by Irfan Master
Hot Key Books (20 April 2017)
A review by Sumaiya Fazal
Young Muslim Writers Awards 2016 Winner – Key Stage 4 (Age 14-16) Short Story
Out of Heart is a novel about heart donors, prejudice and a young boy’s youth being ripped off of him by a deadbeat dad and a grandfather that passed on without a single word only to have it offered back from the unlikeliest of beings. It features a South Asian narrator, veering away from the lacklustre diversity (read: a general lack thereof) that modern literature has dishearteningly settled into. Between each chapter is a quote which ties in beautifully with the narrative and the meaning of it.
The main character, Adam, is an aspiring artist who has forced onto himself the impression that he, a child about the same age as myself, has to be the man of the house, protecting his mother and his younger sister Farah from any hardships and shortcomings that will probably come their way. He is seen as a mystery to the people around him: his art teacher, school ground crush, friends and community folks all view him as sort of an enigma – an outsider trying to make sense of a foreign world if you will.
William is a contrast to Adam, a breath of fresh air, bearing more life in him than his donor heart can bear. However, he too, just like Adam feels like an outsider, ostracised by a society he haplessly tries to fit into. He brightens the world of Adam and his family, making the boy realise there is more to life than the narrowing tunnel that he seems to see it as – but at what cost?
From the settings to the characters – even the EDL protest – the book is written in an ardent and heartfelt manner and I myself managed to tear through it in the span of two days. I’d hoped the ending wouldn’t come because of how satisfying the writing was to read as well as the story line. Even a week after reading it, the characters were still in my head and kept me wondering: “What happens to Farah, once this all ends?” “What about Adam’s mother?” “And William? How are they living now?”
Everything about this book was beautiful and down-to-earth, at times relatable, and the quotes and facts lining every chapter add to the ambience. Reading this book wasn’t just a pass-time, it was an Experience (with a capitalised ‘E’ for emphasis). You don’t just pick this book up to read when you’re bored or to help you to get to sleep; you clear your schedules for it, have a good sit down with a cup of tea or coffee (or whatever else floats your boat) with a handful of biscuits. The writing is too exquisite, too magnificent for the mundane. The story has been carved with a knife so precise and measured that when it finishes it’s 260 paged brevity, you’re not entirely sure how you’d managed to come across something so profound.
Additionally, the cover is simply delightful to look at, the incandescent gold against the ominous black. Often times, one is advised not to judge a book by its cover but honestly, the cover perfectly depicts the amount of beauty held within. The book is not Out of Heart at all but full of it, bursting at the seams, spilling over the brim.
Out of Heart is available here.