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Heather, the Totality

Review

Heather, the Totality

To Mark and Karen Breakstone, their beautiful, smart and empathetic daughter Heather is everything. She gives purpose to Mark’s dull work and justifies Karen’s role as a stay-at-home mom. She is the culmination of their mid-life romance and their upwardly mobile lifestyle. But Heather is also a wedge that is driven between the couple and the object of obsession for a dangerous stranger. HEATHER, THE TOTALITY is the debut novel (so short as to be a novella, really) by “Mad Men” creator Matthew Weiner. It is emotionally intense, written with keen insight into the human psyche and the factors that create both happiness and discord.

"Weiner is a confident writer and tackles psychological, sociological and familial issues with energy, perception and skill."

When Mark and Karen met, they were in their early 40s, each starting to lose hope for finding a lifelong partner. Karen was working at a job that was not quite what she wanted to be doing and not quite what she told people she did. She finds meaning as a wealthy Manhattan homemaker and especially as Heather’s mother, even as she becomes more isolated from friends and peers. Mark works hard to provide the life that he believes his family deserves. He is happy to let Karen take charge of Heather’s education and activities, until he too finds himself isolated --- isolated from the close pair that is his wife and daughter. As Heather grows into a young teenager, she comes to see her parents’ flaws even as she strives to understand her own. She is smart and kind, and generally a loving daughter, but like so many teenagers is drawn to elements of risk.

Bobby Klasky was born to a single addict mother in a working-class New Jersey town and never knew who his father was. Neglected by his mother and abused by her boyfriends and companions, he is lonely, beyond disadvantaged and convinced of his superiority. Released from prison after serving time for assault, and after having his psychiatric evaluations bungled, Bobby finds himself back at home with his mother, whose situation has grown even worse. An act of cold violence frees him from her and brings him to New York and into the orbit of the Breakstones.

As Heather pulls away from what feels like the stranglehold of her parents’ love and dysfunction, she catches Bobby’s eye. But Mark sees Bobby’s interest and senses his menace.

Weiner deftly captures the desperation and complexity of each of the four characters as he brings them toward a shocking climax. Readers must confront moral haziness as he explores issues of harm and the potentiality of harm. HEATHER, THE TOTALITY is a quick read, and every page smolders with potency. Viscerally real and totally chilling, this is a fantastic book. Weiner is a confident writer and tackles psychological, sociological and familial issues with energy, perception and skill.

Reviewed by Sarah Rachel Egelman on November 10, 2017

Heather, the Totality
by Matthew Weiner

  • Publication Date: November 7, 2017
  • Genres: Fiction
  • Hardcover: 144 pages
  • Publisher: Little, Brown and Company
  • ISBN-10: 0316435317
  • ISBN-13: 9780316435314