What the Heart Remembers
Debra Ginsberg
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Buy *What the Heart Remembers* by Debra Ginsbergonline

What the Heart Remembers
Debra Ginsberg
NAL Trade
384 pages
September 2012
rated 4 of 5 possible stars

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Encompassing both the bizarre and the spiritual, Ginsberg’s thriller centers on the notion of cellular memory, the speculative idea that the cells of the human body contain clues to our personalities, tastes, and histories independent of either genetic codes or brain cells. Almost dying after collapsing one afternoon, a sudden heart transplant gives Portland resident Eden a second chance at life. With her new heart instilling in her an unfamiliar “memory," Eden’s world changes in that one fateful afternoon. Now in her twenties, Eden is attempting to make a new life despite no longer feeling connected to the city or to her loyal fiancé, Derek.

An icy sensation ever creeping up her back, Eden is adrift in paranoia. The swirl of many emotions makes Eden feels as though she’s been awakened from a decade-long slumber. While she spends her darkest hours plagued by anxiety and dreams, in San Diego, the wealthy, beautiful Darcy also feels disconnected from life. She loves her successful husband, Peter, and she appreciates her privileged existence even as she faces the difficulties of a functional life and presenting a face to the world that often frightens or shocks Peter’s snide circle of friends who treat her “like a high priced whore.”

Although sex is one of the cornerstones of Darcy and Peter’s relationship, she wonders whether his constant desire for her is just an elaborate way of telling her that she has been “found out.” Clearly there has been miscommunication between husband and wife until now. Unfortunately, after one night dining at Poquette, their favorite restaurant, Peter delivers distressing news: he wants to sell the house and move to New York. Darcy resents his decision, but when the crushed glass comes, the first the explosion of pain is so enormous that it seems to come from everywhere. Even the Klonopin can’t stave off Darcy’s blurry, edgeless sensation.

Ginsberg adds grotesque scenes of domestic violence to a shattered, mysterious Southern Californian landscape. Yet by the sheer weight of her storytelling skills, she is able to write a novel of love and frustration laced with a thin dark trace of anger. Desperate for sunlight, Eden travels to San Diego while the sound of blood rushes in her ears and images of rain, sky and a cliff splinter behind her closed eyes. The moment Eden lays eyes on Darcy at Poquette, concern niggles irritatingly around in the back of her brain. It's almost as if she has a “hyper-consciousness” that reflects Darcy’s beauty and Eden's inability to match it in any way.

Darcy finds solace in her considerable inheritance and pines over her lost lover, Poquette‘s “super hot” bartender Adam. Meanwhile, Eden’s impressions of Darcy are impossibly tangled, based on swirling, half-realized dreams. She’s drawn to this complicated woman yet also repelled. When Eden moves in with Darcy, her nightmares increase. She sees, too, that Darcy is hanging onto the threads of sanity. Eden experiences spikes of distrust, splinters of fear, and the sense of recognition that she’s hurtling toward something she’s powerless to stop.

The story is told at a slant, the angst-ridden passages of the characters sliding obliquely into place. Ginsberg understands the notion of cellular memory as Eden, Darcy and Derek gravitate between anger, confusion, and empathy. Will Derek rescue Eden from the clutches of her donor heart? How will Darcy be persuaded to relinquish her path in life? The climax is unexpected, the players deepening into a violent abyss of murder, the opportunity for clarity is in danger of coming far too late.

Originally published on Curled Up With A Good Book at www.curledup.com. © Michael Leonard, 2012

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