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Summary and book reviews of The Weight of All Things by Sandra Benitez

The Weight of All Things

by Sandra Benitez

The Weight of All Things
  • Critics' Opinion:

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  • First Published:
    Feb 2001, 239 pages
    Paperback:
    Feb 2002, 239 pages

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About this Book

Book Summary

A novel about war -- and the lunacy of it -- seen through the eyes of a nine-year-old boy. Set in El Salvador. "A strong and provocative novel"

Sandra Benítez received international acclaim for her first two novels: A Place Where the Sea Remembers ("A quietly stunning work that leaves soft tracks in the heart." --The Washington Post Book World) and Bitter Grounds ("The kind of book that fills your dreams for weeks." --Isabel Allende). Now she returns with an unforgettable tale of life in war-torn El Salvador.

The Weight of all Things is a novel about war -- and the lunacy of it -- seen through the eyes of a nine-year-old boy. The battleground is El Salvador. The hero is Nicolás Veras. His story begins at the funeral of assassinated Archbishop Oscar Romero. Along with thousands of others, Nicolás and his mother have crowded into the plaza of the capital's cathedral to pay homage. When gunfire erupts, pandemonium ensues. With bullets flying in all directions, his mother throws herself atop Nicolás to protect him, and is killed. When medics arrive to take her body away, the boy believes she is only wounded. In the melée of the moment, he loses sight of her.

The attempt to find his mother begins an odyssey that leads from one peril to another. Nicolás searches through a merciless no-man's-land menaced by guerillas on the left and the army on the right. It is a search that ends in still another massacre, and a heroic gesture by the boy who comes to understand, as grown-ups seemingly cannot, that guns and violence are not the answer; that, in war, there are no winners, and that the ultimate losers are the innocent caught in the middle.

Chapter One

Later, after the bombs went off, after the monstrous black clouds they sent up dissipated in the gentle breeze, after the shooters, whoever they might have been, pocketed their stubby handguns and vanished into the crowd, after the police ceased returning fire and attempted instead, with their superior presence, to control a multitude run amuck, it would be clear it was a bullet to the head that killed her.

But for now, she was alive. Until the shooting, the crowd had filled the cathedral to overflowing; it had backed up against the doors, spilled down the broad steps and out into the plaza, where tens of thousands of El Salvador's faithful drove elbows and shoulders into each other, where but a dozen held umbrellas over their heads as a hedge against the sun, and the majority stood acceptingly in the heat, sweat staining half-moons under their arms and triangles over their breastbones. Everywhere there was the stale odor of humanity pressed together in mourning.

...

Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!
  1. The novel’s story is told through the eyes of Nicolás Veras, a nine-year-old Salvadoran boy. Do you think this point of view is effective? What do you think is gained by portraying the story this way? Would the story have been more powerful if told through the point of view of an adult?

  2. The concept of fate — the idea that events occur in our lives over which we have no control and that we must do the best we can to play with the cards we are dealt — is deeply embedded in Latin American culture. In what ways did Nicolás show he accepted his fate? And in what ways did he show he refused to accept his fate?

  3. When fate is unkind, many turn for help from a higher power. Nicolá...
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Reviews

Media Reviews
The New York Times

In this graceful and unabashedly tenderhearted novel, the politics behind the fighting is almost beside the point.

The New York Times

In this graceful and unabashedly tenderhearted novel, the politics behind the fighting is almost beside the point.

The Washington Post

Benitez spins a lyrically heart-rending tale of a 9 year-old-boy's confrontation with . . . the Salvadoran civil war . . . [the] story is . . . emblematically universal.

Author Blurb Oscar Hijuelos, author of Empress of the Splendid Season and The Mambo Kings Play Songs of Love
The Weight of All Things is a strong and provocative novel.

Author Blurb Sandra Scofield, author of A Chance to See Egypt
In this fierce novel, events are dramatized with such sensory perception and narrative pulse, the reader must gasp, then weep. Sandra Benítez imbues this tragic history with dignity and optimism, through the medium of the perfectly rendered scene. She is a novelist of great anger and greater love.

Author Blurb Sandra Scofield, author of A Chance to See Egypt
In this fierce novel, events are dramatized with such sensory perception and narrative pulse, the reader must gasp, then weep. Sandra Benítez imbues this tragic history with dignity and optimism, through the medium of the perfectly rendered scene. She is a novelist of great anger and greater love.

Author Blurb Mickey Pearlman, author of What to Read: The Essential Guide for Reading Group Members and Other Book Lovers
If your book club wants to know what to read this year, I wholeheartedly recommend The Weight of all Things. A lyrical parable about the folly of war set in 1980s El Salvador, it chronicles the experiences of a nine-year-old boy caught between battling factions as he searches for his mother. This odyssey is for all of us who are looking for 'a place where the river is wider and the water is not as deep.'

Author Blurb Katherine Weber, author of Objects in Mirror are Closer Than They Appear and The Music Lesson
The Weight of all Things, like Kosinski's The Painted Bird, illuminates and makes particular the horrors that people at war can inflict on a young boy. More than any report of events in El Salvador I have ever read, the story of Nicolás Veras and his terrible odyssey will stay with me.

Author Blurb Oscar Hijuelos, author of Empress of the Splendid Season and The Mambo Kings Play Songs of Love
The Weight of All Things is a strong and provocative novel.

Author Blurb Ana Veciana Suarez, author of The Chin Kiss King
Benítez does it again. From the first lyrical sentence to the last powerful scene, she draws us into a fascinating world of violence and love, death and redemption. What a read!

Reader Reviews
Avid Reader

Amazing Novel
Best story ever required for English! I actually enjoyed reading this novel. Benitez is an amazing writer!

Elaine

Weight of all things
I had to read this book for a English class. I found some parts of it good and others I didn't like. I don't like how some of the people are treated or how long it takes him to realize that his mother is dead. I love the cultural aspect for the plain...   Read More

Larissa

The Weight of All Things
I was forced to read this book for English. I skimmed most of it because it wasn't interesting. Its poorly written. Now I'm stuck writing an essay, and there are no essays online. If this was a good book there would've been more (good) reviews, ...   Read More

Kayla

Really?
I was forced to read the book for English class, of course nowadays most of my classmates just automatically assume the book is going to suck. I tried to remain on the positive side as our teacher handed us the books. I am almost all the way ...   Read More

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