Heather, the Totality

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 01 Apr 2018

Member Reviews

Huh. I just didn't get this book at all. What was the point of it? The characters were not at all developed, there was virtually no dialogue and the story was not much of a story. This book was so inconsequential, I really have nothing else to say.
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DNF. I thought since my name was in the book I would love this one, but I unfortunately couldn't get into the book. Stopped reading at about the 25 percent mark. No rating.
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A short read that unfortunately never clicked with me.
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I was really disappointed in this title. I had high expectations as a fan of Mad Men but this novel was flat and felt empty. I could not connect with any of the characters.
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I did not enjoy this book. Read like a short story and one very long run-on sentence; there was no dialogue. The characters were not likable. Not for me, sorry.
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Amazing book! I read it in one sitting. Simultaneously funny, terrifying, sad. It's hard to describe without giving it away!
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Completely disliked this book and would not recommend to anyone.  Save your money and time.
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Novella, no dialogue. Expected this to be weird & dark but instead got flat & disturbing. I expected better. 1.5 stars
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Unnecessary topic. I stopped reading. I wish it had come with a warning and I wish Matthew Weiner hadn't turned me off to his writing. I will continue to love Mad Men but I probably won't ever read anything else he writes.
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A short, quick, read that gets to the heart of the only child syndrome and how as parents it's often difficult if not impossible to protect against every lurking danger that comes near to the beloved child.
Heather is just that child, a golden girl, full of beauty and empathy, compassion and heart or that was until the tumultuous rebellious teen years came rolling in and the tide shifted.
Heather's parents are Karen and Mark who married in their 40's and set themselves up for success in NY. Karen a publicist and Mark a finance guru with the world at the palm of their hands.
However, in darkness is where we find Bobby Klasky a parallel storyline character who is has tremendous troubled past and a massive violent streak of crimes against women including his own mother. He was from the opposite side of town a rough drug infected neighborhood as he himself an addict facing time in NJ State Prison for attempted rape, murder, and assault.
"Heather was not an average child."-- Well that explains it--
For me it was a well paced read but not enough substance to keep me actively engulfed. Another 1-200 pages with more action, suspense, thrill would've suited me just fine. 
Overall I've rated this a 3 with hopes of more to come from Matthew Weiner.
Thank you to Matthew for this ebook read as well as NetGalley and Aldiko
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This book came out at the worst time for a book like this to be released. We are in the midst of the #metoo movement where movie execs, actors, and other people in show business are being revealed to have done and said things completely inappropriate (putting it mildly).

In the midst of this come Matthew Weiner, creator of Mad Men with a book about stalking an underaged girl. While not unheard of in the writing world with such hit books as You or Diary of an Oxygen Thief, it is just really bad timing right now.

If we attempt to push the timing aside, Heather, the Totality is still an ok novella (more on that later).

The book centers around 4 characters- Mark- Heather's father, Karen- Heather's mother, Heather, and Bobby- Heather's stalker. The bulk of the book is about Mark and Karen's relationship as Heather grows up to be a teen. As time moves forward, Mark and Karen's relationship begins to get tense as Heather gets older. 

The other portion of the first half of the book is Bobby's upbringing and his imprisonment. He has a rough life and becomes more and more psychotic as he grows older. He is arrested for rape and attempted murder after becoming obsessed with a woman.

The back quarter is what happens when these 4 characters come together. Bobby is working construction outside of Mark and Karen's apartment and begins to notice Heather.

It is difficult not to spoil this book because the first thing that will be noticed is how short it is. In print, it is 145 pages. My ebook version had it shy of 100. It reads more like a novella than a full novel. It is very short, especially for a storyteller like Weiner.

While the premise is about the stalking, the bulk of the book is about the prequel of what is to come. I think the reader would be surprised how little the book is about Heather and Bobby.

What I did love about the book was the ending. I will not talk about it, but what would be interesting to pay attention to is how Mark reacts. He does not know Bobby's thoughts, so pay attention to how things play out.

I gave this one 3 stars. I really was hoping for more, but I think the mindset with the #metoo movement and the shortness of the book worked against it.

