The Weight (Hardcover)
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A powerful coming-of-age novel about a twenty-something Black musician living in predominantly white Portland, Oregon, playing in a rock band on the verge of success while struggling with racism, romance, and the legacy of his strict religious upbringing.
Julian Strickland is seemingly the lone Black man in the hipster dreamland of Portland, Oregon. To his friends, he’s the coolest member of the scene: the soulful drummer from Chicago in an indie rock band that’s just about to break through. But to himself, he’s a sheltered Christian homeschool kid who used to write book reports on Leviticus. A virgin until the night of his marriage, divorced at twenty-four, he’s still in disarray two years later—pretending to fit in, wondering if any of his relationships are real, estranged from his family, and struggling to reconcile his relationship with God.
Then he meets Ida Blair, a Black painter at the start of a promising career. They begin a tentative relationship, and Ida seems to offer Julian relief from his confusion. But suddenly she stops responding to his texts. Things only get worse when Julian’s best friend mysteriously turns on him, his house burns down, and the band considers breaking up on the eve of their most important show yet. It seems the only thing Julian has left—the only thing he’s ever had, really—is the weight he is carrying.
Jeff Boyd’s beguiling first novel is a piercing exploration of faith, racial identity, love, and friendship—woven of acid humor, disarming vulnerability, and unforgettable poignance.
About the Author
Jeff Boyd is a former public-school teacher from Chicago and a recent graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, where he received the Deena Davidson Friedman Prize for Fiction. He currently lives in Brooklyn, New York, with his partner and child.
“In this modern age of madness, we’re so often made to carry more than we believe we can manage. And it’s this struggle—to wake up and persist in the face of promised hardship—that Jeff Boyd so brilliantly captures.” —Mateo Askaripour, The New York Times Book Review
"[A] delightful debut...Boyd's writing is preternaturally wise, and his characters come to life with natural dialogue and brutally honest confrontations. This pulses with the beat of life." —Publishers Weekly
“The Weight is filled with haunting observations about romance, isolation and the daunting task of believing in something greater than yourself. Boyd has a grounded and capable hand. This is dialogue that you can actually hear. Powerful, dreamy, and altogether very true.”—Kiley Reid, author of the New York Times bestseller and Booker Prize longlist selection Such a Fun Age
"Like Binx Bolling, the hero of Walker Percy's classic The Moviegoer, Jeff Boyd is on a search. And like Binx's, the object of that search is too essential and nebulous and all-encompassing to name. It has to do with love, of course, and human connection, and ultimate truths, but in Boyd's case it extends past the final limits of racism to touch upon the universal existential terrors of an Everyman. Boyd has August Wilson's scope and James Alan McPherson's human heart, but his literary touchstones are wide and catholic, and his passion and intelligence inform every page of his novel The Weight. I think of this book as the announcement of a big new talent and the start of a long and meaningful career."—Joshua Ferris, author of the National Book Award finalist Then We Came to the End and A Calling for Charlie Barnes
“You’ve never met a fictional character quite like Julian Strickland, the soulful, searching character at the heart of Jeff Boyd’s wondrous new novel, The Weight. It’s a delight to watch him drum, stumble and sleep his way across the pale, smoky clubs of Portland, Oregon in this moving, comic and prodigious debut.”—Jess Walter, author of the #1 New York Times bestseller Beautiful Ruins and The Cold Millions
“As a reader, Jeff Boyd’s writing is the kind you love: he builds a world and inhabits it with round, flawed, real people. His astute observations and wry humor pull you in but his characters make you stay. As a writer, Jeff’s writing is the kind of thing that makes you bang your head against the wall wondering, ‘How the F did he do that!? How did he make this insane, complicated, thing feel as easy as the riff of a jazz bass line.’ In The Weight, Boyd somehow skewers liberal Portland while implicating all of us and, in a truly pertinent way, ask what it means to really be ‘accepting of self.’”—Xochitl Gonzalez, author of the New York Times bestseller Olga Dies Dreaming
"Boyd writes beautifully about music and does a superb job of creating characters who love it and each other. Readers will want an encore."—Booklist