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Contemporary Novels

HEFT by Liz Moore

When I first started putting up these short reviews, I didn’t think I’d write about multiple books by a single author. As in so many other ways, Liz Moore has made me think again.

HEFT is her second novel, from 2012, and it’s radically different from her gritty, suspense-driven LONG BRIGHT RIVER (2020). HEFT alternates between two first-person viewpoint characters: Arthur Opp, a morbidly obese former academic who hasn’t left his house in years, and Kel Keller, a high-school athlete with prospects of a major league career. What these two people have in common is Charlene Turner, who is Arthur’s former student and Kel’s mother. Over the course of the novel, secrets are revealed (but not all of them) and lives are changed. I’ll let you discover the details for yourself.

From reading the flap, I didn’t think these were characters I would be interested in. In fact I came to care deeply for them. The rare and wondrous thing that Moore has crafted here is a novel in which there are no villains and none of the characters is mocked or condescended to. Everyone is fighting to make sense of the world as best they can, to be a good person, to live with their particular pain. Arthur’s descriptions of the great solace he gets from eating are sensuous and convincing. Kel’s struggle to accept the kindness of his friends and their families is likewise profound and real. The supporting characters, down to the lowliest spear-carrier, are vivid and memorable. No gunfights or car chases are needed to make this book utterly compelling reading.

In HEFT, Moore repeatedly confounded my expectations in delightful ways, and proved that LONG BRIGHT RIVER was no fluke. With these two novels, she has become one of my favorite writers, and I’ll be gobbling up her other books with an appetite worthy of Arthur Opp.

By Lewis Shiner

Lewis Shiner is the author of OUTSIDE THE GATES OF EDEN, the cyberpunk classic FRONTERA, and the award-winning GLIMPSES, among other novels. He's also published short story collections, journalism, and comics. Virtually all of his work is available for free download at fictionliberationfront.net. For more information, browse to lewisshiner.com.

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