“Can you also hear heartbeats?”
“Too bad.” Thar Thar looked at me. “I once knew someone who could tune a heart.”
“Tune a heart?” I asked, wondering if I had understood him correctly.
“Yes, like an instrument. If a heart was out of tune, he would retune it.”
“How can a heart be out of tune?” I asked.
Thar Thar cocked his head to the side and smirked. “The daughter of a heart listener really ought to know that.”
Was he making fun of me?
“Alas, there are many ways. Have you never heard of irregular heartbeats, rapid heartbeats, premature heartbeats? If life has made you mean, or if disappointments have made you as bitter as a slice of tamarind, your heart beats too deeply. If you are afraid, it starts to flutter like a young bird. If you are sad, it beats so slowly that a person might expect it to stop completely any minute. If your spirit is overwhelmed by confusion, it beats most irregularly. Is it different in America?”
“No. But when we have arrhythmia we go to a cardiologist.”
“That’s a different matter. They are mechanics of the heart. They have nothing to do with tuning a heart.”
“How does one tune a heart?” I asked quietly.
Thar Thar cleared his throat, stuck the knife into the cutting board, and fell silent. He did not answer.
“Does it require a special gift?”
He looked past me. His lower lip began to quiver.
“What does it take to be a heart tuner? Who can do it? A magician? An astrologer?”
He shook his head. Without a word.
Excerpted from A Well-tempered Heart by Jan-Philipp Sendker. Copyright © 2014 by Jan-Philipp Sendker. Excerpted by permission of Other Press, a division of Random House LLC. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.