In 1962, in the Soviet Union, eight-year-old Katya is bequeathed what will become the love of her life: a Blüthner piano, on which she discovers an enriching passion for music. Yet after she marries, her husband insists the family emigrate to America–and loses her piano in the process.
In 2012, in Bakersfield, California, twenty-six-year-old Clara Lundy is burdened by the last gift her father gave her before he and her mother died in a terrible house fire: a Blüthner upright she has never learned to play. Now a talented and independent auto mechanic, Clara’s career is put on hold when she breaks her hand trying to move the piano, and in sudden frustration she decides to sell it. Only in discovering the identity of the buyer–and the secret history of her piano–will Clara be set free to live the life of her choosing.
I got this title at Book Con 2019. Penguin Random House/Knopf had a “blind date with a book” giveaway. They had the books wrapped in different color paper depending on these genres: fiction, non-fiction, mystery, true crime, or historical fiction.
I chose historical fiction and got an old ARC for The Weight of a Piano by Chris Cander. It was published in January 2019. Even though it was given away as historical fiction I wouldn’t place it in that category. Life in the USSR was not the main focus. Most of the story takes place in California in the 1980s, 90s and present day.
That’s just my opinion. Otherwise, I really enjoyed it. The story was sad but ends with hope. I really like the way it began and ended, like bookends.
The birth of the piano and the death. I admit I actually skimmed the end at one point because I had to know if Clara ends up with Peter and I saw what Clara did to the piano. At first I was horrified but then as I read it and saw how it all unfolded I thought the ending was just perfect. Clara and Greg had to let go. They have to move on. One of my critiques is that I wish there had been an epilogue with Clara and Peter together, like married or engaged and she sees a review of Greg’s photograph collection online. I do think the photos would turn out beautiful and meaningful. Getting to see that part of the future would have been nice.
It was a great character story about grief. At some points I was shaking my head at some of the characters’ decisions, but they were accurate for people who have been through trauma and grief.
Sometimes Greg really pissed me off, especially after he slept with Clara. He was so clingy and controlling, like his father. But at the end, after the piano is destroyed then I felt bad for him and I do hope he finds peace. Which is why I wanted to know if these photographs were a successful collection for him.
Some of the terminology for music and car mechanics went over my head. I also think it would have been nice to see a glossary for the Cyrillic writing. I also wish I could read music because I have no idea what the song at the end sounds like.
I like the journey the characters took and the way it all unfolded. The pacing and timing of the story was just right. There were some things I saw coming and one that I should have seen coming but was briefly surprised by.
The prose was very musical. I loved this quote on page 195, “He thought if he didn’t capture her making music, if didn’t make those moments real, make them his, then they might disappear. And then what would he have of her?”
I have more favorite quotes but they are full paragraphs.
4 out of 5 Piano Keys