An Enlarged Heart

A Personal History

Publisher: Anchor

This exquisite prose debut from prize-winning poet Cynthia Zarin is a poignant exploration of the author’s experiences with love, work, and the surprise of time’s passage.

Zarin charts the shifting and complicated parameters of contemporary life and family in writing that feels nearly fictional in its richness of scene, dialogue, and mood. The writer herself is the marvelously rueful character at the center of these tales, at first a bewildered young woman navigating the terrain of new jobs and borrowed apartments in a long-vanished New York City. By the end, whether describing a newlywed journey to Italy, a child’s life-threatening illness, Mary McCarthy’s file cabinet, or the inner life of the New Yorker staff, this history of the heart shows us how persistent the past is in returning to us with entirely new lessons.


Real Estate

In the apartment where we used to live, the front door opened to a long hall. At the end of that hall was a window, a fire escape, and beyond that the view opened up like a painted fan. In the middle distance was the green copper roof and steeple of a huge church. Beyond it lay the low flat rooftops of...
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“Enchanting. . . . Zarin knits her stories together with an appealing and deeply intimate voice.” --Boston Globe
“The essays’ overlapping corners have a cumulative power, evoking a disappeared New York . . . in which a young romantic began making her way in words.” —Vogue
“There were moments throughout that reminded me of Didion at her elegiac best, which is perhaps the finest compliment I know how to pay an essayist…. Zarin [is] a first-rate practitioner.” —Christopher Beha, The New York Times Book Review
“Zarin takes readers on a journey through a lifetime’s worth of homes, relationships and landscapes. . . . Pulses with a life force.” —Kirkus Reviews [starred review]
“A dozen delightful essays set in a mostly ephemeral Manhattan…. [Zarin] weaves a lyrical memoir out of mundane urban experiences . . . with characters ranging from William Shawn, the New Yorker editor, to Mr. Ferri, an Upper East Side tailor, whom she vividly describes as ‘a wren of a man with pins flashing in his teeth.’” —The New York Times
“Elegant, interlocking essays . . . [with] an underlying generosity of spirit. Her remembrances, while revealing, are refreshingly devoid of the medical-grade dysfunction we’ve come to expect from memoir. . . . An enlarged heart is surely a marvelous thing.” --San Francisco Chronicle
“Lustrously descriptive, complexly emotional, and exquisitely crafted personal essays. . . . Each episode is ensnaring, each setting scrupulously and atmospherically evoked in language silken and cut on the bias. But it is what she makes out of these reassembled remnants of memory that imbues this book with its lambent beauty and philosophical resonance.” —Booklist
“Zarin’s moving and beautiful memoir accomplishes one of the rarer of literary feats—it locates the profound in the outwardly ordinary. Zarin masterfully reveals those significant emotional, moral, and aesthetic truths that tend to conceal themselves among everyday events, an act of camouflage so effective as to require a truly brilliant writer to show us the beauty and terror of that which has long been hiding, often in plain sight. An Enlarged Heart is a large book.” —Michael Cunningham, author of By Nightfall and The Hours
“Irresistible. In a series of elegant, piercing moments, Zarin unleashes the immense power of the intimate, conjuring both the past and the present with brilliance and wit, transforming anecdote into art. These pages beat with precision, sorrow, color, strength and life.” —Jane Mendelsohn, author of Innocence and I Was Amelia Earhart