Feb 9, 2010

The Weight of Heaven by Thrity Umrigar

Thrity Umrigar's The Weight of Heaven is a heavy with grief, emptiness, and struggle.  The Bentons (Ellie and Frank) lose their son, Benny, at age seven from meningococcus.  Ellie has liberal leanings politically and is a therapist to clients in Ann Arbor, Mich., while Frank is a proud, American business executive with residual issues of abandonment.  The loss of a child can be daunting for any family, and it is clear how grief of this magnitude can slowly rip a family apart.

"And now they were two.  Benny was gone.  What was left behind was mockery -- objects and memories that mocked their earlier, smug happiness.  Benny was gone, an airplane lost behind the clouds, but he left behind a trail of smoke a mile long:"  (Page 2)

As this American couple struggles with the loss of their son, Ellie and Frank embark on a new life in India when Frank is transferred to a new HerbalSolutions factory.  The distance between them had gaped wide by this point, and both hope that the experience will help them repair their relationship and bring them closer to one another.  However, in rural India with its impoverished population, Frank and Ellie find that their values change and their current circumstances and grief dictate their reactions to one another, their servants, the local community, and other expatriates.

"Now she was trying to control the sway of her hips, trying hard to resist the tug of the pounding drums that were making her lose her inhibitions, making her want to dance manically, the way she used to in nightclubs when she was in her teens.  But that was the beauty of the dandiya dance -- it celebrated the paradoxical joy of movement and restraint, of delirium within a structure.  This was not about individual expression but about community."  (Page 220)

Readers will be absorbed by the local community and its traditions, the struggles of the Benton's servants, and the stark beauty of India.  But what really makes this novel shine is the characters and their evolution from idealistic college students and young parents to a grief-stricken and dejected married couple in a foreign nation.  The tension between Frank and Ellie is personified in the dichotomous views each character reveals to the reader about the Indian community from the lax work environment and labor disputes at Frank's factory to the deep-rooted sense of community and communion with nature shown through Ellie's interactions with individuals at a local clinic.

The Weight of Heaven is more than a novel about grief; it is about how grief can distort perception and push people to make life-changing decisions that can broaden their horizons and transform them forever.  Umrigar's prose is poetic and full of imagery that paints a vivid picture of India and its rural community and its city life in Mumbai/Bombay.  Class differences, the struggles of American expatriates, grief, death, and marital woes are explored deftly in this novel, and it is clearly one of the best novels of 2010.

To win 1 copy of The Weight of Heaven; this giveaway is international:

1.  Leave a comment about what nation you would move to or have moved to.
2.  Blog, Tweet, Facebook, etc. about the giveaway.

Deadline Feb. 19, 2010, 11:59PM EST

About the Author:

Thrity Umrigar is the author of three other novels—The Space Between Us, If Today Be Sweet, and Bombay Time—and the memoir First Darling of the Morning. A journalist for 17 years, she is the winner of the Nieman Fellowship to Harvard University and a 2006 finalist for the PEN/Beyond Margins Award. An associate professor of English at Case Western Reserve University, Umrigar lives in Cleveland.

This is my 9th book for the 2010 New Authors Challenge.

This is my 1st book for the 2010 South Asian Authors Challenge.

If you are interested in The Weight of Heaven, please check out the rest of the blog tour.

FTC Disclosure:  I received a free copy of The Weight of Heaven from the publisher and TLC Book Tours for review.  Clicking on title and image links will go to my Amazon Affiliate page; No purchase necessary, though appreciated to fund international giveaways.


Bcteagirl said...

If I felt I could learn the language, I would love to move to Italy. :)

Bcteagirl said...


teagirl1 at telus dot net

Margie said...

I would like to live in Mexico, along the ocean...probably Puerto Vallarta.
mtakala1 AT yahoo DOT com

amanda18228 said...

I recently moved to Canada. I would love to live in France.
amandarwest at gmaildotcom

Linda said...

Hard to imagine living in another country. Perhaps I could handle England, since I already know the language. Thanks for the giveaway.

bermudaonion said...

I'll be reading this soon, so I'm really glad to see this will probably make your favorites list this year. No need to enter me.

rhapsodyinbooks said...

I would pick Canada or Italy!

Please enter me.

nbmars AT yahoo DOT com

Scrappy Cat said...

This sounds like a wonderful book and your review is excellent - definitely makes me want to read it. I would love to move to Canada, except for the cold.

csgebhart at gmail dot com

Melanie said...

Does it count that I moved from the midwest to the South? Some days it feels like another country. My first choice would probably be England because of climate and language, but I think any industrialized nation would be fun to try.

Anna said...

Wow, this sounds really good. I love reading about other cultures and people's reactions to them.

I will post this giveaway in my sidebar.

