The Weight of a Piano by Chris Cander
“He sighed. “I’ve been angry for a really long time. Abandonment issues. That’s what my therapist calls them, anyway… It was actually his idea for me to do something creative to help me process her death. Something symbolic. So that’s why I thought of this, retaking the photos from our Death Valley trip, but with the Bluthner in them. All alone, nobody playing it, no music to melt the ice. Just like in the story. Don’t you see?” he said, his voice going soft. “The piano is my mother. I wanted to show how it felt to me when she died. What it looked like when the music stopped.”
35 years ago, when I was a little girl, my parents bought a piano for me. It was made of beautiful, brown wood and when my teacher played it, it made the most gorgeous sounds I had ever heard. Every night, I would sit down and practice my scales while my father sat in his favorite chair, reading his books in the living room. I. WAS. TERRIBLE. as most young children are when they first begin learning how to play an instrument. But every evening, my dad would tell me how good the music sounded, how much he loved hearing me play and how I just needed to keep practicing if I wanted to get better. Years later when I would play and place at Federation, it was my dad in the audience who clapped the loudest. Now as an adult, every time I see a piano or run my fingers over the keys, I can still picture him in my mind, sitting in his leather recliner, offering words of encouragement. I know exactly how Greg felt when he spoke the words in the quote written above. My father passed away a year and two months ago, and I am only just now beginning to hear music again. Everything stopped. The world lost its beauty. Colors became dull. Sound became flat. Who I was before he took his last breath and who I am now, navigating life without him, are two completely different people.
The story I found within the pages of The Weight of a Piano spoke to my loss as well as my love of music. Chris Cander captures the themes of grief, grace and the power that music can have over us so beautifully through out this book that several passages literally took my breath away as I read. She weaves three different story lines together - that of a Romanian piano maker and his gorgeous creation, the young girl Katya who becomes the piano’s first owner, and then Clara who was given the piano by her father when she was just 12. Now an adult and completely on her own, Clara decides to list the piano for sale. The buyer turns out to have an unexpected link to the piano and the story that Cander spins around Clara and Greg is unique, aching, and powerful. Cander’s writing in many instances is absolute magic - I was transported to the Romanian forests when she described how they selected the trees that would make the piano and then again when Katya tells the Russian fairy tale of Sasha. My heart broke as the details of Katya’s adult life were slowly brought to light, and it broke again for Clara who missed her parents so much at times she could not breathe and did not do what she was going to do.
My only issue with the story (and it was a small one) was how Greg took a weird, possessive turn towards the end. That aspect caught me off guard and momentarily broke the spell that I had been under up until that point. This was my very first read for 2019 (I waited to post the review once it was closer to release day), and I am so glad that the kind people at Knopf sent this book to me. I enjoyed going on the journey of both the piano and the people’s lives that it touched and I thought the story overall was just beautifully done.
The Weight of a Piano releases everywhere on January 22, 2019. 4 stars.
(This complimentary copy was sent to me by the publisher in exchange for my honest review).