Elegies for the Brokenhearted

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Overview

A savvy, spirited, moving, and surprisingly humorous novel in elegies.
Who are the people you’ll never forget? For Mary Murphy, there are five: 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 ...

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Elegies for the Brokenhearted: A Novel

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Overview

A savvy, spirited, moving, and surprisingly humorous novel in elegies.
Who are the people you’ll never forget? For Mary Murphy, there are five: 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 five quirky elegies to lost friends and relatives, Mary tells us the story of her life. We begin with a restless childhood spent following her mother between multiple homes and husbands. Then comes the disappearance of Mary’s rebellious and beloved sister, Malinda. By the time Mary leaves for college, she has no one to write home to, and we follow along on her difficult search for purpose. From a series of miserable jobs to her “reborn” mother’s deathbed, Mary finds hope in the most surprising places. With a rhythmically unique voice and pitch-perfect wry humor, Christie Hodgen spins an unconventional and moving story about identity, belonging, and family.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
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 nai?ve 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)
Booklist
“Starred Review. Hodgen’s magnificent, heartbreaking journey, with its moving finish, is an unforgettable novel, a must-read.”
Flavorwire
Knocked my socks off. It’s a first-person novel told in second-person looks back at five significant people she’s lost: a life told in deaths. Hodgen’s writing spins out dependent clauses like carefully controlled ripples of language.— Caroline Stanley
Feminist Review
The protagonist is a nobody that everybody will root for.— Colleen Hodgetts
Caroline Stanley - Flavorwire
“Knocked my socks off. It’s a first-person novel told in second-person looks back at five significant people she’s lost: a life told in deaths. Hodgen’s writing spins out dependent clauses like carefully controlled ripples of language.”
Colleen Hodgetts - Feminist Review
“The protagonist is a nobody that everybody will root for.”
Clancy Martin
“Elegies for the Brokenhearted is brilliant, gorgeous, illuminated writing. Hodgen writes like a Christian mystic who has God speaking through her mingled with her own wild, lyrical mix of popular culture and high art. What a voice!”
Deb Olin Unferth
“This stellar novel shows us once again that Christie Hodgen is hilarious, hugely talented, and full of luminous passion. In inspired prose, she tells the stories of those who have strung themselves around the heart of Mary Murphy, that undefeated heroine who cannot stop speaking to her loved ones, long after they’ve left.”
Lolly Winston
“Deep, dark, and beautiful, Christie Hodgen’s story of a fabulously flawed family reads like a quintessentially American tale.... The generational cast of quirky, yet completely believable characters, the heartbreak and redemption as time unfolds, and Hodgen’s biting humor and exquisite writing all add up to a tremendous novel. Book clubs: put this one on your lists.”
Joanna Smith Rakoff
If the philosophical and psychological notions behind the approach of Elegies for the Brokenhearted seem obvious or clichéd—that an individual's identity is formed by the people who surround her—its execution proves deeply, satisfyingly original…Elegies is the literary equivalent of a hand grenade: brisk and unsparing, fueled by anger, laced with caustic wit and composed in long, cartwheeling sentences that expose the bleakest of truths.
—The New York Times
Jeffrey Ann Goudie - Kansas City Star
“This book has heart. . . . Christie Hodgen’s prose embodies the paradox of really fine fiction, which travels to the universal through the particular.”
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780393061406
  • Publisher: Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.
  • Publication date: 7/19/2010
  • Pages: 271
  • Product dimensions: 5.90 (w) x 8.40 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

Christie Hodgen is the author of Elegies for the Brokenhearted; Hello, I Must Be Going; and A Jeweler’s Eye for Flaw. She has won the AWP Award for Short Fiction and the Pushcart Prize. She teaches at the University of Missouri–Kansas City, where she lives.

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Customer Reviews

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Sort by: Showing all of 5 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted April 26, 2013

    Beautiful writing. Intelligent, thoughtful character. Loved it.

    Beautiful writing. Intelligent, thoughtful character. Loved it. Want more from Hodgen.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 22, 2011

    LOVED this book! Well written, deeply thought out.

    If you liked The Glass Castle, you will love this. It's about two young girls growing up in the 80's with a negligent, totally self-absorbed,young, beautiful mother who goes through men like water. She talks in detail about the most important people in her life, and it is clear what that kind of childhood does to a person.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
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    Posted January 12, 2012

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    Posted February 11, 2014

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    Posted January 18, 2012

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