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The Weight of a Piano: A novel (Hardcover)

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Staff Reviews

This is a fascinating novel which weaves together places, people and a Blüthner upright piano in a most unique story. The places include the final years of the Soviet Union, Bakersfield CA, and Death Valley. The people include: Clara, a car mechanic and current owner of the piano, Katya, a Russian Jewish immigrant to California with her husband and son, and a fine pianist, and Greg, a NYC photographer who has a burning desire to photograph the over 100 year old Blüthner in Death Valley.  Chris Cander’s characters are deeply drawn and are driven by their passions, their pasts, and a search for a future that will bring them stability and happiness.

— Joan

February 2019 Indie Next List

“A hulking black piano of Russian origin links the stories of two women: Katya, who must leave behind her beloved instrument when she immigrates to the U.S., and Clara, who is forced to sell her family heirloom when she loses her boyfriend and her home. The obsessive love each woman holds for the piano unfolds as the instrument journeys across continents. Chris Cander has crafted a novel of compelling beauty and characters who are complex, deeply flawed, and magnificently haunting. This will be a five-star beginning to any avid reader’s 2019 book list.”
— Pamela Klinger-Horn, Excelsior Bay Books, Excelsior, MN

Winter 2019 Reading Group Indie Next List

“A young girl is gifted a unique piano by a blind virtuoso. Half a century later, that same piano belongs to a troubled young woman who is trying to make sense of her life and understand the piano’s place in it. She is drawn into a quest that takes her to Death Valley and to a quirky photographer who may have the answers she seeks. This beautifully written, witty adventure, featuring a cast of marvelous characters from the past and the present, is highly recommended.”
— Bob Sommer, Changing Hands, Tempe, AZ


In 1962, in the Soviet Union, eight-year-old Katya is bequeathed what will become the love of her life: a Blüthner piano, on which she discovers an enrichening passion for music. Yet after she marries, her husband insists the family emigrate to America—and loses her piano in the process.

In 2012, in Bakersfield, California, twenty-six-year-old Clara Lundy is burdened by the last gift her father gave her before he and her mother died in a terrible house fire: a Blüthner upright she has never learned to play. Now a talented and independent auto mechanic, Clara’s career is put on hold when she breaks her hand trying to move the piano, and in sudden frustration she decides to sell it. Only in discovering the identity of the buyer—and the secret history of her piano—will Clara be set free to live the life of her choosing.

About the Author

Chris Cander graduated from the Honors College at the University of Houston, in the city where she was raised and still lives, with her husband, daughter, and son. For seven years she has been a writer-in-residence for Writers in the Schools there. She serves on the Inprint advisory board and stewards several Little Free Libraries in her community. Her first novel, 11 Stories, won the Independent Publisher Gold Medal for Popular Fiction, and her most recent, Whisper Hollow, was long-listed for the Great Santini Fiction Prize by the Southern Independent Booksellers Alliance. She is also the author of The Word Burglar, which won the 2014 Moonbeam Children's Book Award (silver).

Praise For…

“Immense, intense and imaginative. . . . The Weight of a Piano is about memory and identity. . . . Cander is a smart, deft storyteller [and] understands how something as beloved as a piano can actually be a burden.”—James Barron, The New York Times Book Review

“The reader is left to contemplate loss and legacy, the novel’s notion of ‘poetry and color and imagination’ lingering like the notes of a distant song. . . . Cander proves herself masterful.”— Kathleen Rooney, The Minneapolis Star Tribune
“Deeply resonant, The Weight of a Piano will resonate with anyone who has been shattered by loss, anyone who is frozen in time or place, unwilling to open themselves to others or unable to overcome the anger that accompanies the absence of love. The life of the piano—and its presence in the lives of [these characters]—lingers in the music of the mind and heart.”—K.M. Sandrick, Historical Novel Society  
“Cander has a gift for description. . . .  The Weight of a Piano is not just a meditation on the things of our lives, but also an argument that these are also subjective correlatives for all of the things that we cannot stand to lose.”—Doni Wilson, Houstonia Magazine
“Elegiac and evocative. . . . Cander brilliantly and convincingly expresses music and visual art in her writing, capturing both within a near-alien but surprisingly stunning landscape.”—Publishers Weekly “Books of the Week”
“Both ambitiously sprawling and shrewdly focused. . . . Cander’s themes run a broad gamut, from the search for love and the complications of marital infidelity to the consequences of childhood trauma and the plight of refugees fleeing a hopeless life. The most enduring theme, however, is the power of art to redeem heartbreak and to provide consolation and, in some cases, hope.”—Ed Tarkington, Chapter 16

