About the Book, She Ain’t Heavy:
Just when counter clerk Teddy Warner is about to be evicted from her Scranton apartment, she bumps into beautiful, brilliant, blond Rachel – her estranged childhood friend whose mother forbid their friendship thinking Teddy was beneath them.
Teddy and Rachel reconnect over hot chocolate and under New Year’s Eve fireworks. Their discussion leads to an invitation. Soon, Teddy’s on her way to Philadelphia, where Rachel is a student, to share an apartment and begin an exciting new life in the City.
Teddy views Rachel as perfect. Rachel can’t bring herself to shatter the image by letting on that she is having an affair with a married man. Just when Teddy is starting to feel at home, Rachel insists on some privacy. Acting out her anger at being asked to stay away, Teddy indulges in a one-night stand.
When Teddy returns to their apartment the next morning, Rachel is being carried out on a stretcher – the victim of carbon monoxide poisoning. This unforeseen tragedy leaves Teddy alone in a strange city, with no money, no friends, and no connections.
As Teddy struggles to find her way, she meets a mentor at the same university Rachel previously attended who takes an interest in her, but with strings attached. She also develops a unique bond with the firefighter who rescued Rachel. And yet, Teddy remains committed to helping Rachel get back on her feet, at a time when no one else who supposedly loves her can accept her in this diminished way. Along the way, Teddy discovers her own strength in the roles of caretaker, lover, and friend.
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About the author, Arnine Weiss:
Arnine Cumsky Weiss is a nationally certified sign language interpreter and a teacher of English as a second language. She has worked in the field of Deafness for over thirty years. She is the author of six books. BECOMING A BAR MITVAH: A TREASURY OF STORIES, BECOMING A BAT MITZVAH: A TREASURY OF STORIES (University of Scranton Press), THE JEWS OF SCRANTON (Arcadia Publishing), and THE UNDEFEATED (RID Press) and THE CHOICE: CONVERTS TO JUDAISM SHARE THEIR STORIES (University of Scranton Press). Her second novel, SHE AIN’T HEAVY (Academy Chicago)was published in June, 2013. She is married to Dr. Jeffrey Weiss and is the mother of Matt, Allie, and Ben.
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So often when there’s a story about two young women, one of them is relegated to being only the best friend. What I found refreshing about Arnine Weiss’s She Ain’t Heavy is that even though the novel is primarily Teddy’s story, even when she isn’t the character in favor, so to speak, she is never the sidekick, and neither is Rachel.
That said, the part of me that was raised to be strong, independent, and self-sufficient was frustrated by a lot of this story, largely because it reminded me that I’ve been supremely lucky. I’ve never been unemployed (except by choice), never struggled to find a place to live, always had really solid relationships with my parents and friends, and when I read about people who do have problems finding work, or a home, or friends, instead of sympathizing, or empathizing, my middle-class privilege rears it’s ugly head.
But that’s beside the point. Arnine Weiss has drawn many wonderful characters in She Ain’t Heavy, and I enjoyed ‘meeting’ all of them. I love that each character speaks with her (or his) own voice, and that all the dialogue sounds natural.
And, personal frustration aside, I did appreciate that nothing came easily for Teddy. She worked for every life change, and earned every good thing that happened to her.
She Ain’t Heavy is contemporary women’s fiction of the best kind: it makes you think, and it makes you look at your own life, and compare it to the characters in the book, but it’s also just a really good read.
Goes well with macaroni and cheese (with pepper from a Santa boot shaker) and diet Coke.