Team ALBTALBS TBR Challenge Review: A Distant Heart by Sonali Dev

A Distant Heart by Sonali Dev
Contemporary Romance released by Kensington on December 26, 2017

A Distant Heart by Sonali Dev Book Cover

Her name means “miracle” in Sanskrit, and to her parents, that’s exactly what Kimaya is. The first baby to survive after several miscarriages, Kimi grows up in a mansion at the top of Mumbai’s Pali Hill, surrounded by love and privilege. But at eleven years old, she develops a rare illness that requires her to be confined to a germ-free ivory tower in her home, with only the Arabian Sea churning outside her window for company. . . . Until one person dares venture into her world.

Tasked at fourteen years old with supporting his family, Rahul Savant shows up to wash Kimi’s windows, and an unlikely friendship develops across the plastic curtain of her isolation room. As years pass, Rahul becomes Kimi’s eyes to the outside world—and she becomes his inspiration to better himself by enrolling in the police force. But when a life-saving heart transplant offers the chance of a real future, both must face all that ties them together and keeps them apart.

As Kimi anticipates a new life, Rahul struggles with loving someone he may yet lose. And when his investigation into a black market organ ring run by a sociopathic gang lord exposes dangerous secrets that cut too close to home, only Rahul’s deep, abiding connection with Kimi can keep her safe—and reveal the true meaning of courage, loss, and second chances.

Infused with the rhythms of life in modern-day India, acclaimed author Sonali Dev’s candid, rewarding novel beautifully evokes all the complexities of the human heart.

I read Sonali Dev’s first book and loved it, it was fun and light and yet complex and filled with such lovely details. I heard that the next book was the opposite of those things—it was not light and fun at all. I don’t really like contemporary suspense romances so I opted out of that experience. All this to say, I’m reconsidering my decision not to read the books before A Distant Heart, because this book was everything I didn’t know I needed. Dev slowly rips apart the characters and their actions and emotions and then puts them back together; in the case of the hero and heroine—Rahul and Kimi—this results in a happy ending. She also conveys the way people perceive their surroundings, even when those surroundings might be considered worthy of elaborate detail. If you like friends to lovers kinds of romances, this might be your cup of tea, but be warned that their is a lot of emotional tension, because Dev goes into people’s motivations and the way their past experiences shape their actions in a way that makes the reading experience very acute.

Kimi is a marvelously bright character. She feels everything strongly, but also has a lot of internal joy and strength and determination. When she is determined not to love Rahul, she’s determined not to love him, but she also can’t will away how happy he makes her feel and how safe she feels in his presence. She would really rather be writing long, reported journalistic pieces but throws herself wholly into writing the fluffy celebrity-focused pieces her editors assign her instead.Kimi has spent most of her life stuck inside her house, or inside hospitals, because of an extremely rare disease that was really only cured when she received a heart transplant. When she realizes that her heart transplant is important to solving a big organ black market case, she does her best to track down the answers—even though there are a lot of people who don’t want her to know the truth. Well, not a lot, but certain key people would rather she not figure things out. She does anyway, even though the answers are not what she can easily accept or live with. She loves her parents, and, yes, Rahul devotedly. But she also understands them incredibly well. And despite being sick for most of her life, she doesn’t take herself or the world too seriously, by which I mean she’s willing to push a little and laugh at her surroundings. When the world is stacked against you, you have to be willing to push through its limitations and your own fear, and to laugh at all the little things. She occasionally manipulates people around her, but she doesn’t do it frequently, and when she does, it’s with the very best intensions—and never the way other people in this book manipulate. I can’t explain much more, because spoilers.

Rahul takes the world very seriously. He lost some very important, dear people in his childhood, and he’s scared of letting people in to his inner sanctum of deep feelings, even when they’re people he loves. He befriended Kimi because with her, he didn’t have to be the kid who was forever touched by loss, and he didn’t have to share her with the rest of the dangerous, unpredictable world. But also, who wouldn’t want to befriend Kimi? She’s sounds like a very cheerful morning person—which I am not—and I want to go and find her and be her friend. She brought her brightness into his world when he wasn’t feeling very bright, and she believed in him, even when logic and the world suggested maybe he should make safer choices. In the end, Rahul gets it together. There are pants feelings, and warm fuzzy feelings, and he learns, or begins to, how to let people into his inner sanctum of feelings. I can’t tell you much more than that because this book is like a tapestry, if I pick out one thread, I’ll ruin the picture by pulling on it, and then I either ruin it completely, or have to stop pulling in order to preserve the picture. The elements of the story are interconnected, such that it’s difficult to tell where spoilers would really begin in terms of plot or character development.

A note: This book includes chapter-length flashbacks. They matter to the story, and help to highlight certain aspects of the present story, but if this is something that truly bothers you, be warned.

This book is set in Mumbai, mostly. What I liked about it was that Dev didn’t spend a lot of time describing the food they ate or their clothing, but I got a sense of what it was like there. There isn’t too much traditional clothing because when you talk your native language everyday and can go to a traditional wedding on your next vacation, you can handle wearing jeans and T-shirts. And because food is so central to traditional gatherings, like weddings or religious festivals, we don’t see much of that either, although we get a sense of what it’s like for lower-income people in Mumbai. Kimi doesn’t see the differences in wealth too much, because pain can find you in all sorts of ways, whether you’re poor or rich, so she isn’t bothered by Rahul’s background the way he is.

Go forth and rad this book, although be prepared to be sucked into it for several hours. Maybe stock some comfort food or your beverage of choice. This is definitely a weekend book, not a weeknight book.

Grade: A

You can buy a copy here.

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