by Helene Vachon
A Matter of Gravity is a playful and touching treatment of illness and tragedy, in which an enigmatic manuscript brings together two disparate male characters. Black humor and compassion brilliantly illuminate their tragic encounter.
A Matter of Gravity is about the forces that draw two men together. Hermann, an embalmer and doctor’s son, devotes himself to the dead to mask his disappointment that, unlike his father, he cannot cure the living. Hu is an ailing pianist who dwells in memories of past glory. Hermann displaces his drive for perfection and order onto his elderly neighbours. Hu, ashamed of his lame, knobbed hands, rarely leaves his airless room. Hermann contends he is eternally separated from the world by a “permanent cushion of air” that keeps him wavering between two women and hovering above humanity. Hu is bound to a nightmarish reality, shuffling between emphysema, rheumatoid arthritis, and Parkinson’s disease.
When a mysterious manuscript, possibly written by one of Hermann’s centenarian neighbours, connects one man’s routine with the other’s, an extended afternoon at the park eventually leads back to Hu’s piano. This marks the beginning of the men’s tenuous relationship, which, while healing in nature, is made more fragile by the pianist’s heightened mortality.
Hélène Vachon is the author of two novels and more than twenty works of children's literature. Her books have been nominated for many prizes, including the Governor General's Literary Award and the Mr. Christie's Book Award.