SHARK HEART by Emily Habeck

I have been consumed by bookstore stuff lately and while I’ve actually finished a few books, I haven’t had a chance to review them. I am going to try to keep my reviews a little shorter going forward so that I can keep up with this blog as the bookstore opening approaches.

I know that many people initially took a pass on Shark Heart by Emily Habeck because of its unusual premise – a man slowly turns into a shark – but decided to give it a chance because early reviews were so positive. I was definitely in that camp. I am not into magical realism and was all too ready to dismiss this one. But trusted readers liked it a lot, so I got it from BOTM.

Newlyweds Lewis and Wren, happily in love in Austin, TX, are not concerned when Lewis starts experiencing strange symptoms, But as the symptoms get stronger and more difficult to ignore, Lewis visits the doctor and learns that his body is turning into that of a great white shark. Eventually, he will need to be released into the water, for his own survival and the safety of those around him. Lewis and Wren are devastated, but they have to learn how to be the best partners to the other while accepting Lewis’ sad fate.

This book worked for me because in Habeck’s world, this disease is not that unusual. People turn into animals, and they give birth to animals, and it’s not especially strange. This frees up Habeck to explore the nature of love, loyalty, loss, and how to live without the person you love, without having to devote a lot of time to the mechanics of the transition.

Shark Heart has a tandem storyline that didn’t work as well for me, although Habeck did a nice job of tying the two halves together in the end.

Shark Heart was refreshing and creative, and while I didn’t love it as passionately as others have, it was worth the read. I listened to it on audio, and appreciated hearing two narrators that I’ve heard often before: Karissa Vacker and Shaun Taylor-Corbett (with an assist from Soneela Nankani). The book is made up of many very short chapters, which doesn’t convey well on audio, but it didn’t detract from the experience.

Shark Heart was the 20th book of 2024.