Power vs Empathy: Yapa’s debut novel

Your Heart is a MuscleI’m looking forward to more from Sunil Yapa. His debut novel, Your Heart is a Muscle the Size of a Fist, is thought-provoking and heartbreaking.

Yapa takes us back to Seattle, 1999, on the first day of the WTO meeting and the protests that turned into the “Battle of Seattle.” Using multiple points of view, he delves into the question of what it means to empathize, and how empathy can leave you vulnerable or make you strong. We witness three police officers, two protesters, one witness-cum-protester, and one WTO delegate’s perspectives as the day progresses.

The topic is utterly relevant today, with the continued unrest and protests that began with the WTO protests back in 1999. I’m thinking of Naomi Klein’s most recent book, This Changes Everything – how relevant the movement of what some saw as “spoiled hippies” is in terms of continued climate devastation and economic inequality, both domestically and globally.

While I recommend the novel, there are definitely some issues. For me, the novel should have ended after chapter 42 – the epilogue seems like something a publisher pushed to add on and leaves a saccharine sweetness that doesn’t fit with the tone of the rest of the novel. The perspective changes have a few hiccups with at least two chapters with an omniscient narration – which takes the reader out of the flow.

Looking forward to more, as the novel is utterly thought-provoking and the pacing is pretty spot on perfect. A few melodramatic and uneven spots.