What would you give for a chance to change the past or prevent it from recurring? Paul Elias is burdened by regret and the tumor that may take his life at any time. So he embarks upon a desperate quest: to find a new guardian for his granddaughter Pearl in the small hometown he fled forty years ago. But this is a novel by Shawn Smucker, and in The Weight of Memory, dark secrets lurk beneath even the most placid of surfaces. Is the ghostly woman who makes Pearl run strange errands at night merely a phantom of Pearl’s imagination, or something more? The story unfolds like a sleeper waking from a dream: slowly, tentatively, clinging to the hope or fear of world-ending reality. Smucker imbues his tale with characteristic melancholy—a haunted awe of lost and desolate places—but also with deep compassion for its flawed and thoughtful characters. In the end, however, the dreamworld never fully recedes, and The Weight of Memory may prove satisfying mainly to readers who love ambiguity.
Best for: Adults who wish to sink down into an imaginative and immersive reverie.
Discern: Depictions of death and grief, references to mental illness; some teenagers flirt and smooch and marry young; characters sing hymns and take the Eucharist, but otherwise any paranormal elements, including a depiction of the afterlife, aren’t religiously contextualized.