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There are two main protagonists in Beating
Heart.† The first is Cora, a teenaged girl who died in the house about a
century ago.† She writes in poetry from her own point of view.† The words in
the poems are often scattered all over the page, and occasionally force the
reader to stop reading from left to right and top to bottom, and instead to
make sense of the words by trying other sequences.† Cora remembers a boy she
was in love with, and the arrival of 17-year-old Evan in the house now reminds
her of her former love.† In fact she seems to confuse the two of them.† Her
poetry is passionate and even sensual:
I like it when
††††††††††† his breath
†††† like a sob
when he grows cold
††††††††††† pulls the covers
up to his neck
Yet Cora haunts the house, and is tormented by memories.†
The arrival of Evan, his little sister, and their mother disturbs her, and she
may end up hurting one of the people in the house.
Evan's story is told in the third
person, by a sympathetic narrator.† His mother is busy writing a book, and they
have moved away from their old neighborhood, so his sister keeps on trying to
get him to play with her.† Evan wants to spend time with his girlfriend Carrie;
it is hard to get to find time for them to be alone, and they take what
opportunities they can to have sex.† Yet in this new house, he has these
strange dreams, in which he is having sex with another girl, and he does not
know who she is.† His mother discovers a box with some old photographs,
letters, and press clippings, and he starts to piece together Cora's story.†
The book ends with the climax of
Carrie staying over at the house while Evan's mother is away, and after having
sex, she and Evan get into a fight.† Evan starts to get clearer in his mind
about the difference between love and desire, and Cora finds release.†
A.M. Jenkins' writing is sensitive
and thoughtful; the poetry is nicely done and easy to digest.† The story
addresses relationship issues that will certainly be relevant to young people,
although they are not explored very thoroughly.† Beating Heart is an
unusual and pleasing book that captures the emotional tensions in a
single-parent family for a boy who is learning to accept the responsibilities
of adult life.
© 2006 Christian
Perring. All rights reserved.
Perring, Ph.D., is Academic Chair of the Arts & Humanities
Division and Chair of the Philosophy Department at Dowling College, Long Island. He is also editor of Metapsychology Online Reviews. His main
research is on philosophical issues in medicine, psychiatry and psychology.
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