USEREVIEW 039 (Capsule): The Weight of the Heart
The Weight of the Heart (Palimpsest Press, 2020)
ISBN 978-1-98928-747-7 | 120 pp | $15.95 CAD
It isn’t a spoiler to say that we never do find out exactly how much a heart weighs in the latest novella from prolific author Theresa Kishkan, but what is clear is that the heart weighs more than we might be given to expect. The story foreshadows this figurative surprise with its opening lines: “The closer I got to Lytton, the worst I felt. The traffic was heavy through the Fraser Valley that summer.” In spite of its pithy slimness, The Weight of the Heart has the capacity to carry the great heft of fresh grief of its first-person narrator, graduate student Isabel, who is travelling alone through British Columbia in an effort to reckon with the sudden death of her brother and with her own life’s work. Isabel’s voice is unexpectedly paired with the voices of the lands themselves, recounting their fraught histories. Thus traversing western Canada’s geographies, as well as a portion of the country’s rich history of feminist literature, The Weight of the Heart moves as smoothly as worn tires over a freshly paved road, holding the reader in suspense about how it will possibly pull off such a quick final stop.
On pp 53–56, Isabel takes a kayak journey up the river, alone with a tour guide who is a stranger. It’s one of the few moments in the novel when we are allowed to see an immediate (rather than remembered) interaction between our narrator and another character, and the death-touched intimacy of it is as startling to us as it is to her.