Saturday, August 18, 2012

Elegies for the Brokenhearted, by Christie Hodges

I need to keep better track of where I get my recommendations from. I recently read Elegies for the Brokenhearted, by Christie Hodges, and I put that and another one (Hello, I Must Be Going) by her on hold at the library--for some reason--and I'll totally read the other one, because this one was really good. But where did the recommendation come from, Elissa?

Anyway. Elegies for the Brokenhearted is a novel told in five sections, each telling the story of someone in the main character's life who has died. Each section opens with the name and the dates of the deceased's birth and death. "Elegy for," their name, and the dates of their birth and death. So the book begins:

Elegy for

Mike Beaudry


"Every family had one and you were ours: the chump, the slouch, the drunk, the bum, the forever-newly-employed (I didn't need that shit, you'd say), the chain-smoking fuckup with the muscle car, an acorn brown 442 Cutlas Supreme named Michele, the love of your life..."

And it keeps going with its description of the beloved bachelor uncle, its stories about his life, what he meant to Mary Murphy, what he still means to her.

Then we meet Elwood LePoer (1971-1990), an annoying kid she went to school with. Amazing how much we learn about her through the people she knew, both those important to her and those more or less incidental.

Next up: Carson Washington (1972-1993), freshman year college roommate in 1990, Carson's "first and only year of college." She describes herself as "fat and black," which does seem to be the case. "Those first weeks of school, during which we both failed to make other friends, we fell into the habit of sitting together for hours in the cafeteria at a table by the window." Their relationship is such a freshman year college roommate relationship, handled beautifully. It's strange, and perfect.

Then James Butler (1952-1996): "at first you were nothing to me but another in a long line of strange characters I met the summer I went off in search of my sister." But as happens, he becomes something more.

And the last elegy is for her mother, Margaret Murphy Francis Adams Witherspoon (1952-2003), married five times, "born beautiful in a failing industrial city." It's about her mother, about her family--the whole book is, really--but it's also about the rest of her life.

I liked this book a lot. Interested to see what Christie Hodgen's other work is like.

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