This book is fittingly titled The Weight of Heaven. And weigh heavily, it did. The ending left me reeling and won’t leave me for awhile.
Summary(from inside book flap): Haunted by memories of his dead son, Frank is consumed with making things right. When Frank and Ellie Benton lose their only child, seven-year-old Benny, to a sudden illness, the perfect life they’d built is shattered. Filled with wrenching memories, their Ann Arbor home becomes unbearable and their marriage founders. But an unexpected job half a world away offers them an opportunity to start again, Life in Girbaug, India, holds promise- and peril- when Frank befriends Ramesh, a bright, curious boy who quickly becomes the focus of the grieving man’s attentions. Haunted by his family right- a quest that will lead him down an ever-darkening path that will have stark repercussions.
Review: This book was definitely a powerhouse of emotions. Alternating viewpoints between Frank, Ellie and Ramesh’s father, Prakesh, Umrigar really delves into the psyche of the characters. We witness Frank’s desperation to keep his family together via the young boy Ramsesh, we share Prakesh’s feelings of inadequacy in providing for his son and we sympathize with Ellie who feels the guilt her husband places on her for Benny’s death. The novel shows the cultural gap between America and India, the struggle between those with power and those without, and most of all, the difficulty of overcoming the loss of a child.
By the end of the novel, Frank has become a man blinded and imprisoned by his grief: “He admitted the answer to himself: Ramesh had become the brightest star in (his) galaxy, his sun, and without the sun his future looked barren and dark. Without the sun- without the son- there was only the Father, lost and lonely, with nothing to guide his path.” The choices he makes are devastating and final, and he lives up to his grandmother’s words, “You know the most dangerous force on earth, darlin’? It ain’t the atom bomb. It’s a man who is truly free. That’s who you gotta watch out for.” And so Frank becomes free in the end, but is the price of freedom worth it?