BookPage starred review, February 2019
Decades and continents apart, two young girls are each unexpectedly gifted a piano. In the Soviet Union during the 1960s, Katya’s piano comes to her from the mysterious German tenant who lives down the hall. In 1990s California, Clara receives hers as a surprise from her father. Katya excels at playing the piano, to which she feels extremely attached, and she centers her education and her self-expression on her musical talent. Clara is similarly attached to hers—not for her talent (of which there is little) but because she received it shortly before her father and mother died in a mysterious house fire.
When Clara, now in her mid-20s, decides to sell the piano, she realizes that she isn’t ready to part with her past. But she has already found a buyer, and he is extremely determined. The twisting mysteries of Chris Cander’s third novel are set into motion, and the result is a charming, puzzling plot that gets more exciting and addictive the deeper you sink into it.
The Weight of a Piano ruminates on the gravity held by the objects in our lives. Both Katya and Clara are heavily fixated on their pianos; they feel that it is an extension of themselves in certain ways. For Katya, losing the piano means losing everything, but Clara has a chance to come to terms with her painful attachment through a series of unraveling secrets.
Short chapters help the braided plot to avoid becoming overwhelming, and the novel is well-researched, from the Cyrillic script to the exquisitely bleak “sailing stones” in Death Valley. This reviewer just happened to be, in a past life, a piano tuner, and Cander’s unadorned prose composes some truly beautiful descriptions of the joy of music.