Title: Random Acts of Heroic Love
Author: Danny Scheinmann
Published In: 2008
Genre: Semi-Fiction (Read the review to know why)
My Rating: 4 on 5
Random Acts of Heroic Love, Danny Scheinmann’s debut novel, follows the journey of two men, separated by time and space and yet have a strong, unknown connection with each other. Moritz Daniecki is a Austro-Hungarian soldier who is captured as a Prisoner of War in the First World War and sentenced to prison. He breaks free and walks for years to reach his childhood love. Leo Dankin loses the love of his life in a bus accident and struggles hard to continue with his life without his sweetheart.
The book starts with Leo waking up in a hospital room to realize his girlfriend Eleni’s death in the bus crash while he survived. This incident in his life continues to haunt him and leaves a strong impact where Leo finds himself unable to continue with his life. He is constantly reminded of his girlfriend’s memories and he finds himself blaming for her death. He escapes into a world of his own where he finds Eleni at every walk of life. He meets a physics lecturer, Roberto Panconesi, who tries to explain the connection between our feelings and the physics around. He suggests Leo keep a note of anything that catches his interest. These notes, a hand drawn sketch and a scribbled note underneath, form a very interesting part of the book. Here are some on the author’s website.
Moritz is head over heels in love with Lotte. He is forced to fight in the First World War and is captured bu Russians and is sent to a prisoner camp. He spends two years of his life in the filthy camp and escapes with the determination to meet Lotte and ask her hand in marriage. The journey back home is filled with the dread of being caught and the hope of meeting his love. He fights enemies and makes friends on the way. There are a few things in Moritz’s journey which touched my heart. The one in which his comrade Frantz takes away others’ blankets and shoes thinking they are dead, but Moritz discovers that one of his comrades is not dead after all. The conversation that follows is touching. Similarly, when enemies ask Moritz to kill a man to save his own life – the dilemma that goes on in Moritz’s head makes one think about moral issues.
Leo and Moritz are connected through an unknown strand and this is revealed to the reader only in the end. The book was a wonderful read until we get to this point. After this, I found it to be too melodramatic. The book had a great start with Leo’s beautifully etched tragic incident and Moritz’s crazy love for Lotte. I wish the author had handled the connection a bit more maturely and not let it become cheesy.
The characters are so well formed and memorable. The vivacious Eleni, the eccentric Robert, the always brooding Leo, the epitome of hope Moritz – every character is well thought of and given enough meat to evoke deep emotions in the reader’s heart. The language is beautiful and draws the reader in.
I have labeled this book as semi-fiction (my own term) because it is based on the true story of Danny who lost his girlfriend in a bus crash and his grandfather Moshe, who was a prisoner of war. While the book’s story is drawn from real life, there are some fictional parts too and hence the label of semi-fiction.
The author’s website says the book will be made into a movie soon. I am not too keen on watching movies adapted from books, but I am eager to watch this one. If not movie, I will definitely revisit the novel sometime later in my life.
Even though the book lost its charm in the later chapters, I still had a great time reading this book. The initial part of the book was too good to be shadowed and let down by the latter part. This book was a gift from my friend. JoV, thanks so much for the book. If not for you, I would have never found this insightful book.