Karen Nieto is a remarkable character, and Mexican playwright/poet Sabina Berman's rendering of her unusual voice and personality in ME, Who Dove into the Heart of the World is equally remarkable. This debut novel wouldn't work well as anything other than a first-person narrative; a large part of its success depends on making the reader engage with the world as Karen does, and Karen's ways of engagement are very particular, beginning with the fact that animals and nature make far more sense to her than people do.
A college psychology test classifies Karen as a "highly functioning autistic," with scores at the level of a young child--except in certain areas, where she performs at the genius level. With support from her aunt and an unusual business partnership, Karen is given unexpected opportunities to develop that genius. It might seem paradoxical, given her affinity with animals, that the work that saves her family's fishery business and ultimately brings her renown and riches involves developing more humane ways to cultivate tuna for the high-end consumer market, but she doesn't see it that way. However, it does attract the unwelcome attention of a militant animal-rights group.
Through Karen, Berman explores some of the issues of modern agriculture in a way that never feels heavy-handed; more importantly, she makes a potentially off-putting character sympathetic. ME, Who Dove into the Heart of the World is a beautifully written, emotionally affecting debut featuring a protagonist whose "different abilities" include surprising and charming the reader. --Florinda Pendley Vasquez, blogger at The 3 R's Blog: Reading, 'Riting, and Randomness