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  • Writer's pictureThe Bossy Bookworm

Review of Shark Heart: A Love Story by Emily Habeck

Emily Habeck's debut novel offers an unusual premise in which one member of a newlywed couple begins transforming into a great white shark due to a mutation, and builds a beautifully written, poignant, fascinating story.

Wren no longer sees life as a long, linear ladder with a beginning, middle, and end. Instead, she considers how life is like a spiraling trail up a mountain. Each circling lap represents a learning cycle, the same lesson at a slightly higher elevation. Wren realizes she likes to rest as much as she likes to climb. She begins to enjoy the view.

Shark Heart: A Love Story follows newlyweds Wren and Lewis as they adjust to the sudden prospect of a drastic, potentially deadly (to Wren), fundamental shift (for Lewis) and shocking metamorphosis: Lewis has a mutation that's already affecting him, beginning his transformation into a great white shark.

Lewis is expected to retain his intellect and personality, his memories and feelings--but he will do so in the form of a giant sea creature, hungry for blood. Wren builds a pool in the backyard, cleans out the fish display at the store trying to keep him full, and watches Lewis begin to fall victim to his shark-like tendencies.

Wren is in love, and she desperately tries to imagine an unorthodox version of a relationship--could she live on a boat and stay in proximity to Lewis? Could she spend regular time in the water near him, successfully reminding him of her identity and thereby remaining safe?

We track back through time to witness Wren's younger years, then farther back to understand Wren's mother's youth and the way her mother's mutation and diagnosis shaped her life and that of Wren. Lewis's transformation stirs up difficult memories and complex emotions surrounding Wren's mother's change into a (land) animal--and her resulting inability to care for Wren.

Other characters in the novel face mutation-related difficulties--including Wren's new friend, who finds she is pregnant with twin birds, which will surely kill her when they emerge as newborns.

Finally, we track Lewis in his new shape as a great white shark. It's a solitary existence, but it's not without a version of community. Meanwhile Wren is fighting to carve out a life for herself without the love of her life. They both feel the pain of their distance from each other, yet seek peace in their new existences.

This was strange and interesting. I loved the dark, oddball humor that occasionally crept in surrounding the mutations in the book. Shark Heart was surprisingly poignant speculative fiction.

I listened to Shark Heart: A Love Story as an audiobook.

Do you have any Bossy thoughts about this book?

Shark Heart: A Love Story is Emily Habeck's debut novel.

If you' re interested in this book, you might also like the books I've reviewed that offer unique points of view or these offbeat books.


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