[Book Review] THE WEIGHT OF HIM by Ethel Rohan


AUTHOR: Ethel Rohan

GENRE: Contemporary Fiction

EDITION: Paperback

PAGES: 352

PUBLISHED BY: Atlantic Books


ISBN: 9781786491909

PRICE: £12.99

How do you carry on, when you lose someone you love?

The Story

Already struggling with his health, weight and personal relationships; Big Billy Brennan finds himself unable to cope when his family suffer a great tragedy.

Michael, their eldest son; a well-liked and seemingly confident teen; commits suicide.

Whilst wife & mother Tricia thinks that trying to return some semblance of normality to family life is the way forward, Billy sees it as an impetus to improve his life and that of those around him. 

Inspired by their youngest kids’ sponsored walkathon, Billy decides to get fit whilst simultaneously raising both funds and awareness for suicide prevention charities.

He embarks on a weightloss and exercise programme that very quickly takes over his life. Weighing in at over 400 lbs, he decides he wants to lose half; the only problem is, he is so morbidly obese and unfit that even walking to the garden gate is a struggle!

Although he has a few moments of weakness, he gradually garners the support of colleagues, reporters and the local residents; and this spurs him on.

The only problem is, those he feels should be supporting him the loudest; his wife, kids, sister and parents; all, for various reasons of their own, don’t want him to succeed.

‘Conjures all the grief and regret of a family who has suffered an insurmountable loss. Ethel Rohan captures a blend of comedy and tragedy that is entirely true to family, hometown, and our own private struggles. Poignant and inspiring.’ – Eowyn Ivey, international bestselling author of THE SNOW CHILD

First Impressions

The cover is intriguing; the illustration seems light-hearted, in direct juxtaposition with the subject material.

Further into the story, there is also an element of who will fill Michael​’s boots on the farm.

The author’s vivid descriptions of Billy’s thoughts & feelings, and his all-consuming desperate need of; and enjoyment from; comfort eating make for uncomfortable reading. 

Each member of the Brennan family is trying to cope with the pain of their loss in the best way they can. I can understand Billy’s need to do something, but Tricia’s wish to try to return their day-to-day to normality (or as normal as it can be) is equally as valid.

However I must admit to feeling an irrational amount of irritation with regards to the responses of the grandparents. At first, it seems they are just old and set in their ways, but as we learn more about Billy’s own childhood, it becomes clear that they have always been particularly cold.

Hopefully Billy finds some peace through his weightloss and improved wellbeing endeavours and perhaps as he feels better both about and within himself, so too will the rest of the family. 


The author writes about the family’s feelings of loss, grief and uncertainty in a thoughtful manner and whilst saddening in places, i can imagine that reading it at or after a time of loss may prove a useful aid to processing the mixed emotions felt.

On a personal note, I know one of our family stories that always encites giggles is from around the time of my father passing away. Anyone looking from outside would probably find it somewhat crass but the reality was (and still is) that this particular moment of mild hysteria kept us going.  

Rating & Recommendations

A touching story, I rate this bittersweet and uplifting tale 4 out of 5 stars.

The author deals with highly emotive subjects such as suicide, addiction, grief and loss in a sensitive manner; whilst introducing just the right amount of humour.

The Author

Born and raised in Dublin, Ireland; Ethel Rohan now lives and works in San Francisco.

She is the author of two short story collections, Goodnight Nobody and Cut Through The Bone. Her work has also been featured in publications such as The New York Times, PEN America and The Rumpus; as well as reviewing for the New York Journal of Books among others. 

You can connect with her via Twitter or find out more at EthelRohan.com.


I received a free ARC of this book from the publisher Atlantic Books, via ReadersFirst  publication.

As always, thanks for taking the time to stop by! I’d love to hear whether you have or would like to read this!


Crafty xx


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