Immediately following her diagnoses of a fatal brain tumor, Margaret Hughes stops in at a small pastry shop in Seattle, and orders four desserts. Sort of a ‘what the hell’ approach, because really, if you only have a year to live, who cares what you eat? She strikes up a conversation with the shop girl, a painfully thin girl with black lipstick and a nose-ring. Margaret asks, “If you found out you had only a short while to live, maybe a year or two, how would you spend your time?” The answer surprises her.
“I suppose I’d think about whatever it is that scares me the most – relationshipwise, I mean – and then do it. Do the opposite of what I’ve always done.”
Margaret takes this advice to heart, and determines to end her solitary lifestyle. She is a very wealthy woman, living alone in a huge mansion, so she puts an ad in the paper for a boarder. Enter Wanda Schultz, a stage manager who has come to Seattle in search of her boyfriend, who abruptly left her in search of a better life. Wanda is probably 40 years younger than Margaret, and has a gift for fixing things, be they pipes or broken china. She is broken inside, though, and has rigid barriers put up around herself, refusing to allow anyone to love her.
Margaret’s mansion is filled to the brim with delicate figurines and china, most of which are extremely valuable. She spends hours every week caring for these items, dusting them and talking to them, listening to their opinions on matters. Wishing they didn’t weigh so heavily on her heart.
A lot of things get broken in this story. Hearts, bones, dishes, and figurines. And in the process, both Margaret and Wanda find their ways toward happiness.
I liked Broken For You quite a bit. The comparisons of Stephanie Kallos to John Irving and Anne Tyler may be a bit overreaching, but apt enough. Her characters immediately reach into your heart and touch you. I look forward to reading more from Ms. Kallos in the future.