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Your Heart is a Muscle the Size of a Fist

PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction, 2017

Paperback / ISBN-13: 9780349141428

Price: £8.99

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A TIME Magazine Best Book of 2016
An Amazon Best Book of 2016

A heart-stopping debut about protest and riot . . .

1999. Victor, homeless after a family tragedy, finds himself pounding the streets of Seattle with little meaning or purpose. He is the estranged son of the police chief of the city, and today his father is in charge of one of the largest protests in the history of Western democracy.

But in a matter of hours reality will become a nightmare. Hordes of protesters – from all sections of society – will test the patience of the city’s police force, and lives will be altered forever: two armed police officers will struggle to keep calm amid the threat of violence; a protester with a murderous past will make an unforgivable mistake; and a delegate from Sri Lanka will do whatever it takes to make it through the crowd to a meeting – a meeting that could dramatically change the fate of his country. In amongst the fray, Victor and his father are heading for a collision too.

Your Heart is a Muscle the Size of a Fist, set during the World Trade Organization protests, is a deeply charged novel showcasing a distinct and exciting new literary voice.

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Fast-paced and unflinching . . . As these characters encounter one another in a fog of tear gas and pepper spray, Yapa vividly evokes rage and compassion
New Yorker
An achingly compassionate fiction debut
Oprah Magazine
[A] gripping, profoundly humane first novel . . . An absolutely compelling read
Like magic, Yapa uses this handful of perspectives to create snapshots that allow the reader to imagine who else was there that day and what they were doing, thinking, and feeling . . . I can't imagine a better book to have kicked off my year in reading
Yapa shines in the thickness of the here-and-now, amid the gas, fear, courage and flawed humanity of the street battle, in passages that are cinematic . . . moving
New York Times
There is nothing to say about Sunil Yapa's debut novel that its wonderful title doesn't already promise - its heart beats and bleeds on every page, in prose so powerful it feels built of muscle and tissue and sinew and sweat. This book is delightfully, forcefully alive, and I feel more alive for having read it
Eleanor Henderson, author of Ten Thousand Saints
[A] gripping debut . . . Yapa is a skilled storyteller, revealing just enough about his characters and the direction of his plot to engage his readers, yet effectively building dramatic impact by withholding certain key details. In the style of Colum McCann's Let the Great World Spin, Yapa ties together seemingly disparate characters and narratives through a charged moment in history, showing how it still affects us all in different ways
Your Heart is a Muscle the Size of Fist is an enthralling street-level vision of the 1999 WTO riots, a story visceral, horrifying harrowing, and often heroic. But above all, this book is a full-throated chorus of voices on all sides - protestors, cops, delegates, politicians, and ramblers - as democracy runs headlong into the machinery of global power. Sunil Yapa has achieved something special, a story that is as tragic as it is relevant, as unflinching as it is humane. Watch out
Smith Henderson, author of Fourth of July Creek
An open-armed love letter to humanity, this glorious novel loops around a burning center encompassing the warmth of parents and the coolness of patriarchy. Your Heart is a Muscle the Size of a Fist will compel you to look and then to witness. 'We are mad with hope' the narrator says early on, and by the end the reader is too
Tiphanie Yanique, author of Land of Love and Drowning
Yapa writes like a pro
Chilling . . . A memorable, pulse-pounding literary experience
Publisher’s Weekly
Yapa's melding of fact and fiction, human frailty and geopolitics, is a genuine tour de force, and an exciting literary debut
Seattle Times
A symphony of a novel. In the contemporary tradition of Aleksandar Hemon and Philipp Meyer, with echoes of Michael Ondaatje and Arundhati Roy, Yapa strides forward with a literary molotov cocktail to light up the dark
Colum McCann, National Book Award-winning author of Let the Great World Spin
Yapa's lyrical prose brings the conflicted internal lives of a multitude of characters vividly to the page
In this beautifully written, kaleidoscopically shifting novel . . . Yapa penetrates to the human connections and disconnections at play between the lines of history in the era of the global village
Chicago Tribune
Huge ambition . . . impressive
Sunday Times
If you're looking for a novel that moves with heat this winter, look no further
Entertainment Weekly
Beautifully written. Astonishing
The energy and sheer humanity of Sunil Yapa's debut will grab you, wrap you in, and won't let you go - and that's just the start of why you're going to love this. Seven characters narrate this charged book, which centers on a protest. It's so layered, you'll finish this wondering how Yapa pulled off what he did
Sunil Yapa is a writer of great compassion
A vital, powerful read, Your Heart is a Muscle the Size of a Fist is an absorbing, multifaceted, acutely hopeful novel
Patrick deWitt, author of The Sisters Brothers, shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize
Electrifying . . . will make you think and feel
Good Housekeeping
A fantastic debut novel . . . What is so enthralling about this novel is its syncopated riff of empathy as the perspective jumps around these participants - some peaceful, some violent, some determined, some incredulous . . . Yapa creates a fluid sense of the riot as it washes over the city. Your Heart is a Muscle the Size of a Fist ultimately does for WTO protests what Norman Mailer's Armies of the Night did for the 1967 March on the Pentagon, gathering that confrontation in competing visions of what happened and what it meant
Ron Charles, Washington Post
A great wrenching beautiful book
Laline Paull, author of The Bees, shortlisted for the Baileys Prize for Fiction
A gorgeous riot against injustice
Yapa's writing is visceral and unsparing. Noteworthy, capital-I Important and a ripping read, his novel will be on many "best" lists in 2016
Library Journal (Starred Review)
As electric a novel as I've ever read
It's not often that a novel takes a fraught event from the recent past, one that most of us only experienced in the flash of the cable news cycle or the static of print headlines, and imbues it with so much heart and soul that we do something we almost never do in the constant crush forward and faster - we pause and reconsider. That is the power of literature. Sunil Yapa's Your Heart is a Muscle the Size of a Fist does just this for the momentous protests of the 1999 World Trade Organization's (WTO) . . . Yapa does a heroic job of journeying into the heart of this complex set of events, illustrating how they grow out of and impact the character's lives. And while the heart may be the size of a fist, here it paradoxically seems to encompass the whole world and all of its citizens, who pulse with its every beat
The Rumpus
Your Heart is a Muscle the Size of a Fist is a stunningly orchestrated work of narrative power. This novel marshals all the vital forces of our existence - from the domestic to the political - and offers them to the reader with equal doses of compassion and beauty
Dinaw Mengestu, author of All Our Names