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.
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.
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