Intersecting narratives of hidden sadness
Isolation and loneliness take many forms in musician and writer Liz Moore's most recent novel, "Heft." There is the large -- the extremely large -- middle-aged character of Arthur Opp, who stays hidden away in his childhood home. Then there is Kel Keller, a teenage baseball wunderkind whom his peers see as an equal while he struggles to maintain the illusion of confidence. And there is Charlene Turner, Opp's former student and Kel's alcoholic mother, whom we encounter primarily through memories.
While the three main characters remain physically apart for the majority of the novel, their stories intersect and create a narrative that pulls in other stories of hidden sadness along the way. Charlene contacts Arthur after a long period of silence, which sparks Arthur's need for company that he had buried long ago beneath excessive eating and daytime television. Kel's tumultuous home life forces him to crack his hard emotional shell in order to ask for help from people he had thought were his adversaries. As Arthur and Kel break down their own barriers, they unearth the fragile interiors of the people around them.
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.