Tuesday, 7 February 2017

The Weight of It All by N.R. Walker

244 pages

Buy links: Amazon | Amazon UK | Amazon AU

The blurb

After being dumped by his long-term boyfriend for being overweight, Henry Beckett decides to make some drastic changes. In a vain attempt at getting his boyfriend back, Henry does the most absurdly frightening thing he can think of.

He joins a gym.

Reed Henske is a personal trainer who isn’t sure he’ll ever be ready to date again. He’s sick of guys who are only interested in the perfect body image, never seeing him for who he really is.

As Reed tortures Henry with things like diet and exercise, Henry enamours Reed with recipes and laughter. As the friendship lines start to blur, Henry is convinced there’s no way Thor-like Reed could ever be interested in a guy like him.

Reed just has to convince Henry that life isn’t about reaching your ideal bodyweight. It’s about finding your perfect counterweight.

My thoughts

Why oh why is it so damn hard to write a review for a book I truly loved? I’m torn between writing a long gush-fest and just leaving the review at one word: Fabulous! As it is, I’ve added The Weight of It All to my list of ‘Extra Special’ reads and it has more than earned its place there.

Henry….Oh Henry. He captured my heart from the very start. He’s hiding most of his pain behind humour, mostly through making fun of himself, and had me laughing almost despite myself at times. The way he sees himself when the story starts and he first meets Reed just broke my heart.

“There’s a lot to be said about being the overweight unattractive guy. Kind of invisible, or more to the point, no one sees me as a threat, so I kinda sneak through, you know?”

In fact, despite all the laugh out loud moments in this book (and there were many of those) my heart continued to break for Henry for a large part of the story and never more so then when he comes to the conclusion that he may have spend a good part of his relationship with Graham actually being alone.

“How could I have spent the last eight years with someone and feel alone? How could I find myself suddenly single and there be no void where Graham had been? I didn’t even realise how alone I was until he was gone, because it was only after he’d left that  realised my life wasn’t that much different?”

I initially had my doubts about Henry’s sense (or should I say ‘use’) of humour. Self-deprecation all too often leaves a sour taste in my mouth. I shouldn’t have worried. The balance between humorous Henry, sad Henry, and thoughtful Henry was just about perfect and, what’s more, he had me laughing out loud more than once with his ‘no-brain-to-mouth-filter’ rants. But there’s another side to the humour too. I’m fairly sure most, if not all, of us recognise a lot of what Henry finds himself struggling with.

Is anybody ever happy with the way they look? Do any of us ever think we’re good enough for the person we find ourselves falling for? That is what made this book so very special; Henry goes through and deals with feelings, insecurities, and questions all of us have to deal with at some point in our lives. We laugh with him, but if you’re anything like me, that laughter comes with a little bit of discomfort because I completely recognised what Henry felt.

Reed…sighs…The man of two smiles; one of them reserved for Henry. He is such a wonderful person, and exactly what Henry needs. Because the whole story is told from Henry’s point of view it takes a while before we get a good idea of exactly what makes Reed tick and that was perfect. It is clear from the start that there’s a lot more to Reed than ‘just’ a gorgeous body and loving personality, but for both the reader and Henry it takes a while before we get to the bottom of Reed’s reasons for being who he is. In fact, this is true for quite a few characters we encounter in this story; there’s a lot more to them than we assume at first glance, and how perfect is that in a book that’s all about not judging people based on appearance?

Ultimately, it was the fact that this book could make me think about my attitude to appearance while also having me laugh out loud on numerous occasions, that pushed this book from good to fabulous. The balance was struck perfectly; the message was loud and clear while there wasn’t a preachy moment in this story. Colour me impressed.

The secondary characters in this book are (almost) as fabulous as Henry and Reed. Everybody should have an Anika or Emily in their lives. Anika had me laughing out loud at least as often as Henry, especially in the one scene I’d love to quote here but won’t because I’m fairly sure it would lead to this review being refused on at least one site. J

I could go on and on, there was so much that resonated with me, so much to make me laugh and just as much to make me think. I’ll stop here though. All I can say is that if you haven’t read this book yet, you really, really should. It will make you laugh, sigh, think, and ultimately leave you happy and uplifted when the story comes to a happy yet realistic ending. The Weight of It All is as good and satisfying as you could wish a story to be.

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