Award winning author Sandra Benitez’s The Weight of all Things is an exploratory tale told about the brutal life of nine-year-old Nicolás de la Virgen Veras. This story is a work of historical fiction that takes place during the El Salvadoran civil war of the 1980s. It is a quality work of literature promising to greatly inform the reader, but not necessarily captivate their interests. Although it consists of great historical background, this book fails to keep the reader interested and is hard to follow as the plot changes so often. Despite a rather monotonous tone, this aggressive storyline employs many great literary devices, and accurate references to actual Latino culture and wartime events.
The author is obviously a very experienced writer as shown by her use of many well thought out literary devices throughout the tale. For example, Benitez uses many motifs. Some of these include Nicolas’s mother’s shoe, and the La Virgen statue. The shoe represents the theme of loss throughout the story and is a constant reminder of the tragedy that occurred with Nicolas’s mother. The statue of La Virgen, on the other hand, is a great representation of strength and hope for Nicolas. Ultimately this statue is a moral booster for him and really keeps the young boy going.
Other literary devices used by Mrs. Benitez include similes and personification. An example of simile in this story is when it states that Nicolas has “adopted the nature of the lamb...”.(Benitez 66) She is comparing Nicolas to the lamb saying he is patient. Personification is also seen widely in the book, specifically when the author writes, “Where no color greeted the visitor’s eyes…”. (Benitez) Benitez is giving the color the ability greet the eyes of another, which is not a characteristic that color could naturally possess.
Another strong suit of The Weight of all Things is its references to actual historical events and customs in the El Salvadoran culture. Some of these historical references include the bombing of Archbishop Oscar Romero’s funeral, the description of Guerilla warfare, and an accurate portrayal of the lives of members of La Guardia, the governmental fighting force in El Salvador. Benitez tells of the way the dead at the bombing scene were drug into a nearby church. She also explains the nomadic, rough lives of the Guerillas and the more luxurious lifestyles of the Guardia. The author also does an impeccable job giving details into the life of an average citizen in El Salvador. She implies that they eat a lot of beans and tortillas, are generally very self-sufficient people, and dress in extremely simple clothing with little variety.
Although this book contains many good characteristics, several areas leave room for improvement. These are the lack of connection the reader makes with Nicolas, and an overall monotony in tone. Nicolas is the main character of this story so therefore the reader should feel they have some sort of deeper relationship with this person. However, I did not feel that level of personal connection with the young boy. His character was rather dry, and although Nicolas was going through a rough time, it was hard to feel bad for someone that was seemingly unfeeling. This sense of non-caring from Nicolas partially came from the lack of excitement in the book. Even though there are some rather gruesome scenes in the tale, the author does not build these up to their full potential. They do not keep the reader interested and are surprisingly dull.
All-in-all, The Weight of all Things is an exceptional work of literature. It contains many great qualities that a reader looks for in a book. Even though there are things that could definitely be worked on, Benitez has provided the world with a heartbreaking tale of one boy’s battle during the civil war of El Salvador. She tells of how Nicolas manages the difficulties of being separated from his family and put into the violent world of war. This young boy goes through more in a very short amount of time than most can imagine dealing with in their entire lives. This touching story is one that is memorable to the reader and definitely worth a recommendation to those history buffs out there.