march book discussion: Heft

Liz Moore

Spoiler Alert: Unmarked spoilers ahead. Be warned.

I’ve always preferred literature about outsiders. Outsiders who, when caught in a grapple with internal and external forces designed for failure, establish with me a comforting little kinship. These characters usually follow the same type: Alone or cast aside with problems partially of their own making and partially born from disappointments bestowed by adults sworn to protect them.

Heft combines elements of mild self-loathing and isolation, a sneaky type of solitude that creeps along so slowly it bewilders even the narrators.  Unsure if it’s self-imposed or something else, Liz Moore skillfully reveals pieces of the main narrator’s life, making it uncertain if the 500-pound recluse is happy or a victim of his pain.

This uncertainty is a familiar mind state for many adoptees. Are we happy with our adoptions, or do we create false comforts, surrounding ourselves with objects (as does our main narrator, Arthur Opp) and eating until morbid obesity? What subconscious actions help us regain control over stolen lives?

Throughout the novel, Moore weaves a bit of a familial mystery into the threads of the characters’ histories. We are asked who parented one of the novel’s secondary characters—Kel Keller—a young man whose life was born of broken adults and bad choices. After his mother’s death, Kel frantically searches for his father, a man who disappeared early and was painted into life by his mother’s descriptions.

These stories, however, turn out to be false. Kel’s mother wanted to believe they were abandoned by a man greater than the sum of his disappointments. In the end, Kel finds someone less a father and more a disappointment. He also receives a letter–one that I will keep secret until you read it–providing advice many of us may have wished to receive.

Heft’s lesson is one from which we’d all benefit. Maybe it’s sometimes better never knowing the truth about our parentage, accepting that the people we want most are better left behind.

Why Heft is March 2018’s Adoptee Required Reading

Adoptees will find a reassuring comfort in Moore’s characters, relating perhaps too closely to the suffering of each of her brilliantly believable players. Everyone is searching for someone or something. If we find the it, we tell ourselves, we’ll be complete.

But sometimes answers are beyond our reach. And Moore’s Heft shows that, even in the absence of logical reasoning, we may find peace and build a life based on our decisions, no longer subjecting ourselves to others’ whims.


Discussion Time!

Have you read Heft or are you planning to add it to your to-be-read pile? Let me know in the comments or share your thoughts on Facebook!

If we generate enough interest, we can start an online book group, focusing specifically on works that contain themes on loss, family, and disconnect.

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