cover image Your Heart Is a Muscle the Size of a Fist

Your Heart Is a Muscle the Size of a Fist

Sunil Yapa. Little, Brown/Boudreaux, $26 (320p) ISBN 978-0-316-38653-1

Yapa’s chilling debut is set amid the real-life protests that disrupted the 1999 World Trade Organization Ministerial Conference in Seattle, which resulted in hundreds of arrests, police resignations, and an increased media spotlight on the WTO. The novel follows a fictional group of police officers, dissidents, and a diplomat as they struggle through the summit’s first chaotic day, full of tear gas, epiphany, and violence. On one side are the activists and their hangers-on: Victor, a nomadic 19-year-old trying to sell weed to protesters; King and John Henry, veteran nonviolent advocates who arrive at the protests to act as medics; and Charles, a political representative from Sri Lanka who quickly finds himself a target of both protesters and police. Representing the law are Chief Bill Bishop, Victor’s estranged stepfather, bent on protecting his city; and officers Tim and Julia, whose past run-ins with terrorism and riots influence their fierce approach to peace. Yapa shows great skill in juggling these seven narratives as he builds a combustible environment, offering brief glimpses of the past to round out each character—and in the case of King, to reveal a deadly secret. As the peaceful protests turn brutal, however, the author’s firm grasp of his story loosens a bit. But by the novel’s end, Yapa regains his stride, resulting in a memorable, pulse-pounding literary experience. Agent: P.J. Mark, Janklow & Nesbit Associates. (Jan.)