paperback.