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A Hard And Heavy Thing

3.99  ·  Rating details ·  139 Ratings  ·  31 Reviews
Top 10 First Novels of 2016--Booklist

2016 Great Group Reads Selection

Contemplating suicide after nearly a decade at war, Levi sits down to write a note to his best friend Nick, explaining why things have to come to this inevitable end. Years earlier, Levi--a sergeant in the army--made a tragic choice that led his team into ambush, leaving three soldiers dead and two badl
Paperback, 365 pages
Published January 1st 2016 by Gallery Books
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David Abrams
Jul 02, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Finally! A war novel that's less interested in bullets and bombs than it is the complicated inner lives of soldiers. In his brilliantly-observed and exquisitely-paced debut novel, Matthew Hefti has relegated the Iraq War to the background scenery, allowing us to concentrate on the actors standing in front of it. Sure, a harrowing bomb attack on a dusty road is the centerpiece of A Hard and Heavy Thing, but what really impressed me about the book were how the echoes from that bomb blast reached b ...more
Mel Schanz
Dec 16, 2015 rated it it was amazing
As much as I like to give myself 24 hours after finishing a book (even a horrible book, which this book is the opposite of) to write a review, in this case, I could not wait.

I fell in love with Nick and Levi from the moment they decided to drag Eris's lifeless body to the hospital instead of calling the ambulance. I know, I'm a hopeless romantic and the love-triangle storytelling is right up my alley, so I was easily caught up. But, right when it begins to heat up...BAM! we go to war. Not that I
Andria Williams
Aug 02, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
What a beautiful heartbreaker of a book. This one snuck up on me: I wasn't expecting to grow so invested in Levi and Nick. As the novel opens, they are just two 18-year-old kids hanging around (Levi: "we were young...listless, stoned, and blissfully dumb"). The September 11th attacks occur, and while the two men are still young, stoned, and dumb, Nick, the more thoughtful and morally inclined of the two, proposes to Levi that they join the Army. Levi goes along with this plan, perhaps because he ...more
Monica Hefti
Jul 07, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Absolutely perfect! It is beautiful and heartbreaking.
Feb 15, 2016 rated it it was amazing
wow. wow. what a phenomenal novel. i usually hate war stories, but i loved this one. it really packed a punch, and the emotion got to me. i couldn't put it down. would highly recommend.
Feb 15, 2016 rated it it was amazing
There are times when a book comes along that demands to be finished. At first you read a few pages in an attempt to commit. The book takes a few chapters to make its landing, but once it does, it grips your heart without letting go. That is how I felt reading Matthew J. Hefti’s book A Hard and Heavy Thing.

A Hard and Heavy Thing can be called a war novel, although in reality its more of a love note to a best friend. Contemplating suicide after a decade at war, Levi sits down to write a note to hi
Sarah Furger
Jan 30, 2016 rated it really liked it
This book was both hard and heavy - accurately titled. As I read this, I was aware that it was both for me and not for me. I was an intended audience in that this book described the experiences of a war that I can never understand, and yet it was not written for me for the same reason. I've been uncomfortable with novelizations of war, the wars in Iraq/Afghanistan especially for obvious reasons, but when I saw this book I thought I'd give it a go. It's beautifully written. The plot is well paced ...more
Pauline Rutschow
May 29, 2017 rated it it was ok
This was a very dark book, probably true to life, but depressing.
Jen Jones
Jun 15, 2017 rated it really liked it
4.5 stars. Love the literary style as well as the subject matter. Beautifully descriptions of some very ugly things.
Jun 04, 2017 rated it really liked it
Excellent book, a little dark, a little intense, definitely for the adult reader. In the end, it is essentially about forgiveness.
Eric Chandler
Jan 13, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Sometimes, as a kid, I asked my dad for advice. Should I pick path A or B?

He usually said this cryptic line: “Life is full of choices.”

I used to think, What the hell does that mean? Thanks a lot, old man.

Now I realize it was a gift. He forced me to focus on the question, not the answer. A Hard and Heavy Thing by Matthew J. Hefti is like that. His book raises tough questions from the point of view of the three main characters: Levi, Nick, and Eris. Once you understand how the narration jumps back
Michael  Berquist
Dec 19, 2015 rated it really liked it
I received "A Hard and Heavy Thing" as a First-Reads giveaway by goodreads in return for an honest review.

"We Joined in a Fit of Youth" is an apt introductory title for this mesmerizing debut. Levi and Nick are two best friends who join the U.S. Army in the wake of 9/11 and their own personal tragedies. Influenced by the media and their own naive perceptions of patriotism, the boys soon discover that the Afghan/Iraq war and its' aftermath, is indeed a hard and heavy thing to endure and escape f
Tari Lawson
Jun 25, 2017 rated it liked it
I read this book for my book club. It is not a book I would typically pick out. I did not like the way the author kept switching perspective from 1st to 3rd person. It took me about half the book to get used to it. The story itself was interesting enough to keep my attention to some degree. I must say though, that I did not particularly like the characters. However, I felt that Hefti (author) did a decent job of portraying them, especially the main character Levi. Levi is a self centered, drunk ...more
Jun 23, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: book-club
I read this book for my book club after it was recommended by a member who is an acquaintance of the author. This is not a book I would normally pick up on my own, but it is a book worth reading. I admit, I wasn't drawn to it like I am other books. There weren't moments that I couldn't put it down, and there were a few times when I wasn't really looking forward to picking it up, especially the combat sections where I felt so incredibly uninformed and ignorant. However, the second half of the boo ...more
Thomas Cannon
Mar 22, 2016 rated it it was amazing
This is a very original story. It is well-written and powerful. The scenes in country seemed real and gritty to me (I did not serve). Mr. Hefti let the story unfold and kept me wanting to read right up until the end. The main character is both a hero and an anti-hero and i believe this to be hard to pull off.

