From James Meek, the award-winning author of the international bestseller The People's Act of Love, comes a rich and intricate novel about everything that matters to us now: children, celebrity, secrets and shame, the quest for youth, loyalty and betrayal, falls from grace, acts of terror, and the wonderful, terrible inescapability of family.
Ritchie Shepherd, an aging pop star and a producer of a reality show for teen talent, is starting to trip over his own lies. Maybe filming a documentary about his father, Captain Shepherd, a British soldier executed by Northern Irish guerrillas, will redeem him.
His sister, Bec, is getting closer and closer to a vaccine for malaria. When she's not in Tanzania harvesting field samples, she's peering through a microscope at her own blood to chart the risky treatment she's testing on herself. She's as addicted to honesty as Ritchie is to trickery.
Val Oatman is the editor of a powerful tabloid newspaper. The self-appointed conscience of the nation, scourge of hypocrites and cheats, he believes he will marry beautiful Bec.
Alex Comrie, a gene therapist (and formerly the drummer in Ritchie's band), is battling his mortally ill uncle, a brilliant and domineering scientist, over whether Alex might actually have discovered a cure for aging. Alex, too, believes he will marry Bec.
Colum O'Donabháin has just been released from prison, having served a twenty-five-year sentence for putting a gun to Captain Shepherd's head when he refused to give up an informer. He now writes poetry.
Their stories meet and tangle in this bighearted epic that is also shrewd, starkly funny, and utterly of the moment. The Heart Broke In is fiction with the reverberating resonance of truth.
At the heart of British writer Meek's seventh work of fiction (after We Are Now Beginning Our Descent) are brother and sister Ritchie, has-been pop-star, and Bec Shepherd, promising malaria researcher, whose father was killed by an IRA man when the Shepherds were just kids. Then there's Alex Comrie, former drummer in Ritchie's band, the Lazygods, now a gene therapist and reluctant heir to his brilliant Uncle Harry's cancer research institute. Val Oatman, editor of a tabloid newspaper, watches all of them until they become famous or notorious enough for him to take them down. Both Alex and Val fall in love with the beautiful, intelligent, and honest Bec, who's begun using herself as a guinea pig for her own research. In this novel, the Dickensian coincidences on which the plot often turns can stretch our present-day credulity, in part because they've fallen out of fashion in contemporary literary fiction, in part because the rest of Meek's novel is so bent on verisimilitude. Still, there is much to enjoy in this ambitious portrait of deeply human characters, grappling with how to live in the modern world, where science is capable of almost anything, including, as Alex's uncle hopes, immortality.