Brian Lima’s story of self-empowerment via “Heart to Beat”

Brian Lima’s story of self-empowerment, Heart to Beat, defies expectations. Readers may expect this book to be a chronicle of his experiences as a heart surgeon, but instead Lima uses his profession as a backdrop for a larger meditation on never allowing yourself to settle for mediocrity. Heart to Beat documents Lima’s story as the son of Cuban immigrants, making his way through the most extensive training in modern medicine, despite hailing from a background that didn’t naturally lend itself to pursuing such dreams. He writes with confidence and invigorating vulnerability, never afraid to share the full range of his emotions and experiences. His prose reveals that his talents aren’t limited to medical endeavors alone.


The book has a clever construct. Lima uses the word “heart” in a variety of chapter titles derived from familiar turns of phrase that set the stage for the themes he explores. He builds Heart to Beat in a linear fashion taking readers from his childhood, into adolescence, and beyond with minor digressions that never interfere with the book’s narrative thrust. Lima’s depiction of his early years is one of the more affecting parts of the book and illustrates his vulnerability quite well. His love for his parents shines through anytime he mentions them and his willingness to discuss his brother’s mental illness and its effects on him and the family is notable.

In the book’s introduction, Lima discusses how our culture has succumbed to complacency, instant gratification, and an unwillingness to put in the time necessary to realize larger personal goals. He intends this book and his story to be a rebuke of such attitudes and he succeeds. Lima’s school days and later medical residency testify to the importance of logging the hours and hard work necessary to stand out in a competitive world. It isn’t, however, a dry account. Throughout the book, Lima demonstrates a playful sense of humor and considerable personality. The balance of passion and playfulness is another of Heart to Beat’s many strengths.


Lima includes numerous epigrams and quotes from outside figures, often sports icons of various stripes, that further serve to illuminate the book’s guiding themes. He concludes on a strong note and the cumulative effect of Heart to Beat is rousing and inspiring without ever lapsing into sentimentality. Though he never states it outright, it is obvious that Lima regards writing this book as a labor of love and each of its two hundred plus pages supports that concept. This is a thoroughly satisfying reading experience from beginning to end, never suffers from overkill, and has the sort of quality that ensures the book will hold up under re-reading. There are great riches in these pages and delving into Lima’s story yields rewards certain to linger with readers long after the final page.

Nicole Killian

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Nicole loves to go cross country skiing, swimming, reading and critiquing books, listening and critiquing music, some culinary arts, pottery, spending time with my daughter, cheesy horror films.

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