There are two ways to approach Matthew Weiner’s novella, Heather, the Totality – take it at face value or ponder Weiner’s broader commentary.
Should you take it at face value, you’re in for a ripping afternoon’s read. It’s the fast-paced story of Karen and Mark Breakstone, whose only child, Heather, is the centre of their world. But someone enters Heather’s life who threatens the family’s perfect Manhattan existence.
If you want more to think about, Heather, the Totality offers opportunity to consider the influence of one’s upbringing (particularly poverty versus wealth); the impact of social inequity; and what justifies particular actions.
Weiner expertly creates memorable characters, and gets away with spare detail because there is a fairytale quality to the story – the beautiful, blessed child of slightly unfortunate parents, who brings joy to everyone that crosses her path –
Their daughter was born at Lenox Hill Hospital at a reasonable hour and Mark was there and she was brought home to a stocked nursery and a few new friends Karen had made as she entered the world of birthing classes and stroller selection. They named her Heather.
Readers will be familiar with the good versus evil narrative and know how it plays out… Or do they?
There’s a detached style to Weiner’s writing, a purposeful distance that makes you feel like an observer. Ordinarily, I prefer to feel immersed in a book but in this case, the style was the hook, drawing me into the Breakstone’s world. There are moments narrated by one character that were genuinely chilling –
…his contact with the women customers was limited to long stares as they searched the aisles for lightbulbs or caulk. From his perch on the forklift he watched them wandering, clearly searching for men and not finding anything they deserved, like rope, or gloves, or him.
4/5 My quibbles would be spoilers so just know that I couldn’t put it down.
I received my copy of Heather, the Totality from the publisher, Little, Brown & Company, via NetGalley, in exchange for an honest review.
And as the days passed she would occupy those few hours while Heather was in school heartbroken in bed, then spring to life at pickup time when she could hold her hand again as they made cookies or watched videos or simply walked through the park.
My kids love making these cookies (seriously, they’re THE BEST).