Thursday, September 27, 2012

Review: Me, Who Dove Into The Heart Of The World by Sabina Berman

title: Me, Who Dove Into The Heart of the World [purchase here]
author: Sabina Berman
translated by: Lisa Dillman
genre: fiction
pages: 242
published: August 2012
source: I received an advanced reader's copy from Henry Holt via 
LibraryThing in exchange for an honest review.

     That's what I said to Pena and my aunt over the radio; they were awaiting news in the tower in the dock.
     I like that word very much: okay.  It's from the 19th century, the American Civil War.  Generals used to write it in their war reports when nobody had died that day.
     Zero killed = 0 killed = 0K= Okay.
     Okay, over and out, my aunt responded.
     Outside the radio cabin on deck, the man from Greenpeace tugged off the hood of his wetsuit.  He had brown hair with blonde tips like Ricardo.
     The most stress-free tuna catch on the planet, he said.  Congratulations.
     I corrected him.
     Except for those in Palermo, where they still use preindustrial methods. 
     No, he smiled.  More stress-free than those.
     And then he added:
     And 100% dolphin-safe." (page 112)

Me, Who Dove Into the Heart of the World follows the story of Karen Nieto, a woman who started her life as a feral child, and is later diagnosed an autistic savant who has the unique ability to put herself in the "shoes" of animals, specifically fish, specifically tuna.

From the back jacket: "Karen Nieto passed her earliest years as a feral child, left alone to wander the vast beach property near her family's failing tuna cannery.  But when her aunt Isabelle comes to Mexico to take over the family business, she discovers among the squalor a real girl.  So begins a miraculous journey for autistic savant Karen, who finds freedom not only in the love and patient instruction of her aunt but eventually at the bottom of the ocean swimming among the creatures of the sea."

Berman's plot is really engaging and very clever. Who knew a book about a tuna cannery could be so engaging? And Karen is such strong, fully realized character.  How Berman is able to completely assert herself into Karen's psyche and write so truthfully from her perspective is really something. The way Karen thinks and reasons is so consistent, so thought through down to the detail...such a brilliantly rendered character.  My favorite parts were when Karen described other people's emotions, and how she would have to consciously go into "relating mode" to decipher what people were feeling.  Reminded me of Dr. Sheldon Cooper... the best possible way (he is currently my FAVORITE character on TV).  

What was fascinating was the way Karen chose to approach Descartes infamous statement: I think, therefore I am.  Karen would argue that we are, and then we think, and it's hard to argue with her reasoning.  Through Karen, Berman presents a way of looking at the world so vastly different than what's expected, but so refreshing and very much needed.

Rubric rating: 7.  I would love to read more from Berman.

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