Welcome back to our discussion of The Heights. Raise your hand if you were able to stop reading at the end of part 4. If you were, I take my hat off to you. I didn’t have as much willpower—the story just keeps getting juicier and juicier and I couldn’t resist looking ahead (just a little). But for the sake of this discussion, let’s all pretend we read only to the point where Kate and the boys leave for their Disney adventure.
Pretending is actually a skill worth honing while reading this story. There are some plot elements in parts 3 and 4 that are possible to swallow only with a bit of make-believe. (Jeff Slade inviting Kate and Tim on a trip with his fiancé because they are “role models for him” is one of them; Tim finishing his doctoral thesis while caring full-time for two kids is another.) But if you can suspend your disbelief long enough, there’s little to hold you back from enjoying the rushing storyline of this addictive book.
In general, I try to avoid discussions about whether a man can truly write a woman well—and vice versa—because so many authors have proven themselves adept at both voices. But here, I think Hedges does best with his portrait of Tim, who has really grown on me. He is boyish in his eagerness to please and impress (witness the carefully curated outfit for his playdate in the park with Anna) but also convincingly oblivious (I thought it funny—and ominous, of course—when Kate tells him that she’s glad she married him instead of Jeff, and he hasn’t even realized it was a question). But what really put me in Tim’s camp was when he talks about his friendship with Lenny, the local homeless man. “All I did was buy him the occasional slice of pizza,” he says. “The truth was, I didn’t do nearly enough for him…I used Lenny to feel good about myself.” Tim’s honesty is refreshing, considering he isn’t the only person who benefits from his relationship with Lenny. Kate uses Tim and Lenny’s friendship to impress the fancy crowd at the Yuletide Ball dinner. And Bea uses Lenny’s death as an excuse to write to Tim and remind him of what she knows.
I also like Tim because I feel a bit sorry for him. All the other characters keep yammering on about how unlikely it would be for Anna to ever find him attractive. Finally, I started to feel insulted on his behalf. (And of course, it is a clever way for Hedges to show how little other people know about each other.)
Anna has also become more appealing—though, I still can’t figure out what she’s up to. For most of parts 3 and 4 I thought she was going to choose Kate over Tim. The scene in which she has Kate try on all those gorgeous dresses is a masterful piece of seduction—complete with a wedge thrown between husband and wife. (“I saw white,” Kate says of her fury when she hears Tim had told Anna she had nothing to wear to the ball.) And in the end, though Anna seems to be after Kate in a way that isn’t exactly sexual, she has certainly made a conquest: “Everyone has a price,” Kate declares. “Anna Brody had just named mine.”
For our next assignment let’s read the final section of The Heights by Friday November 18th. But before you go, I have a few more questions for you: What do you think Anna wants from Kate? And what does Anna mean when she tells her “Something’s wrong with the house?”