Although this is essentially a character-driven novel about relationship and family, you won't find either the conventionally attractive characters, or those that are attractively unattractive, advantaged in the usual ways, that populate many books of the "dysfunctional family" genre. Although that same genre is successful and certainly insightful when crafted by masters like Jodi Picoult, Sue Miller, and Elizabeth Berg, "Heft" approaches the nuances of interpersonal connections through the back door, side doors, any entrance except the front. The irony about ingress via "entrance" is coincidental; a centerpiece of the story is a completely housebound academic, who, over the course of the novel, gradually dissolves his own barriers and allows people (including the reader) access to his life.
It's about flawed characters, flawed in dramatic ways; a person managing his intellectual life but unable to get the exponentially damaging aspects of personal life under control. A youth possessed of proven athletic prowess yet held back emotionally and financially by an addicted mom. The unlikely pairing of a working class house cleaner from an immigrant family with an upper class high-brow intellectual whose professional life has been on balance successful but whose personal life is drastically in need of an upgrade.
This story is beautifully written, and its slow and gradual progress - fans of high drama and fast action might not love this - demonstrates the coming together of characters from seemingly terminal isolation into a connected whole. The title "Heft" refers literally to the heavy personal ballast of extreme physical avoirdupois, but also metaphorically to the weight of relationships and connections forged from happenstance into a logical whole that has strength and, truly, heft.
The book's jacket cover is appropriate, composed of interlocking printer's alphabet blocks, all of different font and character, built into a "hefty" balance.
The narration could not be better.
Mother, knitter, reader, lifelong learner, technical writer, former library assistant & hematologist.
Why should you listen to a book about an agoraphobic, morbidly obese former professor, his former student, and her son? Because Liz Moore excels at storytelling in Heft and she can make you care about all of these characters in a way that doesn't often happen in fiction, especially when the characters have all made some questionable choices. In Heft, Liz Moore writes of several lonely, misfit characters in an extraordinary way. She is able to tell the stories of Arthur Opp, a morbidly obese, agoraphobic, former professor, his former student Charlene Turner, and her son Kel Keller in simple, straightforward, yet beautiful writing.
Arthur Opp weighs 550 pounds, sits on his couch and watches his home fill up with the detritus of his life. After September 11, he realized that he had no one to care about (or to care about him), so he isolates himself in his house and with his weight. He never leaves his house, orders everything he needs, but is clearly cognizant of his situation. His only contact has been letters from a former student, Charlene Turner. He hasn't seen her in twenty years, but one day receives a letter asking Arthur to provide some much-needed guidance to her son, Kel Keller. This letter provides the impetus for Arthur to hire a cleaning lady, Yolanda, who is a very interesting character in her own right. Keith Szarabajka does an amazing narration for Arthur. This is definitely a case where the audio makes the book an even better reading experience than print.
Every one of these characters is lonely in their own way, and their interactions and intersections may (or may not) change that, but Moore doesn't write their stories in predictable ways. She reveals the truth behind the facades that Arthur and Kel have chosen; it would be so easy to write all of these characters as caricatures, but Moore never does that.
"I considered the fact that men who come to excavate my house upon receiving complaints from the neighbors will find a fat old corpse who has no relations and nothing but a pile of papers to tell them this was a human being and this was a man with a story to tell."
Heft is a masterfully told story.
This is the kind of book that grabs you from the beginning and then keeps you holding on because the characters are so lovingly revealed and exposed to you. It's a story about vulnerability, love and self-discovery for the two main characters, who are on converging paths.
The ending was a little abrupt for me, but I recognize how it could be satisfying for others, as anything more could be considered redundant. The author had already made her point that love and family can come from unexpected places. But, the characters were so well written, that I wanted to read more and see how things unfolded once they did meet.
Both narrators were great and really captured their characters' voices. I especially felt the weariness in Arthur's voice, with it's gravely deepness.
It's not exactly a light read, but it's time well spent.
The characters were really fleshed out and real, but so melancholy. So many missed opportunities for each of them. They could have changed each other's lives but didn't have the courage.
