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Shark Heart by Emily Habeck
Literary fiction

Shark Heart


We love supporting debut authors. Congrats, Emily Habeck, on your first book!

by Emily Habeck

Quick take

Prepare to have a big bite taken out of your heart by this lyrical meditation on marriage, grief, and carnivorous fish.

Good to know

  • Illustrated icon, Icon_Emotional


  • Illustrated icon, Icon_400

    400+ pages

  • Illustrated icon, Icon_NonLinear

    Nonlinear timeline

  • Illustrated icon, Icon_Quirky



For Lewis and Wren, their first year of marriage is also their last. A few weeks after their wedding, Lewis receives a rare diagnosis. He will retain most of his consciousness, memories, and intellect, but his physical body will gradually turn into a great white shark. As Lewis develops the features and impulses of one of the most predatory creatures in the ocean, his complicated artist’s heart struggles to make peace with his unfulfilled dreams.

At first, Wren internally resists her husband’s fate. Is there a way for them to be together after Lewis changes? Then, a glimpse of Lewis’s developing carnivorous nature activates long-repressed memories for Wren, whose story vacillates between her childhood living on a houseboat in Oklahoma, her time with a college ex-girlfriend, and her unusual friendship with a woman pregnant with twin birds. Woven throughout this bold novel is the story of Wren’s mother, Angela, who becomes pregnant with Wren at fifteen in an abusive relationship amidst her parents’ crumbling marriage. In the present, all of Wren’s grief eventually collides, and she is forced to make an impossible choice.

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Free sample

Get an early look from the first pages of Shark Heart.

Why I love it

That first year of marriage is hard enough without one newlywed morphing into a great white shark.

When I heard the premise of Emily Habeck’s debut novel, Shark Heart, my head couldn’t decide which way to bobble. First, I found myself shaking it, as in: Could that actually work? But soon I was nodding with vigor: This is the kind of delightfully original story I adore. I couldn’t wait to read it.

Pragmatic Wren and artistic Lewis make an intriguing couple even before Lewis’s game-changing (ahem, species-changing) diagnosis. Habeck’s characters are masterfully drawn, and their opposites-attract romance simmers with delicious tension. But when Lewis learns that he is transforming into one of earth’s great predators—and has less than a year until the metamorphosis is complete—the story quickly becomes so much more. It’s a story about navigating change and living authentically. About what it means to be human. About saying goodbye.

Prepare for tears, yes, but also to marvel at how Habeck’s precise yet lyrical prose makes this absurd situation feel normal—even beautiful. It’s quite a feat to weave such a wild speculative element into a story that feels fundamentally relatable, resonant, human. Yes, Shark Heart is the kind of delightfully original story I adore, and the sort of book I’ll be pressing into the hands of friends with a vigorous nod. Yes, it actually works.

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Member ratings (4,687)

  • Ashley C.

    Huntsville, AL

    I finished this in one day as I just couldn’t put it down. It’s magical realism at its finest - Wren will have your heart. I was sad and happy at the same time - a lovely first novel 🦈 ❤️ 🐦 🐉!

  • Morgan B.

    Jersey City, NJ

    I don’t think I can adequately express how exquisite this book about love, grief, family, and loss is. From such an unusual concept flows a truly remarkable book. Will be reading this again and again.

  • Jared B.

    Glendale, AZ

    Everything about this book is so thoughtful: the plot, themes, style, structure. It’s surreal and absurd but also so familiar and relatable in ways that are both painful and delightful. A perfect 5/5!

  • Stacy S.

    North Providence, RI

    What a special little surprise this book turned out to be. I adored every character I encountered. This was exactly the kind of happy / sad book I love to read. I’ll definitely be passing one along.

  • Molly K.

    San Antonio, TX

    The premise could be silly, but somehow it works so well! A love story about losing a spouse, mother, life. THIS IS SO GOOD!!!! Never thought I would love it as much as I did. What an amazing author