I heard nothing about this book until Ti (Book Chatter) gave me a sales job that I couldn't ignore. Then Jackie (Farm Lane Books) gave it 4 1/2 stars, something that rarely happens. My library had it on audio, so it quickly made its way to the top of my priority list.
Synopsis: Arthur Opp, formerly an academic and college professor, is now a 550-pound recluse who hasn't left his Brooklyn home in a decade. He orders everything he needs from the Internet, and has little reason to maintain any sense of order or hygiene in his life, since he has no friends. His best friend died years ago, and his one love interest, one of his old students named Charlene, hasn't been in touch in years.
Across town, Charlene's son Kel is having struggles of his own. His mother is an embarrassment...she is always sick (she has Lupus), she drinks too much, and they are poor. Kel's father left them when Kel was just a boy, often leaving the boy to fend for himself. But Kel is part of the in-crowd at school, is athletically gifted, and is even being recruited by a professional baseball team.
But when Charlene reaches out to Arthur after nearly 20 years, asking him to mentor Kel through the college application process, a sequence of events are set in motion that will change both Kel and Arthur forever.
My thoughts: Despite the fact that this story contains a great deal of heartbreak, it filled my heart with love and emotion until it was overflowing. I was amazed at the care and sensitivity that Moore took in exploring not one but two emotionally-charged and highly misunderstood afflictions...morbid obesity and Lupus. She puts kind, lovable human faces on a ragtag cast of characters that you wish you knew in real life.
There WERE moments when I had no earthly clue where the author was going. Generally, you know almost from the beginning that Charlene is the link between our two anti-heroes, and you have an idea of what the end of the story will look like, but there is an awful lot of wandering around in between. You meet a young, unmarried pregnant maid, you watch Arthur struggle with unresolved issues with his father, you cringe when Kel makes a series of bad choices that threaten to derail him, you cross your fingers when Kel finds love, and weep when he discovers a side of his mother he never knew. Lots and lots of wandering. But I didn't really mind. I was completely drawn into their lives.
The ending did give me pause. It was not an ambiguous ending...I had a firm idea of what would take place after the last page had been turned. But it was left unfinished, with a lingering final note of hope and optimism. I found it both unsettling and satisfying, and I walked away with the feeling that not only would this book be on my mind for days and weeks to come, but would likely end up on my list of favorites at year end.
A few words about the audio production: I can't emphasize enough about how perfect I found this audio. It was narrated by two persons...Kirby Heyborne, as Kel, and Keith Szarabajka, as Arthur. I don't believe I've ever heard either of them before, although it appears they have both participated in many narration projects. Kirby has the pleasant voice of a teenage boy, and Keith has a gorgeous, deep, velvety voice with a slight accent. Both are a pleasure to listen to, and made this book a must-listen.
5 out of 5 stars