Friday, March 2, 2012

A story with heart and heft

by Liz Moore

I have to tell you, this novel grabbed me from the opening pages, which take the form of a confessional letter from former professor, Arthur Opp, to his long-ago student and long-time correspondent, Charlene Turner. They haven't seen each other in years, and Arthur has a lot to confess.

"The first thing you must know about me is that I am colossally fat. When I knew you I was what one might call plump but I am no longer plump. I eat what I want & furthermore I eat whenever I want. For years I have made very little effort to reduce the amount that I eat for I have seen no cause to. Despite this I am neither immobile nor bedridden but I do feel winded when I walk more than six or seven steps, & I do feel very shy and sort of incased in something as if I were a cello or an expensive gun."

The fact that he weights somewhere between 500-600 pounds is just the beginning of Arthur's confession. He states, "In my letters to you these past two decades I have been untruthful by omission." He admits that not only has he not taught in years, but that he hasn't left his house in over a decade. He ends the lengthy missive, "In spite of everything, at heart I am still the same Arthur.

I'm going to stop right here and suggest there may be two kinds of reader responses to Arthur Opp, sympathy or revulsion. My immediate response was sympathy for this lonely man who fantasizes about salvation in the form of Dr. Phil. If your immediate response was revulsion, this is not the book for you.

As it happens, Charlene hasn't been entirely truthful about the details of her own life. And because so many stories follow predictable and formulaic patterns, early on in this novel I thought I knew the story I was reading. I thought it would be one of those heart-warming tales of two lonely people finding love and community. And it was and it wasn't that. I was delighted that author Liz Moore surprised me at many turns, and her story didn't follow the predictable path. Not entirely. There were notable divergences that gave the novel additional substance.

Heft really is a novel full of heart with flawed characters it was easy to fall in love with. The tale moved quickly. The characters were very well-developed and believable. I remained engrossed throughout and was satisfied at the end. Heft is nothing more than a good story, but that's plenty enough for me.

1 comment:

  1. This sounds like a fun book. I haven't heard of it but the cover is attractive and your review makes it sound like a book I may enjoy.

    Although... I'm not sure whether to feel sorry or repulsed by Arthur. It probably depends on how it's approached.