The Weight of All Things: A Novel

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Now available in paperback—"Bentez's third novel seamlessly blends fact with imagination, evoking the trauma of war more vividly than any newspaper account . . . beautifully illuminating." (Publishers Weekly starred review)

Sandra Bentez received international acclaim for her first two novels: A Place Where the Sea Remembers ("A quietly stunning work that leaves soft tracks in the heart" —Washington Post Book World) and Bitter Grounds ("The kind of book that fills your dreams ...

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Now available in paperback—"Bentez's third novel seamlessly blends fact with imagination, evoking the trauma of war more vividly than any newspaper account . . . beautifully illuminating." (Publishers Weekly starred review)

Sandra Bentez received international acclaim for her first two novels: A Place Where the Sea Remembers ("A quietly stunning work that leaves soft tracks in the heart" —Washington Post Book World) and Bitter Grounds ("The kind of book that fills your dreams for weeks" —Isabel Allende). Now she returns with an unforgettable tale of life in war-torn El Salvador.

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Editorial Reviews

New York Times
In this graceful and unabashedly tender hearted novel, the politics behind the fighting is almost beside the point.
Chicago Tribune
Sandra Benitez's new novel, The Weight of All Things, ably conveys that intimate texture and an authentic sense of the personal experience of living through war . . . the sheer amount of historical and cultural detail, as well as the pointed and precise descriptive work, are wonderfully rewarding . . . And Benitez can move easily and fluidly from a graphic description of a field amputation to a sensual tribute to the joy of eating a tangerine.
Washington Post
Benitez spins a lyrically heart-rending tale of a 9 year-old-boy's confrontation with . . . the Salvadoran civil war . . .
Katharine Weber
The Weight of All Things, like Kosinski's The Painted Bird, illuminates . . . more than any report of events in El Salvador I have ever read . . . will stay with me.
Washington Post
A lyrically heart-rending tale.
New York Times Book Review
A graceful and unabashedly tenderhearted novel.
Ana Veciana Suarez
Benítez does it again. From the first lyrical sentence . . . world of violence, love, death, and redemption. What a read!
From The Critics
Benitez, author of A Place Where the Sea Remembers and Bitter Grounds, finds inspiration for her third novel, which concerns a nine-year-old boy named Nicolas, in two events that occurred in El Salvador in 1980. The first is the gathering of more than 80,000 people at the Metropolitan Cathedral for the funeral of the assassinated Archbishop Oscar Arnulfo Romero, which ended in the death of 35 people and the wounding of 450 more. The second, which occurred two months later, is the massacre by Honduran and Salvadoran troops of 600 people fleeing rural repression. The author effectively uses these two tragedies to tell the story of Nicolas' search for his mother, who, unbeknownst to him, was killed instantly while protecting him from the chaos that ensued at the archbishop's funeral. Nicolas' efforts take him on a harrowing journey through the war-torn landscape of El Salvador. Nicolas must live through the random and violent deaths of friends and family, the destruction of local communities and the constant fear of machine-gun fire. While on one level the book traces the brave Nicolas' tragically premature coming-of-age, the novel also delivers, with straightforward and evocative prose, a deeply affecting and startling portrait of a country ravaged by warring factions, and the innocent people caught, quite literally, in the crossfire. It may be worth noting that a portion of the proceeds from this book will go to Rosie O'Donnell's For All Kids Foundation, which grants money to nonprofit organizations that support the intellectual, social and cultural development of disadvantaged children across the United States.
—Mimi O'Connor

