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The Weight of a Human Heart

3.87  ·  Rating details ·  339 ratings  ·  67 reviews
"You will be astounded by the hugeness ofhis heart, and by the breadth and depth of his vision. O'Neill is a writer of limitless imagination." Hector Tobar, author of The Barbarian Nurseries

Ranging from Australiaand Africa to Europe andAsia and back again,The Weight of a Human Heartheralds a fresh and important new voice in fiction. Ryan O'Neill takes us on a journey that
Hardcover, 240 pages
Published July 16th 2013 by St. Martin's Press (first published April 26th 2012)
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Average rating 3.87  · 
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Joachim Stoop
Mar 13, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites

325 ratings? Now that's undeserved!

Of course it's impossible to give a perfect score to a story collection: especially if it contains 21 stories.
But I want readers to notice: this is a very versatile, funny, brilliant, humane, playful collection.
I find this very underrated. I guess you can fault it by sometimes trying too hard to be inventive (especially in form and typography) and in being a 'creative writer course'-book, but at least he tries to come up with something unique.
For lovers of
Jul 08, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: first-reads
I should start of by saying I am pretty picky about my short story authors. It is a rare author that really constructs the short story in a manner that I can really get into for an entire book, not just one or two stories. O'Niell is a real master. This is a compilation that had me doing the reading while walking version of a driveway moment (getting to my destination and not going into the store until I had finished the story I was working on).
His stories are varied and playful in voice and
T.D. Whittle
Feb 02, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: reviews, australia-nz
This is a generous collection of perfect gems. It’s the first I’ve read of Ryan O’Neill’s writing, and I am now a fan. These stories are vibrant, fresh, and poignant. I laughed out loud, even in the midst of sad tales, where laughter was the last response I had expected from myself. What I love most about this collection is that, while O’Neill has a deft and clever touch with traditional narrative, post-modern send-ups, and meta perspective points-of-view — making it look easy to bounce between ...more
James Tierney
May 26, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Like a pack of cards consisting almost entirely of jokers but shuffled with a brace of barbed wire, O'Neill's collection is funny, adventurous, carelessly genre-hopping and occasionally deeply effecting.
The best stories marry the author's natural inventiveness to a heart and are a precise marriage of form and content.
'The Weight of a Human Heart' announces to a broader readership a very considerable talent.

'Collected Stories'
'The Cockroach'
'Four Letter Words'
'Last Words'
Rachel Bridgeman
Aug 11, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: august
All of these stories represent the brilliant, chameleonlike writing abilities of a master craftsman. It takes skill and ingenuity to vacillate between wringing alternate emotions from a reader which is what he did here. From complicated family relationships to explorations of the words we casually use, ignoring their essential meaning to the horror of genocide, all of human life is captured here in these pages. Life, death, birth, love , all are put under the microscope of Ryan O'Neill's keen ...more
Morteza Bahrami
Sep 05, 2019 rated it liked it
Considering I am not a native English reader, it's a fluent and enjoyable read. The most important facet is the form. Themes although are sad. Definitely above 3.
Jul 23, 2013 rated it really liked it
Across the board this is a pretty strong short story collection. Two things I liked in particular were that his stories had satisfying endings that didn't leave you hanging and some of the stories were tremendously creative - one in the form of an school examination and another driven entirely by footnotes. My only complaint is that the author seems to have an overt focus on genocide, in particular the Hutus and the Tutsis in in Rwanda. An author gets to choose what they write about but I would ...more
Jun 29, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2018
So almost 5 stars! Some (arguably most) of the stories in this collection are brilliant, often devastating, and sharply written. My favourite has to be 'The Cockroach', a horrifying story told from the protective innocence of a child, followed closely by 'Collected Stories' which is the first one I read (but kept going back to).

