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The weight of a human heart by Ryan O'Neill
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The weight of a human heart

by Ryan O'Neill

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Disclosure: I received a free copy of The Weight of A Human Heart by Ryan O'Neill courtesy of St. Martin's Press, via GoodReads First Reads.

The short stories in O'Neill's collection The Weight of a Human Heart are for the most part overly focused on stylistic literary experimentation rather than on narrative or character development. This feels more like a self-assigned exercise in composition than any sort of enjoyable experience for the reader. A select few of the stories, notably "Africa was Children Crying" and "A Speeding Bullet," stand in isolation as less forced and more telling of the human experience. ( )
  KayMackey | Jan 7, 2014 |
I received a free copy of this book from GoodReads for early review.

Each story in this collection had a unique style, and although some other reviewers found this gimmicky, I thought it was clever and playful. So many of these stories looked at heavy, difficult subjects such as: the crumbling of a marriage communicated via graphs and charts ("Figures in a Marriage"); a child recalling the death of his whole family during the Rwandan genocide, shared through a written school exam ("The Examination"); the relationship of a father and son organized in snapshots of events in their family lives based upon four letter words ("Four Letter Words"); and a child dealing with the death of her mother and the discovery of her affair ("Tyypography"). The well-planned and executed stylistic choices for each story allowed the reader to digest sad and difficult subjects. I mention these as they were probably among my favorite stories for the blending of style, content and character.

The first story, "Collected Stories," was one of the most moving for me. The story follows the relationship of an obsessive writer mother and her only daughter, seen through the daughter's eyes. At first glance the relationship seems very toxic, the mother completely self-centered and absent as a parent. Yet O'Neill skillfully drops small clues of the mother's love for her child, although she seems incapable of openly expressing it. This story builds so successfully to the last line, from which this collection gets its name (The Weight of a Human Heart), that I saw the mother's last literary publication to be a declaration of her love for her daughter. Whether this was intended or not, I was hooked on O'Neill's writing from that first story. ( )
  amielisa | Aug 2, 2013 |
Across the board this is a strong collection of short stories. I lived the fact that the author has satisfying endings that do not leave the reader hanging. Also, some of the stories are tremendously creative for instance one is written in the form of a school examination and another is driven entirely by footnotes. So, why not 5 stars?. For me it is because the author seems to have a bit of a fixation on death and genocide. Several stories take place in Rwanda and the genocidal relationship between the Hutus and Tutsis. Maybe I am not being fair but I would have loved to have seen more of the creative stories at the expense of the darker ones. ( )
  muddyboy | Jul 25, 2013 |
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'The Weight of a Human Heart' turns the rules of sto rytelling on their head. A series of graphs illustrates the disintegration of a marriage, step by excruciating step. A literary feud, and an affair, play out in the book review section of a national newspaper. A young girl learns her mother's disturbing secrets.… (more)

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Penguin Australia

An edition of this book was published by Penguin Australia.

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