I just finished The Heights by Peter Hedges, who’s known for writing both the novel and the screenplay for What’s Eating Gilbert Grape. More recently, he’s written and directed Pieces of April and Dan in Real Life, and co-wrote the screenplay of Nick Hornby’s About a Boy.
Hedges’ screenwriting skills are obvious in The Heights — the chapters are short, punchy, and told from a variety of the characters’ points of view: Tim, a schoolteacher husband and his wife Kate, Anna, a charismatic new woman in their gentrified Brooklyn neighbor, and Bea Myerly, a nerdy schoolgirl with a monster crush on Tim. Tim and Kate’s marriage has a lopsided quality: they love each other, but underlying their happiness is the belief on both of their parts that Kate could have done better as far as landing an attractive, accomplished mate. It doesn’t help that an old boyfriend of Kate’s, who has just now made it to semi-stardom, is back in touch. And when Anna starts paying attention to both of them, things get complicated.
This novel is touching without being overly sentimental. There’s plenty of self-deprecating humor in the character of Tim, and Bea Myerly, the student with the crush, who only appears occasionally, is a memorable comic presence. With Hedges’ connection to the film industry, I could see this as a movie some day.
Here’s a brief video of Hedges discussing the book: