Be warned. Weight of a Piano is not a happy, light-hearted beach read. The book follows two women through their tragic journeys with a very emotionally and physically weighty piano. Katya is a Russian woman living in the 1960s who has been forced to immigrate to the U.S. with her husband and newborn baby and must leave her beloved piano behind. In present-day, the piano resides in Bakersfield with Clara who treasures it as a gift from her late father which she received just before he and Clara’s mother tragically died in a house fire – but has never learned to play it. Both women find a sense of identity in the piano, though in different ways.
Weight of a Piano an immersive, serendipitous story of finding identity and purpose through tragedy. The writing includes some truly wonderful passages and elegant symbolism, and Cander’s tragic characters, cultural references and sense of place draw the reader even further into the story.
Dark themes (infidelity, depression, death, suicide, abuse) give the characters depth and make the story interesting and relatable. Cander does a masterful job of communicating raw emotion throughout the book as a result of these themes too.
Her writing in the opening chapter sets a very high bar for the rest of the book which is only reached occasionally in short passages and never again at the length of a full chapter. This let-down and the predictability of most plot lines are why I gave the book four stars instead of five.
The subtle role that culture plays adds to the reading experience as well. When an English word wouldn’t do, Cander used the Russian, Mexican or Greek word to more effectively communicate ideas and feelings. Not as subtle, location plays a major role in the story as well. Cander paints expansive pictures in the reader’s mind with her exceptional descriptions of Death Valley.
There’s desperation, a love affair and a coming of age element. So much to love about this book! I recommend Weight of a Piano to fans of historical fiction, contemporary fiction and classical music.
GBC Reader Reviews