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The Weight of Him by Ethel Rohan

The Weight of Him

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June 2017 Debut of the Month.

There was a family of six, three boys aged 17, 15 and 9, and one girl, 12, with a hard-working, frazzled mother and a grossly obese father, Billy, weighing 28 stone. We first meet the family as the 17-year old has just hung himself. Billy becomes obsessed with highlighting this dreadful tragedy. We are in Southern Ireland. Suicide is a shameful stigma. Billy swears to change that. He points out that had this been a serial killer on the loose it would be big news; a suicide is swept under the carpet. They accounted for some five thousand deaths in the past decade and yet little is done to help the prospective victims. Billy vows to lose half his body weight, to be sponsored to do so and to give the money to the Samaritans. He wants to organise a march, make a documentary, alert national awareness and change the nation’s attitude towards this dreadful disease. How he attempts this, nearly ruins his marriage and alienates his other children, fights his critics and damages his body makes for sensitive reading both tragic and comic. This is a brave book about two taboo subjects and how a grieving family copes with loss in widely different ways. Poignant, down-to-earth and horribly true, it is a sad portrait of a hurting family which is eventually uplifting. An important book. ~ Sarah Broadhurst

If you like Ethel Rohan you might also like to read books by Lionel Shriver, Jem Lester and Keith Stuart.


The Weight of Him by Ethel Rohan

How do you carry on, when you lose someone you love? Big Billy Brennan has suffered the greatest tragedy a parent can know - he has just lost his son. His family is reeling, and his marriage is a partnership in name alone. Billy is also obese: at nearly 30 stone, he can barely walk down the street without breaking a sweat. In his small Irish town, he can't escape his notoriety. So Billy decides to take on the two things weighing him down - his grief, and his fat - and in doing so he's going to try to stop the terrible plague of suicide that is haunting the youth of Ireland. The Weight of Him is an unforgettable, big-hearted novel about loss and recovery, and what can be achieved when an everyday hero finds the courage to transform his life.


'Ethel Rohan shows herself to be one of those rare, courageous writers who dare to take on the 'ordinary and show just how extraordinary it really is. A brave and moving book.' -- John Banville

'The Weight of Him conjures all the grief and regret of a family who has suffered an insurmountable loss. Out of this burning sorrow rises Big Billy Brennan, a father who attempts the seemingly impossible - to change the world. Ethel Rohan captures a blend of comedy and tragedy that is entirely true to family, hometown, and our own private struggles. Poignant and inspiring.' -- Eowyn Ivey, international bestselling author of THE SNOW CHILD

'Ethel Rohan is a writer of great courage and emotional intelligence. She can also tell a damn good story. The Weight of Him is about loss and about life. It is involving, terrifying and ultimately quite beautiful.' -- Tom Barbash, author of STAY UP WITH ME

'How can a story about death be so life affirming? Ethel Rohan's compassionate debut novel is sad, heartbreaking even, but also uplifting, a celebration of the determination to keep on trying.' -- Bonnie Jo Campbell, author of MOTHERS, TELL YOUR DAUGHTERS

'The Weight of Him is an achingly sad, achingly lovely novel that speaks to the essential core of our shared human experience. I will not soon forget it. Ethel Rohan, a prodigiously skilled short story writer, has proved herself, in this debut novel, to be a master of the long form as well.' -- Robert Olen Butler, author of PERFUME RIVER

'Sweet and profound, true and honest, The Weight of Him is a book to make the world a better place.' -- Elisabeth Gifford

About the Author

Ethel Rohan

Ethel Rohan is the author of two story collections, Goodnight Nobody and Cut Through the Bone, the former longlisted for The Edge Hill Prize and the latter named a 2010 Notable Story Collection by The Story Prize. Winner of the 2013 Bryan MacMahon Short Story Award, and shortlisted for the CUIRT, Roberts, and Bristol Short Story Prizes, her work has or will appear in The New York Times, World Literature Today, PEN America, Tin House Online, The Irish Times, BREVITY Magazine, and The Rumpus, among many others. She has reviewed books for New York Journal of Books and elsewhere. Raised in Dublin, Ireland, Ethel lives in San Francisco where she is a member of The Writers' Grotto and PEN America.

Author Photo © Eva Stoyanov

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Book Info

Publication date

1st June 2017


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Atlantic Books


352 pages


Family Drama
Debuts of the Month
Relationship Stories
eBook Favourites

Modern & contemporary fiction (post c 1945)



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