cover image The Heart

The Heart

Maylis de Kerangal, trans. from the French by Sam Taylor. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, $25 (256p) ISBN 978-0-374-24090-5

De Kerangal’s novel pulses with life. When teenager Simon Limbres endures a car crash, he enters a state of irreversible brain death, or coma dépassé. The novel tracks—with panoptic precision—the various actors in the tense and quick 24-hour drama of the harvesting and transplant of his organs. Characters include Marianne and Sean Limbres, the grieving mother and father who must face the modern conundrum of their a loved one being both dead and alive; Pierre Révol, the senior doctor on duty, who is fascinated by the notion that “the moment of death is no longer to be considered as the moment the heart stops, but as the moment when cerebral function ceases”; Thomas Rémige, who heads the Coordinating Committee for Organ and Tissue Removal; Claire Méjan, a transplant recipient; and all the other doctors and nurses who play the carefully choreographed roles in the transplant process. It’s clear de Kerangal has done extensive research, and the novel contains a wealth of medical knowledge. But her prose is more than just technical; the writing is uncommonly beautiful and never lacking humanity. This poetic interrogation of our contemporary medical reality affords a view only literature can provide. (Feb.)