Wednesday, January 18, 2012

The Weight of Heaven by Thrity Umrigar

This is the second of Umrigar`s books I have read and it had no less of a powerful effect than the first one, although they were totally different stories and set in entirely different countries.
When Ellie and Franks son Benny dies unexpectedly, their lives as one would imagine fall to pieces and in an attempt to help them grieve and rebuild, the Company Frank works for sends them to India, a country so vastly different to America that the culture shock alone is enough to set them on separate paths.
The narrative which is fast flowing and beautifully written takes you into the heart of a small village where nothing be it food, expectations and language are on a page that deviates as it is revealed through the eyes of each of its characters. Umrigar has a remarkably deft touch when it comes to drawing her characters and developing them, she takes them way back which backlights the story and gives it depth and you their prior story, she then brings them into the present, it is all so well linked that it flows, there is no jarring, no what happened here? It is a book that's centrifugal force is love,misunderstanding, secrets, lies, anger, resentment, manipulation and the corrosive power of unresolved grief, it can be very gritty in parts. The book deals very well with the unmasking of peoples prejudice, be American/Indian or Indian/Indian. Umrigar rises to the challenge of dealing with the implications of blame be it unspoken or spoken and shows how grief can really lead you down the path of destruction and havoc should you let it, at every major juncture her characters are called upon to make choices and to deal with the often unfair hand they are dealt.
We really see the power of the adage Blood is thicker than Water, she shows that powerful bonds and connections are not always  easily visible, neither are they readily breakable, love is a powerful force and it often works in ways that are not understood.
The powerful question that we would rather not hear is posed..Can wealth and privilege give you the right to trample down and overrule those who are less fortunate.. is it our right to replace a dead child with a living child who is attached to you but not biologically linked, can we assume that we know what is right, what is best? How well do we really know anyone? If we have power, how do we use it?
Love in its many forms is a keynote of this book and it resonates throughout. I liked all of the characters bar one that Umrigar peopled this book with, especially powerful was Frank whose unravelling takes the reader down  a totally unexpected path the consequences of which turn out to be a huge surprise.
This was a marvellous read and all of Umrigar`s Books are available through the Auckland Library System and through special order at Unity Books and other Indies, except for her latest they are all soft covers and cost $28, they are worth every cent.
I will be reading The Space Between Us and The World We Found(which is released here mid Feb in Trade PBK) but I am having a little breather and will be reading Alix and Nicky by Virgina Rounding and Stephen Davis` biography of Carly Simon.. Make Room in a Broken Heart.

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