Joyce's Reviews > Heft

Heft by Liz Moore
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Aug 18, 12

bookshelves: contemporary-fiction
Read in August, 2012

In the novel Heft, the author Liz Moore weaves together the stories of a mother and son and a man named Arthur Opp who weighs 500 pounds plus and has become a recluse. Years before when he was still functioning in the outside world, he developed a friendship with a young woman named Charlene Turner. She went no further with her college but kept in touch with Arthur for several years through correspondence. The story begins with Arthur receiving a letter from Charlene asking him to help her 17 year old son. The existence of this son comes as a surprise because she had never mentioned her son in her letters to him. However, Arthur has also been dishonest in his correspondence with her never telling her about leaving his job as college professor and ending up a recluse because of his weight. He has written her falsehoods making it appear he was living a normal life. The arrival of this letter begins a transformation in Arthur's life which begins with him hiring a 19 year old Hispanic girl to clean up his house which he has allowed to become a disaster inside. They form a friendship and she begins to draw him out of the lifestyle he had imposed on himself. During the years since Arthur last saw Charlene, not only has she had a son but has also deteriorated into a non-functioning alcholic after developing lupus and ends up committing suicide near the end of the novel. Despite her failures, she has managed to raise her son Kel on her own since Kel's father left when Kel was 4 years old. Kel has a love-hate relationship with her, loving her but also despising and deeply ashamed of her behavior and their home. Kel has excelled in athletics but his life falls apart after his mother attempts to commit suicide and eventually dies in the hospital. In the end, he does reach out to Arthur because of Arthur's contact with his mother. By this time, Arthur has begun to lose weight and has planned his first social function in at least 10 years. The author alternates between writing the novel from Arthur's point of view and Kel's point of view. She does a good job of developing their characters but never does give the reader much insight into Charlene. I was very disappointed in the end because it completely left the reader dangling as to the outcome of Arthur and Kel meeting. I felt there were some definite loose ends in the story.
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