The Heart of it All
September 19, 2023
In The Heart of It All (Melville House, 2023), Christian Kiefer imagines a group of factory workers and their families living in a once vibrant Ohio town during the Trump era. The factory is the only place to work outside of Walmart, the grocery store, or a fast-food chain, and it’s owned by Mr. Marwat, a Pakistani man whose wife helps in the office, while their teenagers embrace American life. The family is upended when Mr. Marwat’s parents move in. The factory foreman, Tom Bailey, and his family’s lives are upended when their sick baby dies. Their daughter Janey’s life is upended when she befriends the only Black young man in the town. Mr. Marwat’s secretary Mary Lou’s life is upended when her mother moves into a nursing home and dies. All of their struggles are exacerbated by small injustices but eased by small kindnesses in this sweet and thoughtful glimpse into the lives of people just trying to get by.
CHRISTIAN KIEFER’s novels have appeared on best of the year lists from Kirkus, Publishers Weekly, and Booklist and have received rave reviews in The Washington Post, Oprah.com, the San Francisco Chronicle, Brooklyn Rain, Library Journal, Huffington Post, and elsewhere. He is the author of the novels The Infinite Tides, The Animals, Phantoms, and the novella One Day Soon Time Will Have No Place Left to Hide. Christian is the recipient of a Pushcart Prize for his short fiction and has enjoyed a long second career in music, under the auspices of which he has collaborated with members of Smog, Pedro the Lion, DNA, 7 Seconds, John Zorn’s Naked City, Sun Kil Moon, Boxhead Ensemble, Califone, Cake, Kronos Quartet, Wilco, Low, Fun, Anathallo, and The Band, among many others. He holds a Ph.D. in American literature from the University of California at Davis and has served as contributing editor for Zyzzyva, fiction reader for VQR, and as the West Coast editor for The Paris Review. He teaches at American River College in Sacramento and is the Director of the Ashland University MFA.