Monday, July 26, 2021

"The Weight of Memory" by Shawn Smucker

Paul Elias is a grandfather with custody of his granddaughter Pearl. Paul also has a problem: he’s dying from cancer, a tumor that’s growing on the side of his head. His doctor tells him he has anywhere from now to three months to live.  

Paul’s wife Mary died 40 years before. He hasn’t seen Pearl’s father, his son John, in four years; he doesn’t know if John’s even alive or has died somewhere from his drug addiction. He has to find someone who will care for Pearl, and time in increasingly short. He decides to return to his hometown of Nysa, a place he hasn’t seen since Mary died.


Pearl tells him of the white-haired lady who she’s talked with at school and other places as well. Pearl is a born storyteller and has a vivid imagination. But when Paul hears her talk about the white-haired lady, he recalls May talking about seeing a white-haired lady in the year leading up to her death. 


Stull, he feels almost compelled to return to Nysa, even if it’s impossible to forget the day he was holding baby John on the dock of their cabin on the lake, watching his best friends Tom and Shirly paddle home in their kayaks. The third kayak, Mary’s kayak, was not with them. She fell into the water and presumably drowned. But who was, and is, the white-haired lady?


Shawn Smucker

The Weight of Memory
 is author Shawn Smucker’s latest novel. It’s a surprisingly quiet story of how we can be haunted by the past, but also how the past can offer redemption. It’s a story of how friendship can take you places you never expected to go. It’s a story of how finding faith and redemption often means losing your life – the life you’ve known and always thought you understood. It’s a story about forgiveness. And it’s a love story, about the love lost by a young husband and the love of a grandfather. 


In addition to the novels These Nameless ThingsThe Day the Angels Fell and The Edge of Over There, Smucker has published four non-fiction works – Once We Were StrangersMy Amish RootsBuilding a Life Out of Words, and Refuse to Drown. He and his family live in Lancaster, Pennsylvania.


It’s not easy to pin Smucker’s novels, including this one, to a specific genre of fiction. They contain elements of fantasy, the speculative, and often a slight nod in the direction of the paranormal. And yet they are recognizably mainstream novels. It’s no easy task to pull off this kind of writing, and keep the reader fully engaged in what is a completely believable story. (If you’re familiar with The Little Princess by George Macdonald, The Weight of Memory will remind you of it and seems, in fact, to pay homage to it.)


It’s a beautiful story, one of the best I’ve read this year. 




My review of These Nameless Things by Shawn Smucker.


My review of Light from Distant Stars by Shawn Smucker.


My review of The Day the Angels Fell by Shawn Smucker.


My review of The Edge of Over There by Shawn Smucker.


My review of Once We Were Strangers by Shawn Smucker.


My review of My Amish Roots by Shawn Smucker.



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