Heft, by Liz Moore
Heft is a novel which explores two very different characters. Although their lives appear to be asymmetrical, Arthur and Kel are united in facing similar problems under different guises.
Arthur is alone in the world. His obesity has become such an issue that he no longer leaves the house. Despite having worked successfully as an academic teaching in a University, he no longer has a job. He has no family and no reason to contact the outside world.
Kel is a teenager who faces a different kind of loneliness. He attends a school full of students who are far wealthier than he is. While his peers appear to have perfect family lives and every opportunity available to them, he has to deal with problems at home every day of his life.
The two characters come to realise that they are connected through Charlene. Charlene is Kel’s mother and, many years ago, she attended the university which Arthur taught at. Charlene and Arthur kept in contact through letters alone, and problems each of them faced become unknown to the other. In their letters to one another, both of them have given a distorted impression of their current situation, in order to hide their problems. Despite the fact that the connection between them appears to be tentative, due to the lack of truth in what they know about each other’s’ lives, the importance of their friendship becomes clear. Charlene is Arthur’s link to the outside world. Arthur is the person Charlene turns to when she knows she can no longer cope.
Moore provides the reader with a very unusual mix of characters in intriguing circumstances. The theme of friendship and the importance she places on connections between people, never mind how small, is very moving. Throughout the novel, Moore demonstrates how, even if you feel entirely alone in the world, someone may rely on you to be the only anchor of hope that still remains for them. Moore has developed characters that make realistic decisions. They hold on to secrets and can’t face letting anyone else know how they feel. This allows the reader to really empathise with Arthur and Kel as they struggle with life’s difficulties.
Moore covers many serious topics throughout the novel, including that of family, loneliness and the idea of being trapped by circumstance. Despite these contemplative topics, the plot is enjoyable throughout. As a reader who enjoys character-driven plots, I felt that I could engage with the Arthur and Kel, and was eager to discover how their situations would be resolved.