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HEFT

Connecting to Loneliness
By Neely Kennedy

In the LHJ November book club pick Heft, introspective author Liz Moore writes about how feeling alone in the world can serve as a common denominator that connects people to one another. Arthur Opp, a morbidly obese recluse narrates the story, reflecting on how his path to isolation developed over the years due to loss and estrangement from family and friends, a battle with a negative self-image, and after being falsely accused of having an affair with the much younger, awkward and shy misfit, Charlene Turner. Years later, Charlene’s son Kel Keller enters the story. A talented high-school athlete, he is burdened with fulfilling his mother’s dream of joining a more privileged society while simultaneously striving to fulfill his own dreams of becoming a big league baseball player in the hope that it will impress his absent father. However, both dreams become less and less likely as his mother’s downward spiral into alcoholism, fueled by a debilitating illness, changes the course of all of their futures.

Arthur, Charlene and Kel each have their own escape for dealing with their increasing sadness and loneliness. Arthur uses food, Charlene alcohol, and Kel obsesses about sports. Below are examples from the book as to how the characters reflect on their loneliness.

Oversoul of loneliness“Yes, there was food, but there was beyond food this idea I had of an oversoul of loneliness. A connectedness among the world’s lonely that I could turn to when I was very low.”

Rounding the bases alone“Baseball is the loneliest sport to play for someone who doesn’t have a father. Everyone’s dad lines up behind the chain-link fence at games. Everyone’s dad has a catch with them in the backyard. Everyone’s dad tells them stories about great games and teams and players.”

A kindred spirit“From the moment I met her I thought—you too? And I could see by the look in her eyes she also felt it. She was more lonely at the time than I, I could sense it, and it made me love her.”

Mourning her company“My mother. There were times when I loved her so thoroughly. I can remember things about her. The smell of her skin, the humanness of her skin, the secret that only babies know about their mothers. The smell of it especially in summer. The mother smell. Beneath everything else I could smell it on her still when I found her in bed.”

Hoping for tomorrowI dream of many things, among them the old man who helped me and my mother get to the World Series, the old man from Pennsylvania who, years ago, paid for our car to be towed. I think of him when I need relief, when I need to feel that the world is not after all very bad.”

The promise of comfort“I am not mad at her for lying. I think she did it so I would be sure to meet him. I can see her doing that. I can see her giving us to each other as a gift.”

Book Club Bonus: Since Thanksgiving is about showing gratitude, try asking club members to reflect on some of the sadder, lonelier times in their lives, and to share the personal growth or wisdom that took place as a result of that time, or ask them to identify a personal relationship that helped them to reconnect.

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