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The Weight of All Things

By Sandra Benitez

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ISBN 10: 0786887036
239 pages

Sandra Benítez received international acclaim for her first two novels: A Place Where the Sea Remembers (“A quietly stunning work that leaves soft tracks in the heart.” —The Washington Post Book World) and Bitter Grounds (“The kind of book that fills your dreams for weeks.” –Isabel Allende). Now she returns with an unforgettable tale of life in war-torn El Salvador.

The Weight of all Things is a novel about war — and the lunacy of it — seen through the eyes of a nine-year-old boy. The battleground is El Salvador. The hero is Nicolás Veras. His story begins at the funeral of assassinated Archbishop Oscar Romero. Along with thousands of others, Nicolás and his mother have crowded into the plaza of the capital’s cathedral to pay homage. When gunfire erupts, pandemonium ensues. With bullets flying in all directions, his mother throws herself atop Nicolás to protect him, and is killed. When medics arrive to take her body away, the boy believes she is only wounded. In the melée of the moment, he loses sight of her.

The attempt to find his mother begins an odyssey that leads from one peril to another. Nicolás searches through a merciless no-man’s-land menaced by guerillas on the left and the army on the right. It is a search that ends in still another massacre, and a heroic gesture by the boy who comes to understand, as grown-ups seemingly cannot, that guns and violence are not the answer; that, in war, there are no winners, and that the ultimate losers are the innocent caught in the middle.


“Sandra Benítez’s new novel, The Weight of All Things, ably conveys that intimate texture and an authentic sense of the personal experience of living through war . . . the sheer amount of historical and cultural detail, as well as the pointed and precise descriptive work, are wonderfully rewarding . . . And Benítez can move easily and fluidly from a graphic description of a field amputation to a sensual tribute to the joy of eating a tangerine.” —Chicago Tribune

“In this graceful and unabashedly tenderhearted novel, the politics behind the fighting is almost beside the point.” —New York Times

“Benitez spins a lyrically heart-rending tale of a 9 year-old-boy’s confrontation with . . . the Salvadoran civil war . . . [the] story is . . . emblematically universal.” —The Washington Post

The Weight of All Things is a strong and provocative novel.” –Oscar Hijuelos, author of Empress of the Splendid Season and The Mambo Kings Play Songs of Love

“In this fierce novel, events are dramatized with such sensory perception and narrative pulse, the reader must gasp, then weep. Sandra Benítez imbues this tragic history with dignity and optimism, through the medium of the perfectly rendered scene. She is a novelist of great anger and greater love.” –Sandra Scofield, author of A Chance to See Egypt

“Benítez does it again. From the first lyrical sentence to the last powerful scene, she draws us into a fascinating world of violence and love, death and redemption. What a read!” –Ana Veciana Suarez, author of The Chin Kiss King

“If your book club wants to know what to read this year, I wholeheartedly recommend The Weight of all Things. A lyrical parable about the folly of war set in 1980s El Salvador, it chronicles the experiences of a nine-year-old boy caught between battling factions as he searches for his mother. This odyssey is for all of us who are looking for ‘a place where the river is wider and the water is not as deep.’ ” –Mickey Pearlman, author of What to Read: The Essential Guide for Reading Group Members and Other Book Lovers

The Weight of all Things, like Kosinski’s The Painted Bird, illuminates and makes particular the horrors that people at war can inflict on a young boy. More than any report of events in El Salvador I have ever read, the story of Nicolás Veras and his terrible odyssey will stay with me.” –Katherine Weber, author of Objects in Mirror are Closer Than They Appear and The Music Lesson

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The Weight of All Things