Former academic Arthur Opp weighs 550 pounds and hasn't left his rambling Brooklyn home in a decade. Twenty miles away, in Yonkers, seventeen-year-old Kel Keller navigates life as the poor kid in a rich school and pins his hopes on what seems like a promising baseball career—if he can untangle himself from his family drama. The link between this unlikely pair is Kel’s mother, Charlene, a former student of Arthur’s. After nearly two decades of silence, it is Charlene’s unexpected phone call to Arthur—a plea for help—that jostles them into action. Through Arthur and Kel’s own quirky and lovable voices, Heft tells the winning story of two improbable heroes whose sudden connection transforms both their lives. Like Elizabeth McCracken’s The Giant’s House, Heft is a novel about love and family found in the most unexpected places. -- Norton
HEFT by Liz Moore wasn't even on my radar until I read the review at She is Too Fond of Books, and then I just knew that I had to read it. HEFT sounded like an unusual, but heartwarming, novel; and for some reason this story about two very unlikely heroes appealed to me. After reading HEFT, I must say that I agree 100% with Dawn's review, and this novel most definitely touched my heart. I have been recommending it to everyone I know!
HEFT tells the story of Arthur Opp, a 500 pound man who hasn't left his home in almost ten years, and Kel Keller a teenage boy who is hoping for a future as a professional baseball player. Both characters are linked when Kel's mother, who was a former student of Arthur's, calls him out-of-the blue and asks for help. The connection between Arthur and Kel changes both of their lives in ways they never thought possible.
HEFT is told in both Arthur and Kel's voices and this presentation style gives readers not only an understanding of both characters, but it also allows readers to genuinely care about them. While Arthur and Kel are both sort of misfits in our society and feel as if they don't fit in, through their relationship with each other, they begin to feel loved.
I honestly can't think of the last time that two characters in a novel affected me like these two. While I did feel sorry that both of them considered themselves losers (or at the very least that they didn't belong in their environments), I don't know that I'd say my heart broke for them. Even from the beginning of the novel, I could sense that both Arthur and Kel were strong and that they would eventually work through their personal issues. Rather than evoking a sense of pity for these two, I think it would be more appropriate to say that this book gave me feeling of hope. I loved how HEFT focused on not only the strength and resilience of the human spirit, but it also showed the importance of love and support in our lives. And those are some wonderful (and feel-good) messages!
In addition to just loving the characters and the feelings that this novel evoked in me, I was deeply impressed with Ms. Moore's writing. It goes without saying that I loved this heartwarming book, but I'm not sure that just any author could have pulled off this story. Ms. Moore created characters who were larger-than-life (and in the case of Arthur that is almost literal!), but I truly believed in them. In addition, I think this novel could have come across as a little corny with its feel-good messages about love and second chances; however, it didn't. I laughed and cried for these characters and I became totally caught up in their quest for happiness and acceptance.
HEFT would make a fantastic book club pick. Unfortunately, I wasn't able to find a discussion guide; however, I don't think having one is necessary to talking about this book. It's just one of those stories that individuals will want to discuss among friends. I am confident that you could discuss the characters of Arthur and Kel for some time, but I also think some of the secondary characters are interesting in their own right. In addition, the relationships between all of the characters are fascinating. Some of the themes you might want to talk about include families, love, friendships, second chances, redemption, forgiveness, and acceptance. The title of the book is also symbolic and worthy of a few minutes of conversation.
HEFT is a touching story about two characters who are looking for love and acceptance. It will most definitely warm your heart and bring a smile to your face.Very highly recommended!
Thanks to the publisher for providing a review copy of this novel.