Adina Talve-Goodman

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Your Hearts, Your Scars

Talve-Goodman, Adina

Last Updated: May-25-2023
Annotated by:
Field, Steven

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Essay


This slim volume of essays written by a young woman who had a heart transplant packs a wallop, albeit an understated one.  The author, who had a congenital cardiac anomaly that required several surgeries—the first at one day old, another five days later, two more at the ages of two and four years—ultimately developed severe congestive heart failure at sixteen and underwent cardiac transplantation at the age of nineteen (none of this, by the way, is a spoiler; the introduction, written by her sister, lays this out in detail).   Eleven years later she developed lymphoma, a side effect of the immunocompromise induced by her anti-rejection medications, and passed away at the age of 32.  This book was published posthumously, the essays collated and edited by her sister and her friend and colleague at the literary magazine One Story. 

The essays—there are seven of them—deal with life experiences, mostly in the form of encounters with other people, mostly post-transplant.  “I Must Have Been that Man,” which won the Bellevue Literary Review’s Non-Fiction Prize,  begins with a post-party liaison but centers on the author’s meeting with a man in an upended wheelchair out on the street on a rainy night; “Men Who Love Dying Women and Fishing” speculates about what might attract a man to a woman with a terminal illness; “Your Heart, Your Scars, Zombies” offers a novel take on the idea of a zombie occupying a liminal space between the living and the dead and analogizes that to the situation of the post-transplant patient; “Thank God for the Nights That Go Right” speaks to the serendipity—or Higher Power?—that seems to guide our experiences.   They range over the timeline; one recounts a pre-transplant trip with other ill children to San Diego, others come from later in the author’s life.  There is no linear temporal progression to the essays; rather, one gets the impression that they are simply being remembered spontaneously.  Nonetheless, a clear personal narrative emerges.

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