*I want to thank NetGalley for the advanced readers copy. I received it free in exchange for an honest review.*
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I am sorry, but I just could not get into this book. Too predictable and the writing was just ok. Thanks to NetGally, the publisher and the author for the ARC of this book in return for my honest review.
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It’s hard to separate this book from the #metoo movement, since Matthew Weiner’s name got named.  I felt a bit like he was creating this beautiful character only to make her a victim of sexual violence, and honestly I couldn’t find any other point to this story.  It’s skillfully done but lacks the emotional depth of Mad Men.
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I am really struggling with this review. There were things that I liked about this one and things that didn't quite work for me. Since finishing, I've heard several interviews with the author and that has given me a bit more of a positive perspective than I had when I initially finished. I know much of the buzz for this one came from the fact that the author is well known for his work with Mad Men. After hearing him talk about this book and his intention in writing it, I definitely had a better feeling about the book as a whole. I suspect this is due to the fact that this book covers some topics that aren't easy to read. I also heard someone say something very negative about this novel before reading it so I'm wondering if my initial reactions may have been tied to that initial impression that I had from their negative remark. 

This is more of a novella than a novel (130 pages) - it's a very quick read and isn't a difficult read in any way, shape or form. There is an odd structure to this one - it's told in a very detached 3rd person narrative. The writing is very clear and realistic - nothing flowery here. It didn't bother me but I know many reviewers have mentioned that it's structure was discombobulating for other readers. The structure gave the story the feeling of a script in some way which may be tied to his being a screenwriter. 

The story itself is where I think many people became a little frustrated with the novel. It is an interwoven narrative that tells the stories of a well off family and a construction worker. The author goes into great detail about the family - the parents, in particular. We learn a great deal about them and their innermost thoughts.  Some of these thoughts are disturbing and feel icky. And the construction worker's story is all around disturbing. How Matthew Weiner pulls these two narratives together is interesting. I feel of two minds about it ... one one hand, I see where he's going and find it fascinating and yet, I also understand why it's been so frustrating to many readers. I can't say too much without ruining the book for you so if I sound cagey, that is why. 

I found the story of the construction worker to be the most fascinating of the two narratives but that goes well with my own personal interests around nature versus nurture. His perspective was disturbing but compelling. In fact, I'd almost have loved to have read a whole book about him and his life. That story line stayed with me. 

The overall themes of obsession and choice really resonated with me. The exploration of nature versus nurture. The contemplation about parenting and freedom. The idea of moral ambiguity just permeates this book in such a great way. And so ... that was all good. And yet, the book also left me feeling uncomfortable ... almost leaving a bad taste in my mouth or something. I liked it ... but I didn't love it. I completely understand the critical reviews. I get it completely. But, I liked it more than I expected based on the reviews I'd read and the feedback I'd heard before reading it. 

I have a hard time recommending this one because it is such a decisive book. If the synopsis sounds  interesting and the themes are interesting to you, I think you should give this one a shot. If not, you may want to skip it.
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There are two ways to approach Matthew Weiner’s novella, Heather, the Totality – take it at face value or ponder Weiner’s broader commentary.

Should you take it at face value, you’re in for a ripping afternoon’s read. It’s the fast-paced story of Karen and Mark Breakstone, whose only child, Heather, is the centre of their world. But someone enters Heather’s life who threatens the family’s perfect Manhattan existence.

If you want more to think about, Heather, the Totality offers opportunity to consider the influence of one’s upbringing (particularly poverty versus wealth); the impact of social inequity; and what justifies particular actions.

Weiner expertly creates memorable characters, and gets away with spare detail because there is a fairytale quality to the story – the beautiful, blessed child of slightly unfortunate parents, who brings joy to everyone that crosses her path –

Their daughter was born at Lenox Hill Hospital at a reasonable hour and Mark was there and she was brought home to a stocked nursery and a few new friends Karen had made as she entered the world of birthing classes and stroller selection. They named her Heather.

Readers will be familiar with the good versus evil narrative and know how it plays out… Or do they?

There’s a detached style to Weiner’s writing, a purposeful distance that makes you feel like an observer. Ordinarily, I prefer to feel immersed in a book but in this case, the style was the hook, drawing me into the Breakstone’s world. There are moments narrated by one character that were genuinely chilling –

…his contact with the women customers was limited to long stares as they searched the aisles for lightbulbs or caulk. From his perch on the forklift he watched them wandering, clearly searching for men and not finding anything they deserved, like rope, or gloves, or him.

4/5 My quibbles would be spoilers so just know that I couldn’t put it down.

