Review of “takotsubo cardiomyopathy” by Gage Johnston

Ruby and Tom met at a “pitch,” a job interview. Neither got the job, but they went out together for a drink. They decided to “share a space.” Because they didn’t take a compatibility test, they had to pay an extra deposit.

Everything goes well until Ruby gets a promotion. Now, she will be making too much money to stay with Tom. Income is the most important element of any relationship, Ruby tells the reader. Not just for personal reasons, but for societal.

When she moves out, she says Tom should reach out, should he get a promotion. His next promotion will have him making twice what she does. They shake hands.
Ruby feels chest pains.

At the hospital, they tell her she’s suffering from takotsubo cardiomyopathy, a weakening of the heart muscles that can follow a stressful event. It interferes with the heart’s ability to pump blood. It used to be called a broken heart. After ending a partnership of five years and two months, she should recover in two days.


I found this author’s use of language in this story wonderful, saying more than the words.

The first paragraph reads:

I lived with Tom for six years and we were what I thought of as a “true couple.” I felt a zing at the sight of him, at the sound of his voice I tasted caramel.

Okay, so strict grammarians will find fault, but there is poetry here. It is not the only instance of it.

(Yes, I noticed the difference in time mentioned for the length of the relationship).

Ruby later dismisses these feeling of being in love. They’re nothing more than the products of biology. As schoolchildren, they’ve been taught to disregard sentimentality.

This brings up an interesting point. It’s the only mentions of children. Presumably, some of these partnerships will be blessed with issue, but there seems to be no provision for this contingency.

That point aside, the poignancy of the last couple of lines is striking.  I liked this story.

The story can be read here.

According to her blurb, author Gage Johnston is a documentary filmmaker currently working on a project called “Lucy has Worms.”


Title: takotsubo cardiomyopathy
Author: Gage Johnston
First published: Daily Science Fiction, September 3, 2018

Copyright 2018 Denise Longrie

Published by 9siduri

I have written book and movie reviews for the late and lamented sites Epinions and Examiner. I have book of reviews of speculative fiction from before 1900, and short works in publications such Mobius, Protea Poetry Journal, and, most recently, Wisconsin Review and Drunken Pen Writing. I'm busily working away on a book of reviews pulp science fiction stories from the 1930s-1960s. It's a lot of fun. I am the author of the short story "Always Coming Home," a chapbook of poetry titled "Sotto Voce," and a collection of reviews of pre-1900 speculative fiction, "By Firelight."

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