Sunday, October 14, 2012

REVIEW: Me, Who Dove Into the Heart of the World by Sabina Berman


A transporting and brilliant novel narrated by an unforgettable woman: Karen Nieto, an autistic savant whose idiosyncrasies prove her greatest gifts

As intimate as it is profound, and as clear-eyed as it is warmhearted, Me, Who Dove into the Heart of the World marks an extraordinary debut by the award-winning Mexican playwright, journalist, and poet Sabina Berman.

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 a real girl amidst the squalor. 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. Despite how far she's come, Karen remains defined by the things she can't do—until her gifts with animals are finally put to good use at the family's fishery. Her plan is brilliant: Consolation Tuna will be the first humane tuna fishery on the planet. Greenpeace approves, fame and fortune follow, and Karen is swept on a global journey that explores how we live, what we eat, and how our lives can defy even our own wildest expectations.

Hardcover, 1st Edition, 256 pages
Published August 7th 2012 by Henry Holt and Co.
ISBN 0805093257 (ISBN13: 9780805093254)

About the Author
from the back cover

Sabina Berman is a four-time winner of the Mexican National Theatre Prize for her plays; she also writes film scripts, poetry, prose, and journalism and has published several novellas. Me, Who Dove Into the Heart of the World, which will be published in twenty-five territories, is her first novel. She lives in Mexico. 

My Thoughts
...the sea...
   ... and the white sand beach...

The sea flecked with sunlight all the way out to the horizon.

Then the white sand beach, where the waves roll in, dissolve into foam. And, up in the sky, a sun full of white fire.

I'm thirsty.
   I'm going to stop writing and go get a glass of water.
When Isabelle inherits a tuna canning factory in Mexico, she finds her previously unknown-to-her niece Karen Nieto living under the factory as a "wild child". Isabelle takes her in hand, teaches her to speak and educates her, and over time they come to love one another. And as she grows up, Karen makes it her mission to make tuna capturing and slaughter more humane.

Karen is quite obviously "different", and you discover through the book that she is apparently autistic, and while she has an extremely low intelligence in most areas, there are a few areas where she is a brilliant genius and highly talented.

I enjoyed when the autistic character would refer to turning off "Relating Mode" or going into "Non-Relating Mode". I can identify with this, as I tend to do a similar thing, though less consciously. There are times when outside stimuli gets to be too much, and the sounds and actions of other people just becomes grating and annoying, and trying to "relate" to people becomes exhausting. At these times, I need to shutdown away from them and recharge. So is the nature of an introvert! But this character takes this to a new level.
So 1 afternoon, sitting out on the balcony, staring at the sea, I vanish. Where there was Me, now there is 0. (page 214)
I did have an issue with the author's act of using numbers instead of spelling out the numerical word. Particularly the number "1", which resembles an "I" and kept throwing me off. I know it is being utilized to further the idea that Karen is an autistic with idiosyncrasies, as Karen is the one that is supposed to be writing the book, but it just proved to be rather confusing.

At times the character's way of interpreting the world would make me laugh. For example, her response to her business partner Gould when he expresses his affection for her.
Karen, sweetheart, I love you like the daughter I never had.

1 of those impossible sentences that only human fantasy could come out with. Gould loved Me as much as a nonexistent girl. (page 155)
And I got a kick out of the fact that the character likes to put on a wetsuit (complete with flippers), and hangs in a harness from the ceiling. It relaxes her. I love the imagery of someone walking in the door and finding their new roommate hanging from the ceiling in a wetsuit and flippers, turning around and walking right back out again, as happens to Karen after she goes away to college!

Yet despite the fun and clever scenes, the story could be quite preposterous at times. Sometimes this came off charming, but other times it came off just ridiculous. 

My final word: Overall I enjoyed this story. There were a few characters introduced whom I wanted to learn more about or whom I wished played a bigger part, only to find them suddenly disappear from the story. Yet there were some interesting and refreshing tidbits. If you're looking for something a little quirky and off-beat with novel ideas, consider picking up this book!

Buy Now:

Barnes and Noble
Henry Holt and Company

My Rating:


I received this book from Henry Holt and Company in exchange for my honest opinion. I was not financially compensated in any way, and the opinions expressed are my own and based on my observations while reading this novel. The book that I received was an ARC, and quotes noted here could appear different in the actual published copy.

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