Review of “What the Heart Remembers” by Debra Ginsberg

Like this author’s earlier book The Grift, this one also represents an epistemological departure from the empirical realm. Normally I’m not big into the “woo-woo” side, but this author has now managed to rope me in twice!

Eden (“Edie”) Harrison has just been proposed to by her boyfriend Derek and is loving life in Portland, Oregon, when she develops heart disease bad enough to require a transplant. Just when she thought she would survive no longer, she gets a donor and has successful surgery. Afterwards, although Derek is attentive and patient during her recovery, Edie is no longer very interested in him. Nor does she even like Portland anymore, or the same colors, or music, or foods of which she used to be fond. She has troubling dreams, and feels an overwhelming compulsion to relocate to San Diego. She drops Derek, and moves.

Meanwhile, in San Diego, we meet Darcy Silver, the beautiful trophy wife of a manipulative, controlling, and rich older man. Darcy is having an affair, and desperately needs someone to talk to about everything. When Edie and Darcy meet, they feel an immediate empathic connection, and become each other’s only friend.

But a lot of things are wrong. Edie is not who she used to be. Darcy is not who she seems to be. Edie’s unbidden thoughts and dreams are getting stronger, and often involve Darcy. The tension in the book ratchets up as the suspense and danger build. And Derek still hasn’t given up on Edie, or at least the Edie he once knew. But can he help? Can anyone help?

Discussion: This story is based on the idea of “cellular memory” – the belief that, in this case, the heart is not “just a pump or a senseless lump of muscle,” but that it remembers.. Getting a transplant, according to this way of thinking, means that you get more than merely tissue; you also receive the consciousness of the donor, which then merges with your own personality. It’s a clever plot device, but you really have to suspend any scintilla of biological knowledge while you read! (Or I should say, I had to – there are many people in many professions who believe in cellular memory. You can read more about it here.) But Ginsberg manages to throw in enough suspense and interesting plot developments that it is an entertaining book no matter what your intellectual biases!

Evaluation: This is a fun summer read, by an author who is able to spin phenomenological notions into diverting suspense novels.

Rating: 3/5

Published by New American Library, a division of Penguin Group, 2012


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14 Responses to Review of “What the Heart Remembers” by Debra Ginsberg

  1. Staci@LifeintheThumb says:

    I just received this one the other day. I guess I’m one of those that believe in cellular memory. After watching the movie, Return to Me, I couldn’t really discount that something like that was possible. This will be my first try with this author!

  2. Hmmmmm, I wasn’t really sure what this one was about, but I do think there is something to cellular memory. I plan to try this one as well.

    Jill, you are an amazing reading machine lately. I can’t keep up with even reading all of your reviews:)

  3. BermudaOnion says:

    I’d have to suspend disbelief as well. Not sure it’s for me.

  4. This books reminds me of Cecelia Ahern’s “Thanks for The Memories”, only in that case it all started from a blood transfusion and the protagonists were of opposite sex. You pretty much can guess the rest.

  5. bookingmama says:

    Could be a good beach read?

  6. Barbara says:

    I think this is called going back a few centuries in scientific knowledge. Not for me, for sure.

  7. zibilee says:

    I can imagine that I would have a lot of fun with this one, and that it would yield a lot of interest with me. I am not sure about all this cellular memory stuff, but I am pretty sure that wouldn’t hamper me enjoying this book. I like the secrecy and atmosphere of this book, and think that I will give it a try at some point. Thanks for the really mysterious and ensnaring review today, Jill.

  8. I don’t know if it makes me sound cynical, but I’ve always thought the whole bit with cellular memory was a bunch of hooey. Unless someday they perfect a brain transplant.

  9. Belle Wong says:

    This one sounds very intriguing – have added it to my TBR list!

  10. I am not a big fan of the woo hoo…but I must check if I read her other book. It sound familiar…

  11. Jenners says:

    I can see how the premise might be interesting. So you don’t like “woo woo” … : )

  12. I really enjoyed The Grift, and I loved her memoir About My Sisters. Think I’ll try this one, too!

  13. stacybuckeye says:

    Cellular memory is not something I can completely discount, but if there is too much woo woo – forget it!

  14. irene says:

    I don’t know I kinda believe. sounds like a good read. Thanks.

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