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The Weight of Heaven    by Thrity Umrigar order for
Weight of Heaven
by Thrity Umrigar
Order:  USA  Can
HarperCollins, 2009 (2009)
Hardcover, e-Book
* * *   Reviewed by Barbara Lingens

If we are truly to live in a global society, this novel shows that Americans have much to learn. Setting American-style companies in a foreign culture without paying attention to local mores can only lead to difficulties. In this novel, we not only learn of the difficulties but the tragedies as well.

Frank and Ellie are a loving couple who are failing to cope with the loss of their young son Bennie. It seems like a good idea, then, for Frank and Ellie to go on an overseas assignment to India. New surroundings might lead to healing. Actually, Ellie has already come to the conclusion that allowing grief to define their lives is something Bennie would not like, and she has already begun to reach out to life. Frank, though, has not gotten that far, and his difficulties in dealing with the local people (who just don't act like Americans!) only exacerbates his hurt. All of this makes his growing relationship to the son of his housekeepers more significant. Frank will do anything to keep that bright and personable boy close, no matter what it takes.

Ellie shows us what can be accomplished when we really see people. Even though she does not speak the language, she is able to make herself useful in the village. Frank has not understood, in the way that Ellie has, that underlying all the surface differences among people we do have a common humanity. The Weight of Heaven is a wonderful story of what can go right and what can go wrong when we deal with others who are different. For me, though, the end of this novel really marks the beginning of Frank's story. What will he do with the knowledge he has finally gained?

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