In her third novel, The Weight of a Piano, Chris Cander proves herself a masterful, almost musical handler of volume and emphasis in words, knowing when to write a scene in a voice big and booming, and when to allow her approach to grow quieter ... The reader is left to contemplate loss and legacy, the novel’s notions of 'poetry and color and imagination' lingering like the notes of a distant song.
If the novel is primarily concerned with transgenerational trauma, the outcomes it suggests are necessarily provisional and partial; the past cannot be altered, simply accommodated. But the specifics of how we address its physical remains – those objects that we imbue with the uncanny and as communicants of the lives of the dead – is a matter for individual reckonings; whether to enshrine them or to treat them as mere accessories to the great human drama is an uneasy and often painful area. Cander’s novel, although it falls occasionally between starkness and sentimentality, is an interesting exploration of an abiding dilemma.
The late-in-the-novel revelation of how Katya’s piano travels from Khrushchev’s Russia to sunny California is ably and convincingly told ... As interesting as these women’s stories are, Clara’s stagnates at times ... The details involved with hauling, loading and unloading it from the truck, adjusting tire inflation and continually lifting the piano onto a dolly is as exhausting for the characters as it is tedious for the reader ... But Cander... has a gift for offering readers access to unique experiences ... Cander’s poetic description of Blüthner knocking on the trees with his walking stick and pressing his ear against them... reminds us how little we wonder about the provenance of the handmade and manufactured goods we consume and discard. She conveys her characters’ emotions in equally lyrical ways ... [Katya and Clara's] journeys to enlightenment, as well as the Blüthner’s transcontinental travels, make this a worthy novel despite the story’s occasional sluggishness.
A charming, puzzling plot that gets more exciting and addictive the deeper you sink into it ... ruminates on the gravity held by the objects in our lives ... Short chapters help the braided plot to avoid becoming overwhelming, and the novel is well-researched, from the Cyrillic script to the exquisitely bleak 'sailing stones' in Death Valley. This reviewer just happened to be, in a past life, a piano tuner, and Cander’s unadorned prose composes some truly beautiful descriptions of the joy of music.
From award-winning author Cander, 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.
Despite the richness of Cander’s prose, in The Weight of a Piano she crafts a novel that staggers somewhat under its own weight and the weight it carries of its alienated and often alienating protagonists, Katya and Clara ... The book can become sluggish and stodgy in long sections. Without the piano, the novel is lightweight with standard fare characterizations. The inner lives of both Katya and Clara are generically portrayed. The men in the book are all stereotypical cardboard cutouts, except perhaps for Grisha who is unsympathetic and unnecessarily creepy. Author Cander is at her best in detailed descriptions of the piano and piano making, music in general, and the stark desolate beauty of the Death Valley landscape.
Cander grabs the reader in her opening pages: a bravura, thickly detailed account of the creation of a Blüthner piano ... Cander expertly parcels out her revelations: Alert readers will likely figure out that Greg is Katya’s son before he admits it on route to Death Valley, but the final plot twist is a satisfying surprise. Clues are carefully planted, however, as Cander builds parallel narratives in alternating chapters ... Deftly plotted and well written, a gentle meditation on the healing power of art—and its limitations.
In her elegiac and evocative novel, Cander explores the legacy of loss, the intersections of art and music, and what happens when physical objects assume outsized symbolism ... Reminiscent of Annie Proulx’s Accordion Crimes, Cander’s novel delves into the often unexplainable genesis of artistic inspiration and examines how family legacy—the physical objects people inherit, the genetic traits people carry on, and the generational lore people internalize—can both ignite imagination and limit its scope. Cander brilliantly and convincingly expresses music and visual art in her writing, capturing both within a near-alien but surprisingly stunning landscape.