Marty's Reviews > The Weight of Heaven

The Weight of Heaven by Thrity Umrigar
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Jun 30, 09

bookshelves: readandloved, harpercollins, 2009
Read in May, 2009

I loved this book!

As a quick plot summary, Frank and Ellie, a couple who have lost their only child, move from Ann Arbor to India, where Frank takes a job running a factory for his company. On some level, Frank blames Ellie for their son's death. The couple's servants have a child, Ramesh, that Frank becomes very close to and functions almost as a replacement for the lost son.

One of the things I loved about this book was how flawed, yet understandable, the characters were. Frank made me angry throughout the book, with his behavior towards his wife, his racism, his complete blindness to other people's perspectives; despite all this, I understood where he was coming from, and he seemed like a real person. While I liked Ellie, sometimes she could be a little preachy and annoying - like a real person.

I also liked how Umrigar switched perspectives so that we heard the story from most of the main characters' point of view. Frank struck me as a bit of unreliable narrator - I was blown away by how clueless Frank was about how Ramesh's parents must feel about their relationship, how rude he was in inviting their child over for Christmas but not them. Because of this, it helped to see exactly where he was coming from, yet still get a reality-check perspective from Ellie and Prakesh. It also helped me to understand his frustation with the differences in culture and labor problems at his factory.

Much of the America-India dynamic in the book really made me think about what our country's place is in the world. I thought it was especially good to have Frank and Ellie arguing about things, as I could see both of their points.

I won't spoil the ending, but I loved it. I don't think I could have done what he did, but I could see myself wanting to and rationalizing everything that he did. It's an ugly part of myself that I makes me uncomfortable; reading this story was sort of a "safe" way for me to think about my own selfishness and narcissism.
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