The Heart Begins Here is the story of the ever-optimistic, earnest Sara Requier and her disintegrating seven-year relationship with the cynical Wanda Wysoka. Along with her relationship struggles, Sara must contend with the drastic changes in the book industry that threaten her feminist bookstore and a mother who refuses to accept her daughter’s lesbianism. Then, just as Wanda decides to leave Sara, Wanda’s new young lover, Cindy, is murdered. The story takes place in a western Canadian city in 2001 — much of it in Sara’s bookstore, Common Reader Books — in the shadow of the disturbing political climate that followed the 9/11 attacks in the U.S. This is a transitional point in the Canadian book industry: the proliferation of big box stores, the expansion of the Internet — and Sara is caught up in the concomitant changes in her community. The book explores themes of love and loss, of the lingering effects of a dysfunctional childhood, of misogyny, of personal and societal homophobia, and especially the challenge of integrating the personal with the political.