I was interested enough in what was going to happen next that I was drawn back to listen when I had other things to do. But I wished someone got their happiness in the end.
I LOVE to listen to audiobooks - the Audible ap is by far the best thing that's ever happend to my iPhone.
I selected is book using the feature that shows what other people that bought a certain book were also buying. I'm glad I did!
The thing that struck me about this book - is the attention to descriptive detail! Arthur is homebound, so his imagination fuels him... the way Liz Moore describes everything - the smells, the appearance of things... She even gives you and inside look at Arthur and his inner conversations. Like, when he imagines how a friendship will be, or who a person is based on their photo. He is a lonely man - but his own imagination is a true companion.
Kel is a great teen character - typical teen qualities, but the vulnerability of a child who has a messed up family.
You won't be disappointed with this selection. The narration is fabulous, the story is engaging!
A wonderfully told story I didn't want to end. Perfect charcter development, and story telling ability from this author. I will definitely be watching for any future books from Liz Moore. A book I will be talking and thinking about for some time.
The audio version and performance by two actors was amazing. You feel like you are hearing the voice of the characters. As the story drifts and switches from Author to Kel, the voices become familiar. Almost like visiting two friends!
The most memorable part was the relationship and the feelings you develop for both characters. You feel sorry for Author who finds comfort in loneliness. But he also hates loneliness. You feel sorry for Kel who may be doomed to repeat the mistakes of his mother. But Kel has so much potential with the right guidance that mom could not provide.
I'm not sure about a tag line that is catchy. For me, I would develop a tagline centred on themes of loneliness that we can relate to, and a character who can't find his way. Basically two people who are drawn together but do not know how much they need each other.
This book is an excellent read. I recommend this book highly. Like other reviewers have pointed out, however, the ending is unpredictable and abrupt. See for yourself!
The publisher's description of the story did little to inspire me to read this book, I picked it up on sale & was blown away.
Arthur is on first meeting, not terribly likeable. I could pity him, but there is a sense of dishonesty because he is dishonest. He doesn't like who he is & is unwilling to let others know what his life is, to the point of putting on a shirt & tie to answer the door to the grocery delivery man so he can pretend he has been working all day, while in reality he is housebound, completely alone & does little more than eat and watch daytime television.
We begin to see through him though & what follows is a deeply moving story of loneliness.
Kel, the popular athletic teenager is equally lonely & his story is heartbreaking from the beginning as he does his best to care for his alcoholic mother without any outside support.
The two stories are told in parallel until their connection becomes apparent.
Some audio books I find I can become involved in doing something else while listening. In the case of this book I didn't want to. I found I quickly became emotionally invested in the stories of the two main characters (and the other characters also).
My only regret is that I didn't pick this book up earlier. It is absolutely a wonderful read.
The narration is spot on.
Putting books on the back burner.
For the first time in a long time I have to agree with other reviewers that Heft is a great read. It's for mature adults telling the young folks how they came to their age. If you stick with the story, you will understand the two main characters. The first character is a heavy set man in his late 50's that hasn't gone out of his house in a long time due to his weight. He finds company at taking in a former house keeper, who is pregnant. The second character is a high school senior who exceeds in baseball, but is stranded after the death of his mother. He is trying to look for his biological father.
It shouldn't take the reader too long that the two are related to each other, living parallel lives, but there is an exception to the story. I don't want to spoil the ending, but there is no bed of roses at the end.
I really enjoyed Liz Moore and her character development. It's really slow and fast at the same time, like real life. She doesn't miss a beat like other authors does by limiting their characters by cliff noting their identity. The book has this emotional weight between the pauses. In a way, you are rooting for a happy ending, just because it's a depressing story, but many hard earn life are depressing and through their struggles, they are uplifted.
This audiobook was perfection. The story was extremely interesting, and the narration was ideal. The performances were spot on and I cannot imagine the characters being portrayed in any other way. This is a book that is truly a joy to hear read aloud. The pace is fantastic and the story remains interesting from beginning to end.