“Broken for You” by Stephanie Kallos

Kallos, Stephanie. Broken for You  
New York: Grove Press, 2004  
ISBN 0-8021-1779-1   
Blackstone Audiobooks  
Narrated by Anna Fields


cover: Broken for You

Margaret Hughes, age 75, has just learned that she has a brain tumor. Margaret lives alone in a vast mansion in the most upscale part of Seattle. Her only companions are the rooms and rooms full of valuable figurines left to her by her father, who earned his first fortune in the lumber industry before moving on to collecting antiques. Now her mother, dead some 60 years, has begun visiting Margaret. 

It’s time for Margaret to take in a boarder.

In need of a place to live, Wanda answers Margaret’s ad. Thirty-something, Wanda recently sold all her belongings and left New York City in pursuit of Peter, the lover who abandoned her. On the basis of an unsigned postcard, Wanda has deduced that Peter has gone to Seattle. She settles into a room of Margaret’s mansion, gets a job as a theater manager, and spends the rest of her time hanging out near the kind of stores that sell the vintage jazz records Peter collects.

Warily, tentatively, Margaret and Wanda begin to befriend each other. Over the course of the novel the mansion’s list of residents grows as new people arrive to fulfill various needs–both their own and each others’. This array of characters gives the novel its pull.

At the end, the story requires two wildly improbable coincidences to wind itself up neatly. But by this time we’re so fond of these characters that we’re willing to overlook the author’s sleight of hand in tying up the conclusion. This is a novel that deals with life’s big themes–the meaning of family, friendship, responsibility, love–in a big, charming way.

Broken for You received the following honors: The Today Show book club selection, 2004; Pacific Northwest Booksellers Association Award, 2005; and Washington State Book Award, 2005.

© 2007 by Mary Daniels Brown

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