Read an Excerpt
Listen to “Die Reise”
France (Editions Christian Bourgois)
Poland (Czarna Owca Publishing House)
Taiwan (Marco Polo)
Israel (Simanim Publishing House)
Coming January 2019 from Knopf.
The Weight of a Piano follows the interweaving stories of two women—a Soviet concert pianist and a young mechanic in California—and their shared, devastating connection to the same Blüthner piano, its tragic history, and to each other.
In post-WW2 Russia, young pianist Katya Zeldin receives what will become her most prized possession: a Blüthner piano. The piano is the most constant presence of her short life, accompanying her as she marries, flees Russia with her husband and young son as Soviet Refusniks, and re-settles in Los Angeles. In modern day, Clara Lundy struggles to let go of the same Blüthner, which she’s been dragging around with her since her father gifted it to her for her 12th birthday, just before his sudden and unexplained death.
Using music and creative passion to illustrate how one object can become the focal point of a lifelong struggle, The Weight of a Piano is ultimately about how we reconcile the present with the past, and how to do so we must sometimes let go of our idealized sense of both.
“Deftly plotted and well written, a gentle meditation on the healing power of art — and its limitations….Cander grabs the reader in her bravura, thickly detailed opening pages [and] expertly parcels out her revelations [as] she builds parallel narratives [toward] an odd but beautiful finale.”
—Kirkus Reviews (STARRED REVIEW)
“Cander brilliantly and convincingly expresses music and visual art in her writing, capturing both within a near-alien but surprisingly stunning landscape.”
—Publishers Weekly (STARRED REVIEW)
“VERDICT: From award-winning author Cander (Whisper Hollow), this beautiful tale of the intersecting stories of Katya and Clara, two strong women working hard to rebuild their shattered lives, is impossible to put down and impossible to forget.”
—Library Journal (STARRED REVIEW)
“Strong characterization and attention to detail, whether in the manufacture of a piano or in the desolate beauty of Death Valley, elevate Cander’s tale about learning to let go of the past.”
“At the heart of this novel lies an old German upright piano that makes its way from Leningrad to California, changing the lives of everyone it touches. Its music reverberates through the stories of two seemingly unconnected people: a man on an inexplicable quest to photograph it, and a woman who, despite being unable to play it, can’t let it go. Elegantly twisting the strands of this story together, Cander explores the ways art and music change and enrich our lives, often in wondrous and remarkable ways. In doing so, she touches on love and loss, memory and forgetting, perseverance and self-discovery. Like a powerful melody, The Weight of a Piano is haunting, evocative, and impossible to forget.”
“Like Werner Herzog’s Fitzcarraldo, Chris Cander’s The Weight of a Piano is a visionary novel about the madness inherent in all art and the burdens of history that give rise to art and must be carried in turn. The miracle of wonderful fiction is to place wondrous objects where we would never expect to find them–to make the unexpected both palpable and real–and this beautiful, intricate novel gives us one indelible picture after another, each one written in a different key.”
—Charles Baxter, author of There’s Something I Want You To Do
“The Weight of a Piano tenderly illuminates the solace—and the suffering—that art can bring to those who have endured grievous loss. Chris Cander’s ingenious plot braids together vividly disparate geographies and times, swerving deliciously whenever we think we know where she’s heading. She understands love and terror and the uncanny power of inheritance.”
—Pamela Erens, author of Eleven Hours
“Chris Cander’s portrait of two powerful women and the heartbreaking intersection of their families is arresting and affecting, but as all its characters would agree, the real heart of this novel is the Blüthner upright piano we track from its soundboard’s origin in a Romanian forest: an instrument so charismatic that for both women it’s a way of floating above their world and connecting to a lost home, as well as eventually to a version of themselves they’ve never before considered. The Weight of a Piano soars when it obsesses and lets us see what it is it hears.”
—Jim Shepard, author of The Book of Aron
“Chris Cander takes readers into new and uncharted territory with a story that spans a century, continents, cultures, and many lives. This novel is sly and sexy and serendipitous, and through the magic and wisdom surrounding a single piano it helps to restore what is beautiful in both art and life. To me, The Weight of a Piano already feels indelible.”
—Peter Geye, author of Wintering