Books and/or language are the main themes across all stories, which I mostly really liked, although there is an occasional feeling of superiority in the writing - an
Apr 27, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 4-star
Experimental Short Stories
I don't often read short story collections but this one grabbed my attention, as in the blurb it mentioned both China and Rwanda - so well - I sort of had to.
I loved the stories at first - original and carefully crafted, using all types of techniques, which I would never have thought possible. I laughed out loud at places, opened my mouth in shock and simply couldn't put it down. However, by the end I felt that they all kept meeting the same overall themes and it became
Leigh Mellish
May 21, 2017 rated it liked it
I still wouldn't say that I like short story collections, but this one at least has a few treasures.
Amie Wilson
I received a free copy of this book from GoodReads for early review.

Each story in this collection had a unique style, and although some other reviewers found this gimmicky, I thought it was clever and playful. So many of these stories looked at heavy, difficult subjects such as: the crumbling of a marriage communicated via graphs and charts ("Figures in a Marriage"); a child recalling the death of his whole family during the Rwandan genocide, shared through a written school exam ("The
Michael Livingston
After the first two stories I was totally knocked out by the, but the longer the collection went on, the more I tired of the tricksiness of O'Neill's stories (a story told in figures, one in book reviews, one via footnotes, one with typographical quirks and so on and so on). O'Neill is clearly smart, funny and a hugely capable writer, but I found myself wanting more heart to the stories and less novelty.
Jul 30, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The most amazing collection of short stories i have read in a long time. Every story is perfectly formed with some great exercises in style. If you read short stories you must read this book, if you don't then you must!
Feb 01, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Explorations in form and style and some really intriguing plots. This is an excellent collection of original short stories, thoroughly enjoyed.
Jun 15, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Short stories are one of my favourite reading experiences. This by far is one of the most unique, obscure and utterly surprising collections I have read in a long time.
May 30, 2013 marked it as to-read
Shelves: first-reads
I think this will be a terrific book! I'm looking forward to getting it and reading it.
Tom O’Connell
Jun 20, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
First, a confession: I’m not a huge fan of experimental literary forms. Nine times out of ten, as I see it, they come off cheap and gimmicky. Maybe that’s an unfair assessment, but many writers seem to play with form just so their work will stand out. To me, it seems like these writers are unsure of themselves. Maybe they feel their work isn’t capable of grabbing readers’ attentions on its own merits so they dress their stories up in clever framing devices. I know that sounds harsh; I’m sure ...more
Louise (A Strong Belief in Wicker)
I've never been much of a short story reader but The Weight of a Human Heart has changed that for me. I picked this up on a whim at Newcastle Writer's Festival a few months ago and sped through it soon after. I've picked up a few short story collections in the past few months and I'm looking forward to reading them. Not every story was a 5 star read for me, but some most definitely were, and the excitement the collection gave me for short stories certainly is.

3 1/2 stars. The title story packs a real wallop; and several others are very clever and amusing. There are some fairly dark stories as well. As a collection I enjoyed it, and will definitely read other titles by this writer
Faraday Adams
Jun 11, 2017 rated it really liked it
Very enjoyable, delightfully creative. Started to get a bit repetitive at the 70% mark.
Amy (Lost in a Good Book)
In this collection of short stories Ryan O'Neill "redefines the boundaries of what is possible" to quote Patrick Cullen's quote on the front cover. And it is completely true. I saw things in this book I did not even know was allowed in writing until now, and the fact that they are has changed the way I think about what books are capable of.

