I just finished The Weight of Heaven, and I’m speechless.
The first sentence of this novel drew me in, “A few days after Benny’s death, Ellie and Frank Benton broke into separate people. Although they didn’t know it then.”
As I continued to read, I was captivated by the beautiful language and insight into human behavior that the author Thrity Umrigar poured onto each page.
Benny was Frank and Ellie’s son, and died suddenly from an infection that ravaged his body. The book is not completely focused on the process of recovering from grief, but I saw the effects of grief and the trauma that it causes in every decision that Frank and Ellie make: moving from their home in America to take a job in Girbaug, India; their reactions to the accidental death of one of the factory workers; their interest in a local boy, Ramesh, who is just a few years older than their son would have been.
Looking back at that first sentence, after having just completed the novel, ties it all together for me. About halfway into the book, there is a sense that Frank is hurtling towards a cliff. Will he be able to come back to himself before it’s too late?
I know that many people avoid reading novels that deal with the loss of a child. Yes, it’s a difficult subject, and one which Ms. Umrigar handles delicately and honestly. However, this book deals with choices that are perhaps even more difficult to accept than the death of a child, because they are choices, unlike the infection which unfairly took the life of a young boy.
If you like great writing, beautifully drawn characters, and don’t mind a little shock, give this book a try.
This is the first of Thrity Umrigar’s books that I’ve read, but it won’t be the last.
You can read the first couple of chapters at the Harper Collins website.
Managing editor Jennifer Donovan wishes that she could turn a phrase as beautifully as authors such as this one do. In the meantime, she’s content to read voraciously and write about books and life here and at her blog Snapshot.