Heft: A Novel by Liz Moore
Release date: 2012 / 368 pages
Synopsis(from Amazon): 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 difficult family life. 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’s unexpected phone call to Arthur—a plea for help—that shatters their isolation…
Review: I have gradually started moving away from fiction lately — getting impatient within the first few pages of a novel, unable to enjoy lighter reads that I used to love. But Heft appeared on too many “best of” lists to ignore so I packed it in my 49 pound suitcase — despite being both hardcover and a library book — and am so glad I did. I devoured it during our 6 hour layover in Miami and now wholeheartedly agree with the lavish praise.
On the surface, Heft might seem to be a bit unappealing or at least challenging. One protagonist is a morbidly obese former professor who never leaves his house and may or may not have had an inappropriate relationship with a former student. Another is a self-destructive single mother of a teenage boy who deserves much better. But Moore creates — within the first page — such a fascinating, empathetic character in Arthur that this reader (admittedly not currently drawn to fiction) wanted to get to know him better immediately.
And the teenage boy is spot on perfect. As someone who taught teenage boys for 15 years, I can verify that Moore creates the very best, completely authentic voice for this character who shines not only in his own fictional life, but in the true world of the reader. And, as if two incredible characters are not enough, even the most minor characters are beautifully wrought and imminently memorable.
For anyone who has become disenfranchised with fiction lately, give Moore’s Heft a try! Unfortunately, I cannot give away my library’s copy, but I strongly recommend checking it out.