Maylis de Kerangal’s The Heart is a novel spinning on the axis of life and death, recounting the story of a heart transplant in passionate detail.
Set within the arc of a twenty-four hour period, it begins with the image of Simon Limbres surfing in the early morning—immersed in cold rolling water, his mind filled with images of distant lands, of the future, of all the life before him. However, just pages after this vibrant introduction, he is taken from us in a tragic car accident that leaves him comatose, his life passing away with each pulse. The news reaches his mother and father, and the reader follows the horror—the disbelief, numbness, and helplessness—that sets in as the doctors reach their grim prognoses.
But all is not lost. The possibility remains for the young man’s heart to give life to another; and as the parents make their profoundly difficult decision, Kerangal reinforces a vision of life overcoming death, where we must all “bury the dead to repair the living.”
Nuanced, subtle, deeply humane yet never sentimental, The Heart is a triumphant study of a fearsome subject. Like myself, you will be thinking about it long after finishing.
The Heart, a novel by Maylis de Kerangal, translated from the French by Sam Taylor, Farrar Straus and Giroux