The Heart Broke In, James Meek's smart and generous look at contemporary morality, is the kind of novel to press into the hands of someone who asks, "Why read fiction?"
Set mainly in Britain, Meek's novel revolves around brother and sister Ritchie and Bec Shepherd. He's an over-the-hill rock star whose gig on the show Teen Makeover provides ready access to temptations he finds hard to resist. She's a parasite researcher so driven to develop a malaria vaccine she risks infection herself. Both struggle with the legacy of the murder of their father, a British soldier, by an IRA terrorist 25 years earlier. When Bec connects with Alex Comrie, a cell biologist whose research raises hopes of reversing the aging process, her former lover's threat to expose Ritchie's misbehavior is the ticking bomb that propels the narrative.
To preserve his comfortable life, will Ritchie reveal a confidence his sister has shared with him? What moral compromises will Bec consider to give Alex the child he so desperately wants? Has science, with its ability to end diseases and potentially alter the human lifespan, become our new religion? The questions have the ring of soap opera, but Meek's wise and occasionally humorous treatment is anything but that, as he steers his troubled protagonists through what Bec thinks of as the "vast, alien moral landscape," all the while relishing the pleasures of their outwardly successful lives.
The Heart Broke In invites us to look at ourselves in all our flawed human beauty without turning away. --Harvey Freedenberg, attorney and freelance reviewer