The Weight of a Piano

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Months before her twelfth birthday, Clara Lundy’s father gave her a piano: a scarred and heavy Blüthner upright that she didn’t ask for and couldn’t play. Its unexpected arrival upset certain balances in the home; it forced a rearrangement of furniture, increased the marital discord between her parents, and a week later, was central to the events that caused a fatal house fire and left Clara suddenly orphaned and alone. But because it was the only surviving artifact of her childhood, she couldn’t let it go.

As an adult, Clara still feels the burden of her loss. Wary of what could happen if she lets herself become dependent on someone, even while desperately wanting to find love and human connection, she retreats from relationships before they become too important. The most significant commitment she’s kept until now is the one she has with the Blüthner. But when the piano falls against her hand in yet another move and breaks it, she thinks it might be time to let it go.

When a well-known photographer tries to buy it, she has second thoughts. Gregoryi Zeldin convinces her to let him rent it for a couple of weeks for a photo shoot in Death Valley, and during the adventure that follows, Clara discovers that Greg knows more about her piano than she could have imagined. When she finally learns the real circumstances behind her father’s gift, she realizes that the piano she’s been dragging through the desert of her life wasn’t what she imagined it to be, and that finding a way to let go of the past might be the only way to let herself go forward.

About THE WEIGHT OF A PIANO, Charles Baxter, author of THERE’S SOMETHING I WANT YOU TO DO, says:

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.

Photo by Clayton Austin from the “Hammers & Strings” collection used with permission.