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Heft: A Novel Paperback – September 4, 2012

4.4 out of 5 stars 329 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

*Starred Review* Moore’s endearing novel, following The Words of Every Song (2007), looks at the lives of two solitary characters learning to acknowledge and accept their troubled realities of family and providence. Fifty-eight-year-old Arthur Opp, a college professor turned morbidly obese recluse, lives in a dilapidated house in Brooklyn, where his only human connection is through correspondence with a former student, the vulnerable and lonesome Charlene. When Charlene unexpectedly contacts Arthur with the news that she is the mother of a teenage son, Kel, Arthur is compelled to reflect upon and refocus his life, tenuously striking up a friendship with his young cleaning woman. Meanwhile, Kel is a gifted high-school athlete who depends on his physical prowess to navigate his interpersonal relationships. Kel’s dream of becoming a professional athlete is well within reach, yet his ambition is confounded by his mother’s alcoholism. When Charlene attempts suicide, Kel is left to forge a life of his own. As the book shifts between the perspectives of Arthur and Kel, Charlene’s connection to the two characters reveals surprising junctures along the way. --Leah Strauss --This text refers to the Unknown Binding edition.

Review

“A suspenseful, restorative novel from one of our fine young voices.” (Colum McCann)

“Arthur Opp is heartbreaking. A 58-year old former professor of literature, he weighs 550 lbs., hasn’t left his Brooklyn apartment in years and is acutely attuned to both the painful and analgesic dimensions of his self-imposed solitude. Kel Keller, a handsome and popular high school athlete whose mother drinks too much to take care of him or even herself, faces his own wrenching struggles. The pair, apparently connected only by a slender thread, at first seem unlikely as co-narrators and protagonists of this novel, but they both become genuine heroes as their separate journeys through loneliness finally intersect. Though Moore’s narrative is often deeply sad, it is never maudlin. She writes with compassion and emotional insight but resists sentimentality , briskly moving her plot forward, building suspense and empathy. Most impressive is her ability to thoroughly inhabit the minds of Arthur and Kel; these are robust, complex characters to champion, not pity. The single word of the title is obviously a reference to Arthur’s morbid obesity, but it also alludes to the weight of true feelings and the courage needed to confront them. Heft leads to hope.” (People Magazine)

“A bittersweet novel, Heft is peopled by men and women so isolated by their fear or rejection, they’ve ceased to seek meaningful connections.” (Philadelphia Inquirer)

“Few novelists of recent memory have put our bleak isolation into words as clearly as Liz Moore does. . . . By the end we are in love with the characters and just want to see them happy.” (San Francisco Chronicle)

“This is the real deal, Liz Moore is the real deal -- she's written a novel that will stick with you long after you've finished it.” (Russell Banks)

“This is not a novel with a happy ending, and that’s a good thing. Moore doesn’t tie her story up in a pretty package and hand it to the reader with care, but artfully acknowledges in the end that some heavy loads cannot easily be left behind.” (Minneapolis Star-Tribune)

Heft is a work that radiantly combines compassion and a clear eyed vision. This is a novel of rare originality and sophistication.” (Mary Gordon)

“In Heft, Liz Moore creates a cast of vulnerable, lonely misfits that will break your heart and then make it soar. What a terrific novel!” (Ann Hood)
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 368 pages
  • Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company; 1st edition (September 4, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 039334388X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0393343885
  • Product Dimensions: 5.6 x 0.9 x 8.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (329 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #113,648 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
I have to tell you, this novel grabbed me from the opening pages, which take the form of a confessional letter from former professor, Arthur Opp, to his long-ago student and long-time correspondent, Charlene Turner. They haven't seen each other in years, and Arthur has a lot to confess.

"The first thing you must know about me is that I am colossally fat. When I knew you I was what one might call plump but I am no longer plump. I eat what I want & furthermore I eat whenever I want. For years I have made very little effort to reduce the amount that I eat for I have seen no cause to. Despite this I am neither immobile nor bedridden but I do feel winded when I walk more than six or seven steps, & I do feel very shy and sort of incased in something as if I were a cello or an expensive gun."

The fact that he weights somewhere between 500-600 pounds is just the beginning of Arthur's confession. He states, "In my letters to you these past two decades I have been untruthful by omission." He admits that not only has he not taught in years, but that he hasn't left his house in over a decade. He ends the lengthy missive, "In spite of everything, at heart I am still the same Arthur.

I'm going to stop right here and suggest there may be two kinds of reader responses to Arthur Opp, sympathy or revulsion. My immediate response was sympathy for this lonely man who fantasizes about salvation in the form of Dr. Phil. If your immediate response was revulsion, this is not the book for you.

As it happens, Charlene hasn't been entirely truthful about the details of her own life. And because so many stories follow predictable and formulaic patterns, early on in this novel I thought I knew the story I was reading.
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Format: Hardcover
Heft is a wonderful story that will make you want to rethink what the word "family" really means.

Arthur Opps once was a college professor, but that was 18 years ago. Now, Arthur is a 58 year-old shut in who weighs in excess of 500 lbs. His best friend, who lived next door, passed away in 1997, and the last time Arthur has left his house in Brooklyn was in September 2001. The internet has made his reclusive life easy, since food and anything else he needs is delivered right to his front door. He has no family, no friends, no job, and no one to talk to, so over the years, his only comfort has come from the food he consumes, and occasional letters from a former student named Charlene Turner, who was 20 years younger than him.

Charlene and Arthur were two lost souls. Both were sad and lonely people, who spent hours talking over the course of the semester. When the class was finished, Charlene never took another course, but began to write Arthur letters. First he was rather shocked, but when he lost his job soon after, to him she seemed like the only friend he had.

(Arthur)...."And partly it was that I recognized myself in her---in her awkwardness, her loneliness, her being very out of place, an outsider in a roomful of compatriots. These feelings I recognized as my own. She spoke differently than her classmates. She had that accent, which I came to love, and that hopefulness that won me completely. One of the things I loved most about her, what I valued, was her lack of awareness."

Then abruptly the letters stopped, until one day many years later she contacts Arthur to reveal a little more about her life, and to ask him a favor.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I guess I am in a small minority here, but this book let me down. It was at times beautifully written, and the story had heart, but....

I purchased the book because of the rave reviews and the very promising sample, which introduces the reader to Arthur Opp - a unique, quirky but utterly believable and intriguing character. However, beyond the sample, the book quickly shifts to the point of view of Charlene's son, whose present-tense, 17-year-old voice did not ring true to me. I have spent time with plenty a teenaged boy; this one was too poetic, adultly perceptive, and, frankly, female, to be believed, especially for a non-academically oriented, athletic kid who experienced as hardscrabble an upbringing as his. As such, I did not find his story as intriguing or believable as Arthur's and much of the book focused on him. At certain points, I found myself grazing over his chapters, some of which went on at weary length about his baseball practice session, or difficult encounters with friends, so that I could get back to Arthur's story, as he ever-so-reluctantly began to emerge from the obesity-enshrouded chrysalis, thanks in part to another quirky but believable character, Yolanda. Don't get me wrong, I felt compassion toward the boy's plight anroutines or him despite not quite believing in him. But ultimately, I felt the focus on his story cheated me out of having more time to spend in Arthur's infinity more interesting company. As for Charlene - her character remained too much of a mystery, and her sad, selfish choice, the crux of the story, was never adequately explained. And finally, the ending left me hanging... I am the type of reader who needs just a little more resolve than this book offered.
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