The Weight Of Him by Ethel Rohan

Review published on June 8, 2018.

At the start of this book, Michael has died by suicide, leaving his family devastated and looking for answers. We hear the story from the perspective of his father Big Billy, struggling with morbid obesity and lost as a parent with his younger children and wife locked in their private grief. Turning tragedy into triumph, Billy decides to lose weight, raise public attention to suicide, and face down his own childhood demons in the name of his dead son. His family have reservations about his plans as Billy uses his sadness to try to create a better life for himself, his family, and wider society.

This is a well-researched and thorough portrait of the emotions surrounding the death of someone close to us, specifically in this case there are other confusions as Michael chose his death, but the reactions to grief are pretty universal and I felt able to relate to the story and in particular the thoughts and feelings people share throughout. The ideas are in depth and real, while being simply put and in a very readable format. I found myself flying through it and never got bored or felt it was a slog to find out what was going to happen, with a great pace it tells a story that is sad, hopeful and moving where you really care and wish the best on the characters. There are also some great uses of imagery in the text with accessible language.

The main themes of the book are of transformation and what we find motivates us to make changes in our lives, emotions and relationships where you are drowned in grief and the wider social ideas about suicide. The story is set in Ireland but that isn’t a main feature of the novel, which I find is unusual for Irish books; it could take place in any village setting. I found it inspiring and would recommend it to someone who has lost someone dear to suicide, as I think they will find the story comforting. The ending is good but still realistic; not everything is resolved, but then it never would be.

Helen Corton 4/5

The Weight Of Him by Ethel Rohan
Atlantic Books 9781786491923 pbk Feb 2018

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