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.