Diary of an Eccentric
diaryofaneccentric at hotmail dot com

Violet said...

I have another book by this author, The space between us, but it has been in my TBR pile for a long time.

Glad to know you loved the book. It does sound good.

P.S: Dont enter me. It would not be fair as I still haven't read the book I already have.

Susan Helene Gottfried said...

No need to enter me, darling. I'm dropping in to say thanks for the e-mail. I've got this posted at Win a Book for you.

Anna said...

To answer the question, I'd move to somewhere in Europe. No idea where since I haven't been there yet, but it's my dream.

Diary of an Eccentric

Kristen said...

I am so looking forward to this one! I loved her The Space Between Us.

Don't worry about entering me; I already have a copy. :-)

trish said...

"But what really makes this novel shine is the characters and their evolution from idealistic college students and young parents to a grief-stricken and dejected married couple in a foreign nation."

I love this sentence! I love when authors can really follow a character and slowly change the person. It's such a gift to be able to not only write about that but imagine the change slowly happening over a period of years.

Great review, Serena! Thanks for being on the tour!

Zibilee said...

No need to enter me in the contest, as I am also on the tour. I loved your review and am glad the book was such a good read for you. I thought it was excellent as well and thought there was a great tension in the storyline, particularly in the final sections. I think Umrigar did a wonderful job in morphing Frank's character from company and family man into something far more malevolent. This is my first visit here...I will be stopping by again soon!

J.T. Oldfield said...

Well, I didn't really *move* there, but I did spend a summer studying in England!

Please enter me!


J.T. Oldfield said...

here's my tweet:



Amy said...

I would love to live in Ireland or Italy!

Thank you for hosting this wonderful giveaway!

Aimala127 AT gmail DOT com

Charleydog said...

I love books where the story is based in India.
I would move to Bermuda - constant sun and warmth. Sure beats eastern Ontario in winter.
pboylecharley AT hotmail DOT com

Mystica said...

I love India, maybe its the proximity to Sri Lanka but totally different! I love the cultures of India so varied its bewildering.

Thank you for offering this book. It sounds a wonderful read


Staci said...

Sounds like a fantastic book and I really need to read this one!!

Sue said...

I would love to move to Italy, or Australia... Thanks for the giveaway.

s.mickelson at gmail dot com

buddyt said...

Many years ago (in my youth) I moved to Germany to learn to speak German and stayed there for 3 years.

Then wanting to learn to speak French, I tried to get a job in France or Switzerland but couldn't but was offered one in Montreal, Canada, so moved there for 3 years.

If I could I would have kept on moving around but family obligations brought me back home and a wife and 2 kids has kept me here !

buddytho {at} gmail DOT com

Jess - A Book Hoarder said...

I would definitely move to Italy if I could...or Germany. Great giveaway, I am posting about it in my sidebar.


avalonne83 said...

I'd choose Spain.
Great giveaway!

Please count me in. Thanks.

avalonne83 [at] yahoo [dot] it

Iliana said...

According to me, I think I could easily adjust to living in quite a lot of other countries. Well, I did move to the States when I was 7 and that was a big adjustment.. Had to learn the language, missed my family, etc. I think now that I've traveled quite a bit as an adult it might be easier. If I could move somewhere else it'd probably be Germany. I love it there.

Thanks for hosting the giveaway. I have heard so many good things about this book. I'm keeping my fingers crossed :)

Anonymous said...

I'd love to move to England...I'd be a very happy camper.

fizzybeverage at gmail dot com

I still have to read The Space Between Us, but I'm looking forward to reading both books!

Michelle (su[shu]) said...

Would love to be entered for this giveaway.

I was born and raised in Malaysia, but for the past 4 years or so, I've been living in New Zealand with my immediate family. I'm going to be moving back to Malaysia soon, and it's been an interesting transition, because NZ is quite distinctly western, and Malaysia is a very multiculturally eastern.

I'd love to go to Japan some day, and if possible spend a few years there to fully absorb the culture. =)



dsandyboy said...

I'm pretty happy in Canada; I wouldn't move anywhere else.


FrankSandy said...

I would move to a warmer climate, probably the U.S.


Literary Feline said...

I am glad you enjoyed this book, Serena. I agree; it is a complex novel, about so much more than just grief.

I've got the Olympics on right now and am itching to move to Canada. :-)

No need to enter me in the giveaway as I already have a copy of the book.

Spav said...

I would move some place with the sea nearby.

Tweet: http://twitter.com/Sparima/status/9215660256


Sarah E said...

I would love to live in England. My dad is from England, and his whole side of the family still lives there. Moving to England would be like coming home for me.

Please enter me in this giveaway!

saemmerson at yahoo dot com

Sarah E

Sarah E said...

I tweeted:


saemmerson at yahoo dot com

Sarah E