The Weight of Heaven by Thrity Umrigar is the story of Ellie and Frank who fall deeply in love with each other and their little boy Benny. Their love is very real and palpable as you read their stories on the pages of this book. I felt as if I knew their innermost thoughts and feelings as the story alternatives between points of view of the main characters. Ms. Umrigar has the skill to carry you away as reader into the world she creates on the pages. Her rich prose skillfully glides across the pages and creates an amazing story. Ellie and Frank suffer the unexpected loss that no parent should ever have to suffer. The loss of their child, Benny who was just seven years old. I can't tell you how this part of the story gripped my heart. I have an only child, a boy who is eleven and I could empathize deeply with Ellie and Frank and it took me into a world full of strong emotions and grief. The story was almost painful at times to read as the emotions are so strong and real. Ms. Umrigar truly has an amazing style of writing that allows you as a reader to feel the depth of emotion of a character from all angles. At first, I was surprised at the use of the "F" word used so often in the dialogue of Ellie's character. It seemed a bit overdone and was being used more as a shock factor. As I read further, I saw the connection to the use of this word and how the author may have wanted the reader to see the intensity and rebelliousness of Ellie's character.
This story is multilayered from the start when you find Ellie and Frank grieving over the death of their son Benny. This has deeply effected their marriage and has torn apart their lives. They blame each other in different ways for the turn their idyllic life has taken and for the death of their beloved son Benny. They have an opportunity to move to India with Frank's job to run a factory and they view this is a way to reconnect and start a new life away from the memories of their son. In India, Ellie falls in love with the country and people. Frank is more cynical and falls in love with a dream that is not realistic. Both Ellie and Frank lose sight of the reality that they are not of this country in India that they have settled into. They are escaping into a culture and life that they do not understand. Although their intentions may be good, the results may not be what they expect or hope for. The moral and social issues portrayed in The Weight of Heaven run parallel to many social issues of our time today. The story highlights issues related to the impact of globalization from factories that move into small unknown villages in India to cultural clashes between Indians and Americans who they perceive as foreigners.
There is so much more to this deeply woven story that my review only touches the surface of the depth and beauty of this novel. Ms. Umrigar has created a story rich in characters and culture. It is a powerful book in so many ways. When I finished the book and turned the last page,I was filled with a depth of emotion. This is not the type of book that you will finish and call a "feel good book". It is one that will open your heart and mind and may even bring up emotions and feelings of your own. Only a strong writer can evoke those feelings from a reader. Ms. Umrigar has captured my heart and as this was the first book that I have read from her collection I will definitely read more.
The Weight of Heaven would be an excellent book to discuss with a book club as there are so many themes to discuss. There is a reading guide with discussion questions at Harper Collins, here.
You can read more about Thrity Umrigar and her novels by visiting the authors website, here.
You can listen to Book Club Girl interview Thrity Umrigar on February 23, 2010 on Blog Talk Radio. Mark your calendars or you can also listen to the archived discussion after the show.
I read this book as part of a TLC Book Tour.
Check out the other tour stops for their reviews of
The Weight of Heaven, tour list is here.
Disclosure: A copy of the book was provided by the publisher through TLC Book Tours.
I am an Amazon Associate.