The Woman Who Dived into the Heart of the World

Sabina Berman

The Woman Who Dived into the Heart of the World
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The Woman Who Dived into the Heart of the World

Sabina Berman

In the wake of her sister’s death, Isabelle moves from her home in California to her birthplace in Mexico to take over the running of the family tuna company. There, she discovers a wild child - a thing with no name, who turns out to be the autistic niece she never knew she had. So she sets herself the task of turning it into a human being - a human being named Karen. To start, she tries to get her to say her first word: ‘Me’. And then begins the greatest journey of all, as Karen learns how to become ‘Me’. It is a voyage of discovery that will take her to the bottom of the ocean, and into the heart of the world.


sabina1Left alone in a sprawling mansion, Karen grows from a small child who does not understand the world into an autistic girl-woman who insists on enjoying life and the moments in it. From her first memories of being pulled into the world by her Aunt Isabelle after being left wild, right through her schooling and university where she studies Animal Husbandry so she can take over the family tuna business, the novel rests entirely on her perspective.

As a character, Karen does not engage with many social norms, failing to connect with her own name or, for example, to understand the cruelty of humans against animals. Yet this does not prevent us from sympathising with her, or from hoping desperately for her success and happiness.

There are many colourful characters that she meets along the way and, although they seem somewhat cartoonish through her eyes, we can easily see the shadows of people we know in them: the haughty university professor, the lonely sea captain and, of course, the loving aunt.

This is a book that will make you rethink society. How we treat people with disabilities and how, in many cases, we should follow their example rather the forcing them to follow the less-than-impressive leadership of so called ‘normal’ people. Touching and heartfelt – all of those words can be applied to this book, but really all you need to know is that you need to read it.

kate-rockstrom-pic Kate Rockstromis a Classical Specialist at Readings Carlton. She regularly performs as a flautist as well as writing about music and books, follow her at

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