A Matter of Gravity (Attraction terrestre) by Hélène Vachon , Translated by Phyllis Aronoff and Howard Scott
A Matter of Gravity is about the forces that draw people together and give life meaning. Hermann, an embalmer and a doctor’s son, devotes himself to the dead because, unlike his father, he cannot cure the living. Hu, an ailing concert pianist, dwells in memories of past glory. Hermann is a devoted neighbour to the residents of his apartment building, a population of “quiet old things,” elderly ladies who have seen better days. Hu is facing an uncertain future and must make his peace with the past.
Hermann feels he is eternally separated from the world by a “permanent cushion of air” that keeps him hovering above humanity. Hu is bound to a nightmarish reality, contending with emphysema, rheumatoid arthritis, and Parkinson’s disease.
A mysterious manuscript, possibly written by one of Hermann’s centenarian neighbours, connects one man with the other, and an afternoon at the park eventually leads the two of them back to Hu’s piano. This marks the beginning of an extraordinary relationship that will change both men’s lives.
A Matter of Gravity is a sensitive, delicate, and humorous novel that unfolds in liminal spaces: between life and death, youth and age, earth and sky. The transformative meeting between Hermann and Hu brings out the question that paralyzes each man, the question all of us must answer for ourselves: Faced with death, how do we embrace life in all its contradictions, its dissatisfactions, its messiness? In the encounter of two engaging individuals, Hélène Vachon provides a possible answer, one that will leave readers smiling and perhaps change their lives as well.
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