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Gravity Is the Thing

Review

Gravity Is the Thing

I’ve long been a huge fan of Australian author Jaclyn Moriarty, whose books for young people have offered a beautifully written combination of quirky characters, emotional insights and more than a little magic. I was definitely interested to see what approach she would take in her debut novel for adults. The good news --- for Moriarty’s longtime fans and newcomers alike --- is that GRAVITY IS THE THING packs in all those elements I’ve loved in her fiction for children, layered with emotional and narrative complexity befitting a novel for adults.

The book opens when 35-year-old single mother Abigail Sorenson flies to a weekend retreat, the culmination of a 20-year project called The Guidebook. Ever since the eve of her 16th birthday, Abi has received mysterious pages in the mail that seem to be from a self-help manual in process. A few of the excerpts have invited Abi to conduct an exercise, write a reflection, or enact a personal challenge. Some are merely full of the kinds of metaphors that characterize self-improvement guidebooks and other pop psychology manuals. In addition, for the past two decades, Abi has written and mailed an annual reflection on her year.

"...a heartbreaking, hopeful, very funny and, yes, possibly magical novel about what to do with the surprises --- both good and bad --- that the world hands us."

It turns out that something else happened on the eve of Abi’s 16th birthday. Her beloved brother and best friend, Robert, who recently had been diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, abruptly disappeared, and he’s been missing, without a trace, for the past 20 years. So when, as her 36th birthday and the 20th anniversary of Robert’s disappearance approach, she receives an invitation to this perplexing weekend retreat, she knows she needs to accept. It may give her some insight not only into the two-decades-long project of which she’s been a part, but into Robert’s absence as well.

When Abi discovers the secret behind the weekend, it’s safe to say that neither she nor the reader would have ever predicted it. But this surprising development leads Abi to a new journey of self-discovery, sending her into her own past while also prompting her to explore the kinds of paths encouraged by other popular self-help tomes. Abi, a former lawyer, now owns a coffee shop called the Happiness Café, even though she herself is plagued by a sort of formless sadness.

Told primarily through a series of very short vignettes (including excerpts from The Guidebook), as well as through the yearly reflections from some particularly turbulent years in Abi’s past, GRAVITY IS THE THING is a heartbreaking, hopeful, very funny and, yes, possibly magical novel about what to do with the surprises --- both good and bad --- that the world hands us.

Reviewed by Norah Piehl on August 2, 2019

Gravity Is the Thing
by Jaclyn Moriarty

  • Publication Date: July 23, 2019
  • Genres: Fiction, Humor
  • Hardcover: 416 pages
  • Publisher: Harper
  • ISBN-10: 0062883739
  • ISBN-13: 9780062883735