THE WEIGHT OF A PIANO by Chris Cander

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From the publisher:

For fans of Ann Patchett’s Bel Canto, Annie Proulx’s Accordion Crimes, Amanda Coplin’s The Orchardist

A tour-de-force about two women and the piano that inexorably ties their lives together through time and across continents, for better and for worse.

In 1962, in the Soviet Union, eight-year-old Katya is bequeathed what will become the love of her life: a Blüthner piano, built at the turn of the century in Germany, on which she discovers everything that she herself can do with music and what music, in turn, does for her. Yet after marrying, she emigrates with her young family from Russia to America, at her husband’s frantic insistence, and her piano is lost in the shuffle.

In 2012, in Bakersfield, California, twenty-six-year-old Clara Lundy loses another boyfriend and again has to find a new apartment, which is complicated by the gift her father had given her for her twelfth birthday, shortly before he and her mother died in a fire that burned their house down: a Blüthner upright she has never learned to play. Orphaned, she was raised by her aunt and uncle, who in his car-repair shop trained her to become a first-rate mechanic, much to the surprise of her subsequent customers. But this work, her true mainstay in a scattered life, is put on hold when her hand gets broken while the piano’s being moved–and in sudden frustration she chooses to sell it. And what becomes crucial is who the most interested party turns out to be. . .


I had read a review of this book that intrigued me, so I started reading it. A few hours later, I read the last page. Cander is a terrific storyteller, she drew me in and kept me turning the pages. There were plenty of surprises throughout the story; although some readers may figure them out, I did not.

The book opens with the construction of a Blüthner piano, a fascinating tale about a brand of piano I had not heard of, that is supposedly in the same class as a Steinway. I quickly realized that the piano would be a character in this book. Cander makes it possible to grow attached to an inanimate object, for her characters and the reader.

The story then moves back and forth in time, following the piano through two storylines. The way the book is laid out they are easy to follow. The main characters are mostly well developed, the secondary characters not as much, but had they been, the book may have gotten too unwieldy. Rather like moving a piano, a task that is difficult and quite the metaphor in this book. I loved the way the stories unfurl and wind around one another, carefully building towards an intertwined resolution.

This is an excellent read sure to be beloved by book groups as there is much to discuss here, from the immigration of Russian Jews to the relationships that are so well depicted. Highly recommended.

2/19 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch™

THE WEIGHT OF A PIANO by Chris Cander. Knopf (January 22, 2019).  ISBN 978-0525654674.  336p.

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