cover image Elegies for the Brokenhearted

Elegies for the Brokenhearted

Christie Hodgen, Norton, $23.95 (256p) ISBN 978-0-393-06140-6

Pushcart Prize–winner Hodgen (Hello, I Must Be Going) builds a stunning melancholic portrait of damaged Mary Murphy in five elegies for people whose tawdry lives have shaped her own. The taciturn protagonist, growing up in a dying industrial town in the 1980s, is dragged from home to home as her beautiful mother serially marries and treats Mary and her sister, Malinda, like so much luggage. In Mary's wrenching and unflinching voice, we hear stories of people who eventually abandon her: her mother's deadbeat brother, Mike, who drives the girls to school in a muscle car named Michelle and disappears one day without a word; Mary's pathetic schoolmate, Elwood LePoer, who inadvertently connects Mary's family with a father figure and who pays a stiff price for a naïve act of trust; James Butler, a failed gay composer who Mary believes will connect her with her long-lost sister, and finally, her mother, who serves as the book's selfish, deluded heart of darkness. Each elegy is a riveting trip into dark and essentially humorless territory made especially worthwhile by Hodgen's gorgeous prose. (July)