Review: The Weight of Heaven by Thrity Umrigar
For some reason, I have luck with stab-in-the-dark reading choices in the extensive large print collection at our library. In this case, the choice I made was The Weight of Heaven by Thrity Umrigar. The cover is evocative with a clever design and a somewhat mysterious title. It turned out to be an excellent find.
Frank and Ellie Benton are well-educated, upwardly mobile Americans who move to India after the sudden death of their young son. Frank’s work for an American company brings him to a factory in a small village, which almost immediately descends into a violent labor dispute. In retrospect, this is the least of his problems.
As Frank and his wife try to deal with the loss of their son as they become accustomed to their new surroundings, they are embroiled with labor problems, local customs, and a growing relationship between them and their domestic help’s son Ramesh. It becomes clear that as Ramesh spends more time with the Bentons doing his homework, they become more emotionally attached to him. In fact, Frank treats him as a surrogate son and plies him with outings and gifts, gestures that upset the child’s father.
What occurs as the story evolves is that these situations create too much pressure for Frank to handle, and his relationship with his wife suffers. He descends into dangerously obsessive behaviors that compound already shaky situations. Tragedy is inevitable.
How the author keeps the disparate strands of the story line together is remarkable. We become more and more involved in the grief-stricken lives of a couple as well as experiencing the divisions found in the culture, geography, and class structure of the region. It’s quite a revelation.
I give The Weight of Heaven 3 7/8 maelstroms.
Happy reading from Beverly!