Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Book Review: The Weight of Heaven by Thrity Umrigar

A few weeks ago I realized that one of my favorite authors, Thrity Umrigar, had written a new book - The Weight of Heaven. I have read two of Umrigar's other books - If Today be Sweet and The Space Between Us. I really enjoyed both of them, but The Space Between Us is one of my favorites.

The Weight of Heaven tells the story of Frank and Ellie Benton whose only child, 7 year old Benny, has died from a sudden catastrophic illness. In the wake of Benny's death, Frank is offered a job in far off India and he and Ellie decide that a change of scenery may help them navigate their profound grief and remove them from painful memories. Being in India does seem to help Frank and Ellie move forward with their lives, but Frank's burgeoning friendship with Ramesh, a bright and engaging boy, threatens to destroy the fragile balance Frank and Ellie have managed to recreate for themselves.

The Weight of Heaven is written in four parts. Book 1 takes place in the present and deals heavily with Frank's job in a big American corporation that has opened a facility in Girbaug, India and the ramifications the company has on the local villagers. This part of the story has a subtle political tone, which is usually something I don't like. Thankfully, the political undertones are mild, but I typically do not enjoy these types of stories. I decided to stick with the book, however, because I have so enjoyed Umrigar's other books. And I'm really glad, because Books 2 and 3 go back in time and deal with the time period before Benny's death when Frank and Ellie were living in Ann Arbor, Michigan. This part of the story was much more interesting to me and more of what I was expecting. Book 4 takes the reader back to India in the time period just following the opening of the book. Gone is the political content and the story deals with the unfolding human drama. Again, this is more to my liking. The Weight of Heaven is one of those books that gets more interesting the further you get into it. It's not my favorite of Umrigar's books, but it's a good solid read. It's not a book I will be recommending to everyone who will listen (like The Help and The Gargoyle), but if someone was interested in reading it I would not discourage them. I would give it 3 STARS (I liked it). *

*I've decided to add a RATING SYSTEM to all the books I review here. I will use the same rating system used by Goodreads, so ALL the books I read (whether I review them here or simply list them on Goodreads) will be rated on the same system.

1 STAR Didn't like it (most likely I didn't even finish it)
2 STARS It was OK
3 STARS Liked it
4 STARS Really liked it
5 STARS It was amazing

Image from Google images


Anita said...

Thanks for the review Pam. I too am now using the goodreads ratings when I review a book.........great policy, and easy to remember. I'll probably skip this book, so many other great ones I want to read.

Midlife Jobhunter said...

I need some summer reading suggestions like Bridge of Sighs. I've thinking Pat Conroy is not coming through with a new one. Love Alice Hoffman and Anne Tyler. Any suggestions?

Tammy Howard said...

Rating system is a good idea!

Pam said...

Jobhunter - OK, I've come up with a couple of authors for you to try. Jodi Picoult, Elizabeth Berg, Sandra Dallas, Anita Shreve and Sue Miller. All have several books. Hopefully something will grab your interest. If you are looking for something a little "heavier" and not necessarily a beach read - I recommend Snow Flower and the Secret Fan by Lisa See, Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen or A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini. All excellent books. Good luck. Let me know if you find anything good.

Sue Jackson said...

I really loved The Space Between Us, too, and so did my entire book group. Did you see my review when you visited my blog?

I didn't know she had a new book out - I'll definitely look for this one.


Hena said...

I enjoyed Umrigar's storytelling, even though some aspeccts of the book didn't sit well with me. I found it to be a compelling book, and will recommend it for our book club.

Jennifer, Snapshot said...

Hmmm. I loved this book (I loved the Help too), but this is one that I was really excited about. It was the first I had read of Thrity Umrigar, but on your recommendation, I'm definitely going to try the Space Between Us.


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