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Set in El Salvador during the civil war of the 1980s, Ben tez's third novel (after A Place Where the Sea Remembers and Bitter Grounds) seamlessly blends fact with imagination, evoking the trauma of war more vividly than any newspaper account. Nine-year-old Nicol s de la Virgen Veras lives with his grandfather Tata in Chalatenango, El Salvador, but on March 30, 1980, his mother, Lety, who works in San Salvador for Don Enrique, brings him to the city to witness the burial of a martyred saint, Archbishop Romero. In a bloodbath based on a real-life event, 35 people in the crowd of 80,000 are killed and 450 wounded by soldiers' fire. Lety dies protecting Nicol s. When her body is taken away, Nicol s cannot believe she is dead and tries first to find the hospital for the wounded, then to get home to find Don Enrique's address. As he journeys through the bleak Salvadoran landscape, Nicol s is caught in the violent clashes between the National Army and guerrilla rebels. Held at different times by each faction, Nicol s must rely on his wits and faith in the Virgin Mary if he is to survive. Ben tez's novel is both political and spiritual, beautifully illuminating the effects of war on the innocent. Like the Sumpul River of Nicol s's hometown, which alternately rages and soothes, Ben tez's style is both quiet and intense. Her achievement here is considerable; in this brief narrative, she gives voice to the silenced. Those who seek a deeper understanding of Latin American conflict and who appreciate Ben tez's moral stance will find the novel especially gratifying. 6-city author tour. (Feb.) FYI: Ben tez is donating a portion of the proceeds from The Weight of All Things to Rosie O'Donnell's For All Kids Foundation. Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.
Library Journal
The unimaginable cruelty of war becomes even more horrible when seen through the eyes of a child. Ben!tez (Bitter Grounds) portrays El Salvador's recent civil war in all of its senselessness and brutality as nine-year-old Nicolas Veras makes his way through a landscape of violence. Having joined his mother in San Salvador to attend the funeral of Archbishop Oscar Romero, Nicolas survives the ensuing mayhem that kills his mother. The intrepid child makes his way back to his grandfather's farm in the hills only to discover that their village has been bombed and guerrillas have commandeered the farm. Ben!tez's depiction of casual murder and massacre is more chilling for the matter-of-fact telling. Advance notice has compared this novel to Kosinski's The Painted Bird, but there is a vast difference. Unlike Kosinski's protagonist, Nicolas is an innocent who, despite his encounters with evil, remains compassionate. With its deceptively simple narrative, The Weight of All Things tells a powerful story.DAndrea Caron Kempf, Johnson Cty. Community Coll. Lib., Overland Park, KS Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
A nine-year-old boy wanders through war-torn El Salvador, trying to find his mother and stay out of the line of fire, in this lucid but limited tale. Benítez (Bitter Grounds, 1997, etc.) sets her third novel in the six-week period between two recent cataclysms of Salvadoran history: the March 1980 funeral of assassinated Archbishop Oscar Romero, at which 35 mourners were killed; and the military's massacre of 600 fleeing peasants on the Honduran border. Although her protagonist, Nicolás de la Virgen Veras, lives in the countryside with his grandfather, he goes to San Salvador to join his mother at"the funeral of a martyred saint." When violence breaks out at the cathedral, Nicolás's mother is killed by a bullet. Separated from her body by chaotic circumstances, the boy thinks she's still alive, but he doesn't have the address of the house where she was a servant. So he journeys back to his rural village, only to find it abandoned and devastated by bombings. As he roams about, Nicolás meets both leftist guerrillas and right-wing army soldiers—all of whom say exactly what you'd expect—and comes to understand the tragedy of being caught in the middle. As Benítez notes,"While the two sides fought for their principles, most of the dying was done by the people." Contrasting with the novel's usual plainspoken realism are the occasional manifestations of the Virgin Mary, who gives guidance and reassurance to Nicolás during his most harrowing moments. Such scenes—when, for example, a statuette of the Virgin actually speaks to the little boy—are authentically weird and sometimes a bit mawkish. Buttheydon't distract fromBenítez's vivid portrait of a time and place in which even children are murdered without second thought. Quite a valuable history lesson, despite its stock types. Author tour
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780786887033
  • Publisher: Hyperion
  • Publication date: 2/20/2002
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 239
  • Sales rank: 228,727
  • Product dimensions: 5.25 (w) x 8.00 (h) x 0.62 (d)

Meet the Author

Sandra Benítez is the author of A Place Where the Sea Remembers, which won the Barnes & Noble Discover Award and the Minnesota Book Award, and was a finalist for the Los Angeles Times First Fiction Award. She is also the author of Bitter Grounds, which won the Before Columbus Foundation's American Book Award, and The Weight of All Things, which was a Book Sense 76 selection. Benítez is a past Keller-Edelstein Distinguished Writer in Residence at the University of Minnesota, and recently won a Bush Foundation Fellowship in Fiction. She lives in Minnesota.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 5
( 3 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 3 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted February 27, 2011

    Hightly Recommended-a must read

    Reeaaaalllly good book. Enough said.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 23, 2002

    Weight of All Things

    This book really shows the hardships that one may come across. The little boy(Nicholas)is on an old staircase that keeps breaking, what is meant by this is- he is trying to go on but things(stairs) keep stopping(breaking)but he eventually gets through(up the stairs).

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 16, 2001


    War, as they say, is hell. It is hell compounded when endured by a nine-year-old boy who sees his mother killed. In later years he describes that moment as 'Like water pouring over stone, that is how she slipped away from me.' Ms. Benitez, who unforgettably drew Latin American life in 'A Place Where The Sea Remembers' (1993) and 'Bitter Grounds' (1997) now turns to a chaotic El Salvador. Born of both fact and imagination, 'The Weight Of All Things' depicts that country's 1980s violence as seen through the eyes of Nicholas de la Virgen Veras. Nicholas lives with his grandfather, Tata, in the small village of El Retorno, a place of cane and mud buildings 'whitewashed with hopefulness.' Acceding to his mother's request, he joins her in the city for the funeral of a slain archbishop. It is here that mass murder takes place, and his mother dies shielding the boy with her body. Clinging to the belief that she still lives despite having seen her limp form dragged away, Nicholas begins a painful and dangerous search for her. His quest takes him throughout the ravaged Salvadoran landscape, into the hands of guerrilla rebels, the Popular Liberation Forces, who have commandeered his village. Nationalist soldiers, the Guardia, will later ransack El Retorno and take the boy captive. To escape the army compound takes all the wily courage and faith Nicholas can muster. With 'The Weight Of All Things,' a scorching but beautiful narrative, Ms. Benitez speaks for the innocent, those caught between forces who would eradicate all in their blind quest for power. When Nicholas is wounded he longs for a place 'where there are no guns, no soldiers, no guerrilleros.' So does the world.

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