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Me, Who Dove into the Heart of the World: A…
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Me, Who Dove into the Heart of the World: A Novel

by Sabina Berman

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I wished I hadn't wasted my time reading this book. The autistic storyteller lacked authenticity. The thinly disguised Temple Grandin was pretty bad. I could not understand the university professors lack of empathy. I found it very hard to believe that someone in such a position would act as he did. There were a couple of moments when I thought that he story was going somewhere but overall I definitely would not recommend it. ( )
  limoncello | Feb 16, 2014 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
At the close of this novel, I found myself feeling meditative. I sat in a spot of sunlight and simply breathed for a moment. It's that kind of book. Sabina Berman's novel, a first person account from an autistic narrator who reflects on her life and work in animal husbandry and aquaculture, might at first seem pretty familiar to those who have read Mark Haddon or experienced anything related to Temple Grandin -- and I do have some concerns, by the way, that this apparent trend could verge on the exploitative if it continues in less respectful hands -- but in this case the familiarity falls away once the reader fully invests in the frankness and beauty of the world within the book. The variations and textual additions -- including numerals, capitalizations, images and text shapes -- which Berman uses to help create the representation of difference take a little getting used to, but once one settles into that voice, they make perfect sense. The whole package creates an aura of authenticity which gives weight to all of the observations, both practical and philosophical, made by the narrator. Karen Nieto, that primary character whose mind shapes the narrative, feels so real that at times while reading I was tempted to look her up online, wondering what had become of her.

The other level of authenticity here is Berman's elegant construction of tension. As one reads, the full range of emotion moves through the pages -- I felt by turns giddy, sad, angry... -- and by the time the last word slides from view it's as if everything has gone still. Closing the book was like letting out a breath long held. Part of that wonderful ebb and flow of emotion is the relationship between Karen and her aunt, who helps raise her from feral child to aquacultural engineer. But part of it is simply the intensity of that voice and the satisfying rightness of Berman's words. This book will make you think and feel -- about people, about animals, about the planet -- and that is a very good thing. Recommended. ( )
6 vote beserene | Mar 3, 2013 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
Might have spoiler elements:

I should have written this earlier because "eenerd" already wrote the review I would have. I enjoyed the novel. The descriptive passages were very well written. The imagery was vibrant, especially the very first scenes with the protagonist Karen as a "wild child" - for me the description of the child reminded me of the "creature" from the Spanish movie ""Eskalofrío"". Karen's interior monologues reminded me of the writing of Temple Grandin - the famous animal behaviorist and enginner - I think she must have been a direct inspiration for this character.

The one thing that I would like to see the original text for is the strange way in which numerals were never written out. Also there were two instances that used graphics of jellyfish and sea horses - that seemed to me totally incongruent with the development of the character. In fact if there was one inconsistency, it was that the progress of Karen's ability to communicate her interior world throughout the book. It seemed to have no relation to her age.

The scenes of the tuna cannery were also very reminiscent of Mexican cinema from the 1940s and 50s. You could almost smell the salt air in these scenes.

The end of the novel hits an interesting idea about saving the tuna population by recreating their natural environment - built by humans though - with increasingly detailed and including secondary and tertiary species that wouldn't seem to have any direct affect on the health or the ability of tuna to breed.

One would imagine that eventually they would be hand feeding the plankton that form the base of the marine food web. It reminded me of the passage from the short story of Borges "the exactitude of science" where in an effort to be exact, cartographers make a map whose scale was1:1 and soon tatters in the elements.

I think the idea is that just protecting the environments would provide everything humanity would need. Kind of a permaculture of the sea. All in all it was worth the read. Personally, I am interested in getting the text in Spanish. ( )
  johnwmejia | Jan 27, 2013 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
This book was so weird! But the main character, Karen, this Mexican autistic savant is so weirdly captivating. The story, about the revolutionary tuna fleet and fishery she runs with her aunt and others, is pretty wild, as is the unique way in which she interacts with the rest of the world, which I believe steals a bit from the Temple Grandin story. Worth looking at, in any event. The writing is very good, very descriptive. ( )
  eenerd | Dec 13, 2012 |
A prolific storyteller and award-winning playwright (winner of four National Playwriting Awards in Mexico), Berman is one of the most celebrated modern writers in the Spanish language. Her subject matter often skewers traditional Mexican history and masculinity, as in her most famous work, Between Pancho Villa and a Naked Woman. Here, Berman dissects the very substance of knowledge and understanding through the lens of language acquisition. Set in Mazatlan, Mexico, the story follows the maturation of Karen, a young, feral girl who lives near her family's failing tuna cannery. Discovered and educated by her aunt Isabelle and housekeeper Gorda, Karen develops her linguistic apprehension and speech under the veil of autism. It is through this prism that she grapples with the abstract ideas of this world: religion, love, and death. Eventually inheriting the tuna cannery and battling animal rights groups along the way, Karen comes to an understanding of the world as more expansive than the mere words that describe it. VERDICT Berman's use of the first-person narrative effectively entangles the reader in the development of young Karen. Both humorous and touching, this novel ultimately questions whether words are things in or about the world ( )
  tserra | Oct 22, 2012 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0805093257, Hardcover)

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.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 14:00:49 -0400)

Karen Nieto passed her earliest years a feral child, left alone to wander the vast beach property near her family failing tuna cannery in Mazatlan, Mexico. When her mother dies, Karen's long-kept family secret is revealed. What to do with the troubled and autistic Karen?… (more)

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