I received my copy of Heather, the Totality from the publisher, Little, Brown & Company, via NetGalley, in exchange for an honest review.
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Book Review: Heather, the Totality by Matthew Weiner 11/30/17
Published by Little, Brown and Company
November 7, 2017

This is a book about a small family: Father, Mother and Daughter. It’s a New York story. A look at the detail of emotions behind their lives. The book reads like an extended short story. It’s a thriller, with a neatly wrapped up ended. Very well written and highly recommended. 

Reviewed on NetGalley, Facebook, Amazon and Goodreads.
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To begin with, this book is entirely too short to be considered a novel, and too long to be a short story, so…a novella it is. And to summarize, well, the title makes it kind of obvious. It’s about Heather. From the early pre-Heather days in her parent’s relationship to the day when, as a teenager, her life sits on a dangerous precipice, unbeknownst to her.

At first, it seems to be a character study of Heather, and it definitely is that. It isn’t especially dramatic, no real deep dive emotionally, and as fiction goes, not a lot happens. Two people become a couple. Then they have a child and she is their everything. The child grows and connects and changes and learns and grows and changes more. Her relationship with each parent develops differently as she becomes more and more herself. As she moves into adolescence, her close relationship with her mother dissolves while she grows closer to her father, who becomes aware of how grown up she is becoming, and he knows that he is not the only man who is noticing. So, he pays attention. He notices when someone undesirable seems to be paying too much attention to her movements, and knowing things about how men can be, he worries for her safety. He watches and protects, while Heather unknowingly flirts with danger. Good Dad. Typical teenage daughter. 

So, like I said, not much happens. Or, at least, I can see how other people would see it that way. Just a different version of a story so many of us have already lived, right? But to me, that’s what’s interesting. It’s a reflection on the repetiveness and ordinariness of life, how we change as people, as a couple, as a parent, as a child, as a family; how what we think we know and understand about each other can be true but temporary or an image constructed for us by those we love; how we can’t force our children to be what we want them to be. It’s a reminder of how none of us has all the information in any given situation, how our perception of a situation or person is influenced by our experiences (or lack thereof), that people can and do change. So yeah, it’s a character study and not much happens. But then again, everything happens. 

When I started this book, I didn’t have any real expectations. At the end of it, I had to think on it awhile to determine what, if anything, I took away from it. Because it wasn’t entertaining, there were no thrills, no tears. But since I didn’t hate it (I quite liked it!), there had to be a reason. I’ve done my best to tease out those reasons here. It was thoughtful and succinct and worth a read. And that’s all I have to say about that. ;)
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I apologize but I did not have time to read this book before the publication date
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My Thoughts: Heather, the Totality’s author, Matthew Weiner, is the creator of the much loved TV show Mad Men, so my expectations were high for his debut. In the beginning, I liked Weiner’s matter-of-fact writing style. He laid out the two main characters, Mark and Karen Breakstone, very simply and quickly. I assumed as the story progressed, he’d more fully flesh them out. He didn’t. Maybe that was the point of this novella. I’m still not really sure whether i missed something or whether Weiner, just didn’t deliver.

For me, the entire story was very one-dimensional. None of the characters ever had any depth to their development and one, construction worker Bobby Klosky, was pathetically clichéd. Everything in the book revolved around the Breakstone’s daughter, Heather, but again the reasons why just seemed thin and really sad. The final act of the book was so abrupt, it almost went unnoticed. And then, it was over. I’d say this one was a fail.
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The Breakstone family thought they were doing everything right. A husband with a good job to support his family comfortably in a Manhattan apartment, a stay at home mom who showers their daughter with love and affection, and a beautiful daughter with incredible empathy, intelligence, and beauty. But that's just the view from the surface. Underneath there are marital issues, a lack of privacy for Heather, the daughter, and resentment running rampant through the entire family. Heather's magnetism draws in people of all kinds. When darkness gets too close to the Breakstone daughter, it brings out a darkness in the entire family.

I saw this book everywhere recently, and when I realized Matthew Weiner was also the creator for Mad Men, I immediately got on Netgalley to request a copy of his first novel. Are you kidding me? Mad Men is literary genius. I was so excited. Once I started reading, I really enjoyed the introduction and the build-up. And then it never ended. I felt like the entire book was the introduction or summary for an even longer story. I could even see this as being a pitch for a dark, Mad Men-esque TV show. There was so much potential for more. There wasn't even very much dialogue and it really could have used it. Don't get me wrong, I liked the feel of the novel and what Weiner was trying to say with the story. The result was just underwhelming.
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