The Weight of Heaven

Thrity Umrigar?s newest novel, The Weight of Heaven, straddles the United States and India as Frank and Ellie, a grieving American couple, relocate in the hope of healing the trauma of their only child's death. Frank takes a position managing a factory in a small Indian town, and at first the move seems like the right one. Ellie feels at home in her adopted country, helping out in the village, teaching school and counseling women. But the company that owns the factory has leased the village?s trees from the Indian government and has prohibited the villagers from accessing what had been a source of medicine, shelter, and income for generations. Frank becomes the face of the company pillaging the village?s land, and violence follows him. Seeking solace, he turns to his servants? child, who he tries to shoehorn into the empty space left by his son's loss. Rather than a fresh start, India soon becomes just a different setting for Frank and Ellie to splinter apart. We follow their breakdown moment-by-moment, like a slow-motion death spiral. Umrigar does seem to pull up, finding a lighter note as Ellie befriends former investigative journalist Nandita. Their friendship provides welcome air for both Ellie and the reader, but by its last quarter, the novel has set its course for tragedy. The drama centered around the factory proves a distraction from the story of Ellie and Nandita who, after following a once-unquestionable path -- college, successful career, rewarding marriage -- are left with an emptiness in their lives that neither woman seems interested in filling. This delicate and far more compelling story is overrun by the tale of rage, obsession and misery that dominates the rest of the novel.

April 23: " 'A job,' the woman repeated again, smiling, as if I hadn't heard her. 'Would you like one?' "

Kenneth Calhoun (Black Moon) and Lysely Tenorio (Monstress) of the Discover Great New Writers program on B-movies, heritage, and finales.

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Books, CDs, DVDs to know about now
A Private Venus

Dubbed "the Italian Simenon," Giorgio Scerbanenco (1911-1969) began his crime-writing career with books set in the USA, but quickly shifted scene closer to home, the city of Milan.  In this adventure, appearing in English for the first time, his underdog hero Dr. Duca Lamberti finds himself in the middle of a seedy, scantily clad criminal racket, where the presence of an outsider could result in death.

The Promise of Hope

Killed last year in the infamous terror attack at Nairobi's Westgate mall, Kofi Awoonor was a national treasure in his native Ghana.  His career began in 1964 with Rediscovery, and this magnum opus serves as a tribute to his entire long journey charting his beloved nation's course through his accomplished poetry.

Winter Mythologies and Abbots

A pair of linked stories finds that, as translator Ann Jefferson relates, "[Pierre] Michon's great theme is the precarious balance between belief and imposture, and the way the greatest aspirations can be complicated by physical desire or the equally urgent desire for what he calls glory."