When Frank and Ellie Benton lose their only child, seven-year-old Benny, to a sudden illness, the perfect life they had built is shattered. Filled with wrenching memories, their Ann Arbor home becomes unbearable, and their marriage founders. But an unexpected job half a world away offers them an opportunity to start again. Life in Girbaug, India, holds promiseand perilwhen Frank befriends Ramesh, a bright, curious boy who quickly becomes the focus of the grieving man's attentions. Haunted by memories of his dead son, Frank is consumed with making his family righta quest that will lead him down an ever-darkening path with stark repercussions.
Filled with satisfyingly real characters and glowing with local color, The Weight of Heaven is a rare glimpse of a family and a country struggling under pressures beyond their control. In a devastating look at cultural clashes and divides, Umrigar illuminates how slowly we recover from unforgettable loss, how easily good intentions can turn evil, and how far a person will go to build a new world for those he loves.
The book does lose a bit of steam in the middle, when Umrigar inserts two oddly placed flashbacks ... In addition, the book contains overt political statements that for the most part seem out of place and one-sided ... Those are minor quibbles, however. Overall The Weight of Heaven is very well written and exceptionally engaging. While the topics addressed are heavy, the book is actually a very fast read; readers will be hooked from the first page. Those who are not afraid to tackle a book that deals with such heartbreaking circumstances will find it a rewarding novel rich with complexities. (Reviewed by Kim Kovacs).
Elle Magazine - Corrie Pikul
Umrigar loads her characters (especially Frank) with so much psychological baggage that it can be hard to emotionally connect with them. But .... we're pulled along by the intensity of this sweepingly cinematic story.
Cleveland Plain Dealer - Ellen Emry Heltzel
Although her writing occasionally sags into cliche and the commonplace, her observations are dispassionate and astute enough to deliver at both levels. This is a morality tale tuned to our times.
Christian Science Monitor - Yvonne Zipp
There are a few generic opening pages that rely too much on worn out expressions of grief ...
But then Umrigar really gets going, and the clichés get brushed off like barnacles on a fast-moving ship. Twisty, brimming with dark humor and keen moral insight, The Weight of Heaven packs a wallop on both a literary and emotional level.
Umrigar beautifully illuminates how human relationships are complicated by cultural, geographical, and class divides.
Not as unified as Umrigar's previous novels...but an unflinching portrait of parental bereavement.
Umrigar finely plumbs the depths of the human heart, from the heights of joy and passion to the very deepest despair.
Umrigar establishes herself as a singularly gifted storyteller.
Starred Review. The Weight of Heaven is a bold, beautifully rendered tale of cultures that clash and coalesce.
Recent Reader Reviews
Rated of 5
by Kathryn Great Book Club Selection Fans of Umrigar will not be disappointed. The Weight of Heaven
is a beautifully written story about an American couple suffering the loss of their only child, Hoping to find some some comfort and closure, Frank and Ellie move to India where he... Read More
According to the
Department of State, India's population is estimated at more than 1.2 billion and
is growing at
1.6% a year. It has the world's 12th largest economy - and the third largest in
Asia behind Japan and China - with total GDP in 2008 of around $1.2 trillion (which, to put it in context, is less than the USA's budget deficit in 2009).
Although India occupies only 2.4% of the world's land area, it supports over
15% of the world's population. Only China has a larger population. India's
median age is 25, one of the youngest among large economies. About 70% live in
more than 550,000 villages, and the remainder in more than 200 towns and cities.
Services, industry and agriculture account for 55%, 27% and 18% of GDP
respectively. Nearly two-thirds of the population depends on agriculture for its
livelihood. 700 million Indians live on $2 per day or less, but there is a large
and growing middle class of more than 50 million Indians with disposable incomes
ranging from 200,000 to 1,000,000 rupees per year...
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