Summary and book reviews of Your Heart Is a Muscle the Size of a Fist by Sunil Yapa

Your Heart Is a Muscle the Size of a Fist

by Sunil Yapa

Your Heart Is a Muscle the Size of a Fist by Sunil Yapa
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    Readers' Opinion:

     Not Yet Rated
  • First Published:
    Jan 2016, 320 pages
    Paperback:
    Oct 2016, 320 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Poornima Apte

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Book Summary

The Flamethrowers meets Let the Great World Spin in this electrifying debut novel set amid the heated conflict of Seattle's 1999 WTO protests.

On a rainy, cold day in November, young Victor - a nomadic, scrappy teenager who's run away from home - sets out to sell as much marijuana as possible to the throng of WTO demonstrators determined to shut down the city. With the proceeds, he plans to buy a plane ticket and leave Seattle forever, but it quickly becomes clear that the history-making 50,000 anti-globalization protestors - from anarchists to environmentalists to teamsters - are testing the patience of the police, and what started out as a peaceful protest is threatening to erupt into violence.

Over the course of one life-altering afternoon, the fates of seven people will change forever: foremost among them police Chief Bishop, the estranged father Victor hasn't seen in three years, two protesters 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. When Chief Bishop reluctantly unleashes tear gas on the unsuspecting crowd, it seems his hopes for reconciliation with his son, as well as the future of his city, are in serious peril.

In this raw and breathtaking novel, Yapa marries a deep rage with a deep humanity. In doing so he casts an unflinching eye on the nature and limits of compassion, and the heartbreaking difference between what is right and what is possible.

1



The match struck and sputtered. Victor tried again. He put match head to phosphate strip with the gentle pressure of one long finger and the thing sparked and caught and for the briefest of moments he held a yellow flame. Victor—curled into himself like a question mark, a joint hanging from his mouth; Victor with his hair natural in two thick braids, a red bandanna folded and knotted to hold them back; Victor—with his dark eyes and his thin shoulders and his cafecito con leche skin, wearing a pair of classic Air Jordans, the leather so white it glowed—imagine him how you will because he hardly knew how to see himself. He was nineteen years old and should have felt as sweet as a bluebird in the dew, but in the awful damp of the early morning, after another night of sleeping on cold concrete—or not sleeping—he moved like an old man, grumbling like the world was out to get him, had in fact perhaps already gotten him, struck him down without mercy or care or ...

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Reviews

BookBrowse Review

BookBrowse

It takes talent and a generous dose of bravery to peg an entire narrative arc on just one day, however eventful it may be, and Yapa escapes claustrophobia by zooming in and out of each character’s backstory and then connecting the dots to yield a larger breathtaking picture.   (Reviewed by Poornima Apte).

Full Review (700 words).

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Media Reviews

The Chicago Tribune

In this beautifully written, kaleidoscopically shifting novel.... Yapa penetrates to the human connections and disconnections at play between the lines of history in the era of the global village.

Denver Post

Yapa's novel is a much-needed and refreshing pivot point. His novel makes a case for the validity of all opinions in a conflict the better part of two decades old. This rare quality of his work is a practice that many could benefit from in current conflicts, foreign and domestic.

Minneapolis Star Tribune

Sunil Yapa's voice and ambition leap off the page. Here is a writer to watch.

The Washington Post

A fantastic debut novel.... What is so enthralling about this novel is its syncopated riff of empathy as the perspective jumps around these participants--some peaceful, some violent, some determined, some incredulous... Yapa creates a fluid sense of the riot as it washes over the city.

Miami Herald

This furiously paced and contrapuntal literary tour-de-force makes use of multiple vantage points and benefits from a remarkably empathic sensibility on the part of its author.... With Yapa burrowing into the hearts of these characters, each distinct yet sufferers all, his already weighty story attains a level of profundity.

Kirkus Reviews

American novels about protest have been thin on the ground since the days of Ken Kesey and Edward Abbey. The genre deserves a better revival effort than this.

Publishers Weekly

Chilling... A memorable, pulse-pounding literary experience.

Booklist

[A] gripping debut...Yapa is a skilled storyteller, revealing just enough about his characters and the direction of his plot to engage his readers, yet effectively building dramatic impact by withholding certain key details.

Library Journal

Starred Review. Yapa's writing is visceral and unsparing. Noteworthy, capital-I Important and a ripping read, his novel will be on many 'best' lists in 2016

Bustle Magazine

Sunil Yapa's debut novel is possibly the most gorgeous book I've read in my entire life... Yapa's pattern of meandering, artful, full-bodied imagery, punctuated by zingy one-liners makes for a seriously addictive read... It's painful. It's gorgeous. I can't say this enough: read it.

Author Blurb Colum McCann, author of the National Book Award winner Let the Great World Spin
In the contemporary tradition of Aleksandar Hemon and Phillipp Meyer, with echoes of Michael Ondaatje and Arundhati Roy, Yapa strives forward with a literary molotov cocktail to light up the dark.

Author Blurb Dinaw Mengestu, author of All Our Names
Your Heart is a Muscle the Size of a Fist is a stunningly orchestrated, symphonic work of narrative power. This novel marshals all the vital forces of our existence - from the domestic to the political - and offers them to the reader with equal doses of compassion and beauty.

Author Blurb Eleanor Henderson, author of Ten Thousand Saints
There is nothing to say about Sunil Yapa's debut novel that its wonderful title doesn't already promise - its heart beats and bleeds on every page, in prose so raw it feels built of muscle and tissue and sinew and sweat. This book is delightfully, forcefully alive, and I feel more alive for having read it.

Author Blurb Tiphanie Yanique, author of Land of Love and Drowning
An open-armed love letter to humanity, this glorious novel loops around a burning center encompassing the warmth of parents and the coolness of patriarchy. Your Heart is a Muscle the Size of a Fist will compel you to look and then to witness. 'We are mad with hope' the narrator says early on, and by the end the reader is too.

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Beyond the Book

Occupy Wall Street

Your Heart Is a Muscle the Size Of a Fist is built around the 1999 street protest in Seattle against the World Trade Organization. Its core message of capitalism and globalization smothering the lifeblood out of an individual has been mirrored in demonstrations before and since, most notably in the Occupy Wall Street movement that was conceived in the fall of 2011, after the Great Recession had wreaked havoc on the American middle class.

Adbuster PosterThe call to arms, as it were, was brought about by a small Canadian anti-consumerist, pro-environment magazine called Adbusters. The instructions were simple: #OccupyWallStreet. September 17th. Bring Tent. Earlier, Adbusters had emailed its subscribers saying, "America needs its own Tahrir," in reference...

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