Robert Hendricks’ father died at a young age, leaving Hendricks with his mother “who feared the worst” and a mentally-ill uncle. While serving in World War II, Hendricks was injured but cannot remember what occurred. At the same time, he met and lost the great love of his life, never to form another close attachment. By the novel’s opening in London in the 1980s, however, Hendricks has become a successful psychiatrist and author, although he feels a sense of disconnection. One day, Hendricks receives an unexpected invitation to visit a neurologist living on an island of France who knew Hendricks’ father and admires Hendricks’s work. This doctor encourages Hendricks delve into his past, but to what conclusion?
In Where My Heart Used to Beat, Sebastian Faulks explores complex themes as Hendricks draws out his past: memory and its basis, mental illness, the value of human consciousness, role of love, and the damage inflicted on the human psyche by modern warfare are but a start. This novel is wonderfully satisfying because Faulks provides the reader with substantial food for thought in a story that will remain with the reader long after finishing the final page.
(Reviewed in exchange for a copy of the book in San Francisco Review.)