(image credit: NPR)

Sunil Yapa’s debut novel tells a fictionalized version of the events of the 1999 Seattle protests on the World Trade Organization. Told in alternat­ing limited third-person, the novel follows seven very differ­ent characters that all experi­ence the same day.

Over the course of the novel, readers follow nineteen-year-old Victor (a black run­away), police chief Bishop (Vic­tor’s white stepfather), King (a female twenty-something pro­testor), Officers Park and Ju­lia (partners, Park being crude and ruthless, Julia being calm and disciplined), John Henry (a nonviolent figurehead of the protest), and Dr. Charles Wick­ramsinghe (a Sri Lankan del­egate trying to secure a spot for his country in the WTO).

Readers see the world, and the violent and catastrophic events of the protest, through the eyes of each of these charac­ters. We follow Victor’s trans­formation from uninformed, uninterested boy trying to sell enough weed to buy a plane ticket out of the country into a deeply passionate man giv­ing his all for the cause of the protest.

King goes from nonviolent figurehead trying to escape her violent past, to a poor woman who can’t accept herself and her mistakes.

Chief Bishop goes from try­ing to take back his city, to try­ing to take back his son that’s been missing for three years.

One of the most interesting plotlines readers follow is that of Dr. Charles, the Sri Lankan delegate. His determination and drive to see to it that his home nation gets admitted into the WTO to save and modern­ize it is a beautiful thing to read.

The novel’s title reflects the theme of the book, which is the passion and drive in one’s heart to do what they believe is right. The expression that ‘your heart is a muscle the size of a fist’ relates to the thousands upon thousands of Americans that gathered in Seattle to shut down the WTO meetings and prevent them from auctioning off the third world countries for business.

They all put their fists up, and by doing so, put their hearts up. Everything they held in their hearts, they put up to the sky in protest. Readers fol­low the seven characters as they do the same thing.

Sunil Yapa’s novel is beau­tiful and compelling almost the whole way though. Unfortu­nately, sections of it get clut­tered with flowery, overwriting. Too much description and ex­position, not enough action.

But for the vast majority of the novel, it’s a wonderful read. Each character is written in a way that makes the reader truly feel that they believe what they’re thinking and doing is right.

To be able to write a story so well with seven different voices telling it is impressive and com­mendable. For a debut novel, Yapa has written a gem.

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