What the Heart Remembers - Debra Ginsberg

When young Eden Harrison receives a heart transplant from an unknown donor, her seemingly charmed life falls apart. Haunted by dreams of people and places she doesn’t recognize, Eden is convinced that her new heart carries the memories of its original owner. Eden leaves her old life behind as she is mysteriously drawn to the city of San Diego.

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This novel is written around the concept of cellular memory, the idea of cells of an organ keeping a memory of the original person's specific characteristics and being able to transfer to the transplant recipient.

 

Eden is a young woman living in Portland when she becomes gravely ill and requires a heart transplant. This being a novel, she gets one pretty quickly, but after the surgery notices some things about herself are very different and unfamiliar to her. Her tastes in foods have significantly changed, she gets songs in her head that she's sure she doesn't know but somehow they still seem familiar. And then there's the vivid and violent nightmares that she's experiencing every night that don't make any sense but somehow feel like a relived memory. Eden becomes convinced that her mind is re-experiencing things of her heart donor. It gets to the point where it really starts to drive her crazy, causing her relationship with her boyfriend to crumble.

 

After about 9 months of this, Eden decides to move to San Diego, try to give her life a reboot. But once established in San Diego, she soon meets a young widowed woman by the name of Darcy who seems to trigger all the emotions and unfamiliar memories Eden is trying to escape from. She also feels bursts of anger towards Darcy that she can't explain. Still, a friendship still builds between them as they both realize there might be some answers in the strangeness between them. The more Eden gets to know of Darcy's life, the more she starts to see connections in the strange memories and visions that plague her mind.

 

I mainly picked this up because I was born and raised in San Diego. Though I don't live there now, I do often get nostalgic for the place and love reading books set there (but then, who doesn't get a kick out of reading a story set in their hometown, right?). I also thought the plot sounded intriguing. I love mysteries written around medical conditions. Sadly, this one didn't quite live up to my hopes. The story does have an interesting concept and I did have a mild interest in the characters that kept me reading but I didn't get the breathless, heart-racing sensation I hope for with mystery / thriller books like this. I also felt like the ending had a somewhat muddled feeling, a little all over and then anticlimactic (for me, anyway) in the final moments.