Published February 14, 2017
At four hundred pounds, Billy Brennan can always count on food. From his earliest memories, he has loved food's colors, textures and tastes. The way flavors go off in his mouth. How food keeps his mind still and his bad feelings quiet. Food has always made everything better, until the day Billy's beloved son Michael takes his own life.Sometimes a simply written novel can convey the deepest emotions. With a straightforward, easy to read style, The Weight of Him touches on so many difficult topics but still contains a sense of hope.
Billy determines to make a difference in Michael's memory and undertakes a public weight-loss campaign, to raise money for suicide prevention―his first step in an ambitious plan to save himself, and to save others. However, Billy's dramatic crusade appalls his family, who want to simply try to go on, quietly, privately.
Despite his crushing detractors, Billy gains welcome allies: his community-at-large; a co-worker who lost his father to suicide; a filmmaker with his own dubious agenda; and a secret, miniature kingdom that Billy populates with the sub-quality dolls and soldiers he saves from disposal at the toy factory where he works. But it is only if Billy can confront the truth of the suffering and brokenness within and around him that he and others will be able to realize the recovery they need. - from Goodreads
At the open of the story, Billy Brennan is not in a good place. His son Michael recently committed suicide; he is morbidly obese; and he and his wife are growing apart. In order to bring awareness to the suicide epidemic (his words), he starts a public weight loss journey, complete with fliers, t-shirts, a public march, and maybe even a documentary. He wants to donate all the money he raises to charity and hopes to prevent others from taking the same path his son did.
It was easy to root for Billy - he jumps into this endeavor whole-heartedly. Even though he's failed at diets before, I just wanted him to succeed this time, for his son's memory. Unfortunately, other characters, most notably his family, don't support him. I can understand how his wife wouldn't want their grief to be made public; she just wants to be able to move forward, eventually. It was both hurtful and honest when his wife and kids wonder about his motivation - why did it take Michael's death for Billy to become so proactive? If he had shown this kind of interest in anything before, would things have been different?
I had some issues with the book. The whole toy factory thing was kind of odd - Billy works at a toy factory, but he takes the sub-par toys and creates this miniature ideal world in his garage. Billy's emotions sometimes gave me whiplash. One moment he was confident and the next he was a nervous wreck wondering if he could even go on. Also, I felt the idea of bringing awareness to suicide prevention was oversimplified at times or perhaps not explored well enough. I think the problem was that Billy didn't understand why his son committed suicide, so he wasn't aware enough of the depression, hurt, and hopelessness that accompanied it. His ideas for "saving others" just seemed too simple.