The Weight of Heaven: A Novel by Thrity UmrigarHarper (April 2009)
Source: Personal Copy
From the Publisher's Website:
When Frank and Ellie Benton lose their only child, seven-year-old Benny, to a sudden illness, the perfect life they had 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 memories of his dead son, Frank is consumed with making his family right-a quest that will lead him down an ever-darkening path with stark repercussions.
I enjoyed The Weight of Heaven very much, despite its propensity to make me burst into tears. The thought of losing a child is unbearable to me, and Umrigar's description of the parents' pain and loss were very real. There was one evening while reading that I had to get up to go kiss my sleeping daughter, because I needed to see her and be thankful that my child is still with me.
The Indian setting was very interesting to me, and I think that it provided a well thought out back drop for the story by separating the grieving parents from their usual surroundings. Both parents were flawed in their own way and the story illustrated two very different approaches to dealing with loss. Frank's character seemed to spiral downward, reaching for any possible way to bring back his son. While Ellie, seemed to move forward to accept the death and find new ways of living.
I highly recommend The Weight of Heaven for its beautiful prose and sometimes painfully real emotions. Thanks to Mari from Bookworm with a View for suggesting that I move it up in my reading queue.