I also enjoyed the setting of the Lacrosse area and his Wisconsin bars. His characters seem like real people with real problems that do not get solved easily.
Jun 17, 2017 rated it it was amazing
It's a bittersweet story, chronicling the events that led two friends to join the army after 9/11. It doesn't glorify war. It illustrates the ugliness, regret, boredom, and scars of war. It's a suicide note that becomes a love letter. A friend desperately wants redemption and purpose, and this is his journey.
Laura Nickele
Dec 01, 2016 rated it it was amazing
"A suicide note turned love song."
Read it. Read it now.
Jan 16, 2017 added it
Shelves: dnf
I tried really hard to read this, but something about Hefti's narration-style kept throwing me. I'll give it another shot in the future, but for now, I'm marking as did not finish.
Mar 31, 2016 rated it really liked it
rounding up to 4 stars, I cried but it wasn't too sappy
Jun 18, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is the 31st book I've read this year and it is in the top 3 of my favorites. Excellent book. Really enjoyed it.
Charlie Sherpa
Jul 19, 2016 rated it it was amazing
In his debut novel, former U.S. Air Force bomb technician Matthew J. Hefti delivers a carefully observed, intricate exploration of interconnections among three Wisconsin friends before, during, and after a deployment to Iraq.

Two friends, Levi and Nick, find themselves at war, and there's a girl back home, too—Eris, the boys' personal goddess of discord. The book is written from the perspective of Levi, and the reader must constantly triangulate to new information and insights about the narrator,
Susan Emmet
Jul 11, 2016 rated it it was amazing
This is a hard and heavy book, a stellar book.
Levi and Nick are bound by their small town lives and Eris and both set out to become men. Army men. Levi serves in Iraq and Afghanistan - multiple tours - and rescues gravely wounded Nick from a burning Humvee. The burning is partly Levi's fault.
Weighed down by guilt, by medal recognition he feels he doesn't deserve, by the loving concern of his parents and siblings, Levi fights truth, he juggles truths, trying to figure out why he has become a shel
This is a story about those left behind by war. It just so happens to be that instead of the family left behind it is about the man that was at war who one days finds himself left behind. How he attempts to pick up the pieces after his combat days are over. A story where the young man finds out that although he might have left the war, he now finds himself in a different type of with enemy soldiers, but with his own personal demons and his feelings about himself. Novels like this do ...more
Amy Lutzke
Nov 14, 2016 rated it did not like it
I really wanted to like this book but unfortunately did not. The somewhat strange narrative device of having the narrator tell the story, which is supposed to be a letter, in the 3rd person and then interject comments in the first person was confusing until I got used to it. The biggest problem I had was that the characters are not well-drawn. I didn't know them any better at the end of the book than I did at the beginning and I had no reason to care about them based on the little information th ...more
May 19, 2016 rated it really liked it
Another excellent 9/11-genre book following the pre- and post- lives of three best friends and lovers. Explores the emotions and ramifications of societal trauma and angst in the wake of that world-changing day. This book will demand your respect and appreciation for the young men (and women) who reacted, much in the same fashion, I suspect, as Americans did following Pearl Harbor, as well as shining a light on how we accept those that return(ed) from the conflict.
Steve Tripp
Apr 07, 2016 rated it it was ok
Shelves: war, gen-fiction
A well written, well characterized book about the aftereffects of serving in the "modern day" wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Unfortunately the story got far too preachy and irrelevant as the book wore on. I took a chance on this one because the teaser grabbed me as I browsed at the library but it was ultimately a disappointing choice.
Heavy Heavy with Emotion and Guilt

I don't know why but I was not rooting for Levi to be saved, maybe because the way he introduced himself...or some of his jackass behavior? The end was really confusing I didn't get it. Somewhere along the way..during the storytelling of the war. I got tired of the gloom and doom. Ramblings..
Lee Parker
Jan 21, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: first-reads
I received a copy of this for free through Goodreads First Reads

I loved how this was a book about war, but it also depicted the emotional strain on family left behind by soldiers. This was an exceptional book that I couldn't put down. I live in a military town, so I know quite a few soldiers, and I feel like this is an extremely accurate novel about how soldiers really feel.
Ed White
Mar 01, 2016 rated it it was ok
I gave up on this about 80 pages in. I couldn't find anything particularly appealing about the narrator and had no great affinity to his friend. I also didn't like the narrative method, constantly broken by editorials even though it was a first person tale.
Lauren Wild
Mar 11, 2016 rated it liked it
I found it difficult to engage emotionally with this post-traumatic tale. Which may have been the point.
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“I expected to be happy, but let me tell you something. Anticipating happiness and being happy are two entirely different things. I told myself that all I wanted to do was go to the mall. I wanted to look at the pretty girls, ogle the Victoria's Secret billboards, and hit on girls at the Sam Goody record store. I wanted to sit in the food court and gorge on junk food. I wanted to go to Bath and Body Works, stand in the middle of the store, and breathe. I wanted to stand there with my eyes closed and just smell, man. I wanted to lose myself in the total capitalism and consumerism of it all, the pure greediness, the pure indulgence, the pure American-ness of it all. I never made it that far. I didn't even make it out of the airport in Baltimore with all its Cinnabons, Starbucks, Brooks Brothers, and Brookstones before realizing that after where we'd been, after what we'd seen, home would never be home again.” 5 likes
“Worry only about what you control. The rest is war.” 4 likes
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