Author: Liz Moore
Publisher: W.W. Norton
Release Date: 1-23-12
Former academic Arthur Opp weighs 550 pounds and hasn’t left his rambling Brooklyn home in a decade. Twenty miles away, in Yonkers, seventeen-year-old Kel Keller navigates life as the poor kid in a rich school and pins his hopes on what seems like a promising baseball career if he can untangle himself from his family drama. The link between this unlikely pair is Kel’s mother, Charlene, a former student of Arthur’s. After nearly two decades of silence, it is Charlene is unexpected phone call to Arthur a plea for help that jostles them into action. – Goodreads
Heft is written in two voices, that of Arthur, the obese shut-in and Kel, a financially strapped teenage baseball prodigy trying to fit in at a wealthy high school. Although their lives are very different on the surface, underneath they are both completely isolated. Arthur hasn’t left his apartment in ten years and retreats further and further into his life as each day passes. The high point of his life was a brief relationship with one of his college students, Charlene. The relationship, which cost him his job, was relatively brief, but after they stopped seeing each other they continued to write letters. This correspondence was a sort of pinnacle for Arthur and most of his thoughts of triumph and despair center around Charlene and what they almost had.
Charlene’s son, Kel, is the other voice in this story. He is the poor kid in a rich school who survives by demonstrating his impressive baseball talent and working hard to keep people at arms length. He goes home to misery each night and like any child of addiction, has too many adult worries for someone his age and alternates between hating and loving his mother. Kel’s voice will rip your heart right in two. His desperation to be loved and his longing for happier times is honestly written and feels very real. His coping mechanisms come in the form of self deprecating humor and a bravado that belies his lonely inner dialogue where you realize he is all too aware of the vast differences that separate him from his classmates.
At the core of this story is Charlene, who is a driving force for the intersection of Arthur and Kel’s lives which is interesting because although she is their biggest influence, we only know her through their individual relationships with her. She both destroys and resurrects these two men and she is never absent, even when she is gone. For both protagonists, love is something they crave but ultimately something they are afraid to ask for. Deep down, neither one believes they deserve it. They both try very hard to live an existence under the radar, hoping someone notices and dreading what will happen if they do. By the end you are desperate for Arthur and Kel to be happy and to find something in life to keep them afloat. I won’t tell you whether they find it, but I will say that, in my opinion, the journey inside this book is worth a thousand happy endings.
I received this ARC from the publisher in exchange for my honest review.