Review: The Weight of Loss - Sally Oliver
Genre: Magical Realism, Horror
Published: Oneworld Publishers, June 2022 My rating: 2/5 stars
Whilst grieving the death of her sister, Marianne discovers a strange change taking place in her body: a line of long black hairs has started sprouting along her spine. After a visit to her doctor, Marianne is referred to a remote rehabilitation centre in the forest that seemingly specialises in her unusual affliction. Whilst undergoing the increasingly strange treatments at the facility, Marianne and her fellow patients soon start digging for answers to get to the root of their shared condition.
As a big fan of the concept of combining a story of grief with elements of magical realism and body-horror, I was very excited to give this book a shot. Unfortunately, what off as an interesting idea, quickly divulged into a convoluted mess that lacked the emotional depth I was hoping for.
The opening chapter is very strong and does a great job of setting the atmosphere and framework for what could follow. If only the story would build upon that framework in a structured way. Instead we get introduced to a bunch of new interesting ideas, none of which get developed quite enough, and all of which fell flat for me in the process. We never actually get back around to that intriguing beginning, and I’m still not completely sure as to where in the story it actually fit.
The Weight of Loss felt like a story with an identity crisis; it tries its hardest at being literary-horror but doesn’t quite stick the landing on many of the common tropes of the genre. It joins the trend of “breaking the stigma surrounding (female) bodies on page”, but instead of functional nudity we get being explicit and crude for the sake of.
It also throws in some literary motifs that are so clunky, I wasn’t even sure they were intentional. [e.g. Why would you call your sibling-protagonists “Marianne and Marie”? Was it to indicate their “connection” and how symbiotic their relationship was? And was it a coincidence to have Marianne develop hairs on her back, as representation of her trauma of her sister dying of hairy cell leukemia? I genuinely hope so, because if not; that’s far too on the nose for me.]
After all that, the story strangely veers into a sci-fi/dystopian twist ending that came out of thin air, and confused me even more as to what the intended meaning of the story was.
Overall, a novel that gets an extra star of credit for the concept, but truthfully didn’t escape being a one-star-reading experience for me.
Thanks to Oneworld Publications for providing me with an ARC in exchange for an honest review. The Weight of Loss is available today in Europe, and will release on June 6th in American territory under the (more fitting) title of Garden of Earthly Bodies.