'The Weight of a Piano': Loss, and connection, across decades

"The Weight of a Piano" by Chris Cander (Alfred A Knopf)

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"The Weight of a Piano" opens in the forests of Romania with piano maker Julius Bluthner walking amongst the spruce trees, tapping their trunks with his walking stick, and listening for the music hidden inside them. In this way, he selects the best wood for the pianos he crafts in his workshop in Leipzig. One of those trees becomes Bluthner No. 66,825, the piano of this story.

Russia, 1962. Eight-year-old Katya accompanies her piano tuner father on his rounds. One of her favorite clients is the blind German who lives in their apartment building. He plays his piano every day, and long into the night, until one day the music stops. The German has died, leaving his beloved piano to Katya because "even a blind man could see the music beating in your heart." The piano becomes the first great love of her life.

California, 2012. Clara Lundy has just been dumped by her boyfriend and is forced to move to a new apartment. She has few belongings, so the move is easy enough, apart from the weighty Bluthner upright piano her father gave her for her twelfth birthday. Her parents were killed in a house fire shortly after that birthday. The piano, in temporary storage at the time of the fire, is the only physical link Clara has with her parents. But she has never learned to play it and, frustrated at having to move it once again, she advertises it for sale. The prospective purchaser has plans to use the piano for a photo series in memory of his mother. Clara follows the photographer as he takes the piano into the desert for his photo shoot and, as they get to know each other a little better, they begin to realize that the connection between the piano's past and present is much stronger than they first thought. But Clara also learns that the piano is no longer the fond link to her parents she thought it was; it has become a burden.

Chris Cander's first novel, "11 Stories," won the 2013 Independent Publisher's Gold Medal for popular fiction. She also won the 2014 Moonbeam's Children's Book Award for "The Word Burglar." She lives in Houston with her husband and two children.

Phil Lewis is the co-owner of The Bennington Bookshop. "The Weight of a Piano" is available at The Bennington Bookshop, or can be purchased online here: https://www.benningtonbookshop.com/book/9780525654674


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