Heft by Liz Moore
Today, on The Tattooed Book, I’m reviewing Heft by Liz Moore – her latest novel which tells the story of Arthur Opp, an obese former academic who has stayed cloaked in his home for ten years. Everything he needs is delivered to his doorstep, and the only people he sees are the couriers and delivery men that unknowingly keep him alive.
Arthur didn’t always live this way. Eighteen years previously, he worked as a professor, teaching English night classes in central Manhatten. Here he met Charlene Turner, a timid, ‘not beautiful’ teenage girl, who although isn’t academically minded, captures Arthur’s heart. Nothing happens while she is a student, but after they part, Charlene starts to write to him, and soon they start dating. Just as things seem to be going so well, Charlene ends things, saying family matters leave her no choice. Arthur is broken-hearted but unsurprised, after a hard life, he knew the joy couldn’t continue. When his colleagues find out about the relationship with a former student, he also loses his job. His world crumbles and the walls of his home close in on him. Charlene and Arthur continue to write to each other but even that slows until it is years since he’s heard a word from her.
When he eventually does hear from her, she sounds strangely upset or drunk. She asks him to tutor her son, a son he never knew she had, from a marriage she had never told him about. Turns out there are an awful lot of things that both Charlene and Arthur have left out of their letters, but why has she reached out now?
I really underestimated this book, when I picked it up, I thought it was going to be a simple story of love that didn’t work the first time but ends up turning out happily ever after. I couldn’t have been more wrong. Heft tells the two separate stories of Arthur and Charlene’s son, Kel. Both lonely, craving love, help and support in simple day to day life. There is a great deal of sadness in this book yet somehow it never becomes depressing and although I did occasionally get a little annoyed at Arthur’s ‘woe is me’ attitude, Kel was the character that really captured my heart. A teenager on the verge of adulthood, torn between the two, unsure how to be, what to aim for and wishing he had done more. Emotions I think everyone can relate to at some point. I also thought the ending of this book was great. Without spoiling anything, I feel it leaves the perfect amount of questions unanswered. This is simply one of those beautiful books that’s a joy to read and saddening to finish, making you want to start it all over again.
If you enjoyed Heft by Liz Moore, you’ll love The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce.