Heart, You Bully, You Punk

(2003) I. J. Esker (she prefers to go solely by her last name) spends her days teaching math at a private school in Brooklyn; most nights she curls up under an afghan in her tiny apartment and reads. At thirty-one, after early loss and disappointment, Esker has found a quiet resolve in her self-imposed solitude. But when Ann James, one of her favorite students, mysteriously falls from the bleachers during Winter Concert rehearsals and has to stay home in casts during the weeks before Christmas, Esker begins home-tutoring the precocious teenager, and soon, much to her chagrin, finds herself falling edgily, haltingly in love with the girl's father, Wally. 

Cohen uses this unlikely triangle to chart the complexities of the human heart, as each of these three characters draws urgently closer to making a decision that will have irrevocable effects on the others. Charged with Esker's own irreverence and wit, Heart, You Bully, You Punk sweeps us irresistibly into her profound and wistful struggle to unite the rest of her self with her unruly heart. Quirky and moving and exquisitely written, this is a magical book about what we dare ourselves to do when faced with the startling prospect of love. 


Booksense 76 Pick


Heart, You Bully, You Punk describes the mysterious, unpredictable, even mutinous ways people's hearts mess with their lives...packed with detail...a lively, thoughtful pleasure.

- The New York Times Book Review

Esker is the kind of broken soul you root for, and Cohen's wistful novel evokes the intense vulnerability of love and the shattering pain of loss.

- Entertainment Weekly

In this excellent novel...Cohen suggests that real love almost always runs counter to the conveniences of society.

- The Washington Post