“ intriguing, serendipitous story [that offers] readers access to unique experiences.”—Carol Memmott, The Washington Post

“A charming, puzzling plot that gets more exciting and addictive the deeper you sink into it. . . . Cander’s unadorned prose composes some truly beautiful descriptions of the joy of music.”—Leslie Hinson, BookPage [starred]

The Weight of a Piano showcases [Cander’s] development as a powerful storyteller, reminding me of Accordion Crimes by the great Annie Proulx. . . .  [This is] an original, creative tackling of the essentially solitary human condition; the effort required of women to claim full personhood; and the frightening vulnerability necessary to connect with another, defiant in the face of the transitory nature of all things”—Michelle Newby, Lone Star Literary
“Cander interweaves a surprising, time-jumping plot with a deep understanding of her characters’ emotional landscapes. The Weight of a Piano is also an exploration of the healing and cathartic powers of art and music, making it the perfect gift for the creatives in your life.”—Elena Nicolaou, Refinery29

“[An] extraordinary tale of pain, fear, loss and love. . . . The Weight of a Piano is a touching story of survival--for two families, two girls, and an instrument.”—Jim Alkon,
“In The Weight of a Piano, two women are linked by one instrument. . . . Chris Cander masterfully reveals how these women’s lives connect (and how the piano came to be made) and, in the process, meditates on grief and living in the past.”—Elizabeth Sile, Real Simple “Five Books That Won’t Disappoint”
“This beautiful tale . . . is impossible to put down and impossible to forget.”—Library Journal [starred]
“Strong characterization and attention to detail, whether in the manufacture of a piano or in the desolate beauty of Death Valley, elevate Cander's tale about learning to let go of the past.”—Booklist
"Deftly plotted and well written, a gentle meditation on the healing power of art--and its limitations. . . . Cander grabs the reader in her bravura, thickly detailed opening pages [and] expertly parcels out her revelations [as] she builds parallel narratives [toward] an odd but beautiful finale."--Kirkus Reviews [starred]
"Like Werner Herzog's Fitzcarraldo, The Weight of a Piano is a visionary work about the madness inherent in all art and the burdens of history that give rise to art and must be carried in turn. The miracle of this wonderful novel is to place an object, weighted with history, in a locale where we would never expect to find it, making the unexpected both palpable and real, and by doing so, this beautiful, intricate novel gives us one indelible picture after another, each one written in a different key."--Charles Baxter
"The Weight of a Piano tenderly illuminates the solace--and the suffering--that art can bring to those who have endured grievous loss. Cander’s ingenious plot braids together vividly disparate geographies and times, swerving deliciously whenever we think we know where she’s heading. She understands love and terror and the uncanny power of inheritance."--Pamela Erens
"Cander takes readers into new and uncharted territory with a story that spans a century, continents, cultures, and many lives. This novel is sly and sexy and serendipitous, and through the magic and wisdom surrounding a single piano it helps to restore what is beautiful in both art and life. To me, The Weight of a Piano already feels indelible."--Peter Geye
"At the heart of this novel is an old German upright piano whose music reverberates through the stories of two seemingly unconnected people: a man on an inexplicable quest to photograph it, and a woman who, despite being unable to play it, can't let it go. Elegantly twisting the strands together, Cander explores how art and music change and enrich our lives, often in wondrous and remarkable ways, and also touches on love and loss, memory and forgetting, perseverance and self-discovery. Like a powerful melody, The Weight of a Piano is haunting, evocative, and impossible to forget."--Christina Baker Kline
"Cander's portrait of two powerful women and the heartbreaking intersection of their families is arresting and affecting, but as all its characters would agree, the real heart of this novel is the Blüthner upright piano we track from its soundboard's origin in a Romanian forest: an instrument so charismatic that for both women it's a way of floating above their world and connecting to a lost home, as well as eventually to a version of themselves they've never before considered. The Weight of a Piano soars when it obsesses and lets us see what it is it hears."—Jim Shepard
Product Details
ISBN: 9780525654674
ISBN-10: 0525654674
Publisher: Knopf
Publication Date: January 22nd, 2019
Pages: 336
Language: English