I read about this novel on a book blog, but I can not remember which one and google searching hasn’t enlightened me.
This novel consists of five elegies. In each one the narrator is talking to the character describing their lives and her interaction with them. It is an interesting structure like, but also different from, connected short stories. This method allows Hodgen to reveal things about the narrator (Mary).
Here is the blurb …
A savvy, spirited, moving, and surprisingly humorous novel in elegies. A skirt-chasing, car-racing uncle with whiskey breath and a three-day beard. A ‘walking joke, a sitting duck, a fish in a barrel’ named Elwood LePoer. A dirt-poor college roommate who conceals an unbearable secret. A failed piano prodigy lost in middle age. A beautiful mother haunted by her once-great aspirations.
In Elegies for the Brokenhearted, Mary Murphy tells her own story as she paints lively portraits of the people with whom she’s crossed paths. Having weathered her mother’s erratic movement among homes and multiple husbands, the absence of her runaway sister, and a discouraging search for purpose, Mary’s reflection on her own path intertwines with the histories of the people she’s loved and lost. With a rhythmically unique voice and distinctive wry humor, Christie Hodgen builds an unconventional narrative about the difficult search for identity, belonging, and family.
These are all sad, defeated and damaged people. Except for Elwood, but even his life appears sad to an outsider. As the narrator says
We were a family of bad citizens. Drunk drivers and tax evaders, people who parked in handicapped spaces and failed to return shopping carts to their collection stands.
Despite sounding depressing (after all we know sone of the characters are dead) this book is ultimately uplifting as the narrator finally determines what constitutes family – and it’s not blood …
What joined two people together wasn’t always exciting. The cooking, the cleaning, the laundry, the maintenance of the home and car, all the mundane things you never wanted to be bothered with – this I believed, was what bound people together.
The characters are beautifully written. I found each of their stories compelling and I was desperate to know how Mary reconciled herself to her life and her family (such as it was).
Here are some other reviews …