Thursday, January 12, 2012

Heft; Liz Moore

 
Title: Heft
Author:  Liz Moore
Publication Year: 2012
Publisher: W. W. Norton
Edition: eGalley
Source: Net Galley 
Setting: New York
Date Completed: 1/9/2012
Rating: 4.5/5
Recommend: yes

Heft is a wonderful story that will make you want to rethink what the word "family" really means.

Arthur Opps once was a college professor, but that was 18 years ago.  Now, Arthur is a 58 year-old shut in who weighs in excess of 500 lbs. His best friend, who lived next door, passed away in 1997, and the last time Arthur has left his house in Brooklyn was in September 2001.  The internet has made his reclusive life easy, since food and anything else he needs is delivered right to his front door.  He has no family, no friends, no job, and no one to talk to, so over the years, his only comfort has come from the food he consumes, and occasional letters from a former student named Charlene Turner, who was 20 years younger than him.

Charlene and Arthur were two lost souls.  Both were sad and lonely people, who spent hours talking over the course of the semester.  When the class was finished, Charlene never took another course, but began to write Arthur letters.  First he was rather shocked, but when he lost his job soon after, to him she seemed like the only friend he had.

(Arthur)...."And partly it was that I recognized myself in her---in her awkwardness, her loneliness, her being very out of place, an outsider in a roomful of compatriots.  These feelings I recognized as my own.  She spoke differently than her classmates.  She had that accent, which I came to love, and that hopefulness that won me completely.  One of the things I loved most about her, what I valued, was her lack of awareness."

Then abruptly the letters stopped, until one day many years later she contacts Arthur to reveal a little more about her life, and to ask him a favor.  Her son Kel Keller, who is in high school is in need of some guidance, and since Arthur was the smartest man she had ever known, she asks that he help point her son in the right direction.  On the surface, Kel seems to have a lot going for him, but he is dealing with some difficult issues which he tries to conceal from others.

Suddenly, Arthur's spirits seem brighter at the possibility of seeing Charlene again after almost 20 years.  He hires a cleaning service to get his house in shape, and when 19 year-old Yolanda shows up, he finds himself looking forward to the days she cleans and their conversations which follow.  Little by little life seems a bit brighter for Arthur.

The way in which the story unfolds is not perfect, but I cared so much about the characters that I was able to overlook any flaws in the story structure.  The story alternates between Arthur's story, and Kel Keller's story. Both stories are heartbreaking at times.  Heft, was one of my favorite kinds of novels, complete with dysfunctional, but well developed characters that I was cheering on all the way.  It's a story that made me rethink what a "family" really is, and a story that left me feeling at least somewhat hopeful.  It's a page-turner.

19 comments:

  1. This sounds interesting! Great review, Diane. (I wonder if Arthur loses weight.)

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  2. I agree, this does sound interesting and like you I too love some dysfunction with my family stories. I'll have to check this one out.

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  3. This does sound interesting and I think it's easy to get caught in the trap of staying at home and eating if you aren't working. I'll keep a look out for this one.

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  4. You make this sound great! Wonderful review.

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  5. Great review, Diane. Hadn't heard about this book before today.

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  6. I will be keeping my eye out for this book as it sounds like my kind of read.

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  7. This is one that I do want to read, though yours is the first review of it that I have seen. It seems like it's got a very complex set of characters, in very unusual circumstances. This was a great review, and I am so glad you liked it! It's going on my list!

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  8. I remember when you spotlighted this book and I thought it sounded really intriguing then. Your review clinches it. This one goes on the list.

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  9. A new title to me, but it sounds very good. I can see how easily it would be for a person to close himself off these days and how small interactions could make all of the difference.

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  10. Sounds wonderful to me. I remember seeing this one somewhere but I can't recall. Going on my list to read this year!! Thanks!

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  11. Just reading your review started to get me involved with the story. It sounds really good.

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  12. Please stop making me add to my wish list! I have never heard of this one but now I must read it. I'm all about dysfunction.

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  13. I had this as a Waiting on Wednesday post a while ago and I'm so glad to hear that it is good!
    I am on the list for it at the library.

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  14. This sounds wonderful. I'm with you, great characters can make me overlook structural shortcomings.

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  15. I love compelling dysfunctional characters too,s o this sounds right up my alley.

    Great review Diane!

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  16. hm, sounds interesting. I am going to add it to my wish list and maybe get it from the library.

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  17. What a great review, Diane - yes, HEFT does make the reader rethink the definition of "family."

    Interesting that the cover for your egalley is so different than the final copy.

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  18. I do love a book with people who are a little off course...on my list.

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  19. As you know, I read this recently. I agree with your last paragraph wholeheartedly! :)

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