17 Books to Watch for in February 2012
A riveting look at life in a Mumbai shanty
town, a retelling of Jane Eyre and more.
Photo: Ben Goldstein/Studio D
4 of 17
Arthur Opp is a retired, 500-plus-pound teacher who has not left his
house in ten years. "Kel" Keller is the 17-year-old son of one of
Arthur's former students. Strangers who live in different New York
communities, they are nonetheless neighbors of the heart; odd, isolated,
but essentially decent, they both adore Kel's dying mother, Charlene
("She was more lonely at the time than I," Arthur observes about the
long-ago friendship recently resurrected through letters. "I could sense
it, and it made me love her"). In Heft (W.W. Norton), writer-musician
Liz Moore alternates Arthur's story with Kel's to create a stunningly
sad and heroically hopeful tale of two men from fractured families and
the women—a high school athlete, a pregnant cleaning lady—who, miraculously, love them.
This is a beautiful novel about relationships of the most makeshift
kind, about bonds that go beyond the biological. ("I believe we can
choose to surround ourselves with a circle of people we love and admire
& they can become our adopted family," Arthur finally writes to
Kel.) It's also about how, sometimes, even the deepest wounds can be
healed by the simplest, smallest acts of kindness.
— Sara Nelson