The beauty of all of O'Neill's stories is that they seem to start so innocently, and in the space of a few pages can change your mood completely, whether to
Larry H
Oct 07, 2013 rated it liked it
ince rediscovering short stories about 15 years ago (for the longest time I didn't like them because I didn't like getting invested in stories that end so quickly), I've read the work of many different authors and seen all types of short stories, from the straightforward to the gimmicky. Ryan O'Neill's collection, The Weight of a Human Heart, combines both characteristics, and the end result is as you might expect from the meshing of the two styles, at times powerful and moving, and at times ...more
Kavita Das
Sep 24, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Ryan O'Neill's collection of short stories, The Weight of a Human Heart,is a revelation. I've often found that short story collections are either emotionally resonant and satisfying or clever and inventive. But this collection is the rare one that finds a way to move the genre forward in interesting ways while still delivering stories filled with beautifully realized characters, scenes, and settings. Most of the stories take place in Australia and feature a diverse cast of characters and I ...more
Julie Griffin
Jun 07, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: first-reads
This book of short stories is one of the most astounding works I have read in a long time. It is almost, um, Hemingway-esque (literally, in some instances) in its focus on stories as a way to reach us, before writers became academics and short stories in particular became instruments for interior navel-gazing. O'Neill takes us to Rwanda, Australia, war zones both physical and marital, in this breath-taking collection. There is plenty of crafts work in this volume, too--O'Neil invites us to play ...more
Rowena Tylden-Pattenson
I wish I could give this 5*, and I certainly would for 70% of the book. There were just a few stories that weren't /quite/ as good as the rest though, which means I have to mark this down a little bit. The rest though, stunning.

I am not really one for picking up short story books normally, preferring longer things- but perhaps, that's because I've never actually really done so in the first place. Now I've read this, I really, really am glad that I have, because I absolutely whizzed through it,
Kari Lynn Mackey
Jun 15, 2013 rated it it was ok
Shelves: shorts
Disclosure: I received a free copy of The Weight of A Human Heart by Ryan O'Neill courtesy of St. Martin's Press, via GoodReads First Reads.

The short stories in O'Neill's collection The Weight of a Human Heart are for the most part overly focused on stylistic literary experimentation rather than on narrative or character development. This feels more like a self-assigned exercise in composition than any sort of enjoyable experience for the reader. A select few of the stories, notably "Africa was
Jeanne Halloran
Dec 27, 2013 rated it it was ok
The short stories were way to existential for my taste, I read about half of them. The author seems opposed to giving the reader any hope in life, all seems to be for vain. There is no glimmer of hope, no morsel of happiness, each story is a different view on the hopelessness of existence. My personal experience is that life has joys and sufferings, there is always room for hope. Perhaps the author finds it entertaining to paint such a dark picture story after story. I would rather spend my ...more
Jul 07, 2014 rated it really liked it
This is the first book of short stories I've read and loved it. Each story was engaging and well ended, a problem I've had with short stories in the past. O'Neill puts his characters all over the world, but the stories set in Rwanda are particularly moving. And the relationships that O'Neill is able to develop in 10 pages have the depth of much longer stories - his use of language is both descriptive and concise in a way that brings you into the story immediately and holds you with an emotional ...more
Marc Jackson
Sep 11, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: short-stuff
This is a pretty strong collection of short stories. Some were a little too cute for me, reading more like some sort of egotistical show of technical academics. For the most part though the characters are strong and the writing is very good.

Many of these stories will leave you with a heaviness in your heart and stomach but these are the ones that are truly the moat powerful.

If you like short stories as a genre or want to read some excellent examples, check out this collection. It's definitely
May 03, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This was absolutely lovely. I am not a literary critic, so I won't try to be here, but his stories are wonderful to read. In this collection, he uses several different styles to tell his stories, and they are a delight. Figures in a Marriage was wonderful to me, because I hadn't bothered to take the time to imagine that a story could truly be told in a series of charts. A Story in Writing was delightfully self aware once I muddled through to the end. Four Letter Words was also quite fun.

I truly
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Ryan O'Neill was born in Scotland, and lived and worked in Lithuania, Rwanda and China before settling in NSW, Australia.

His short stories have appeared in numerous anthologies and journals including Meanjin, Westerly, New Australian Stories, Sleepers Almanac and Best Australian Stories. He is also a fiction editor for Etchings.

Ryan's short story collection, The Weight of a Human Heart, is