"This is what short story should be: exact and faithful invocations, full of nerve and stranded emotion, which leave eddying waves of thought and strangeness that linger long after the covers are closed shut. The stories are simultaneously eerie and poignant. They achieve a cool distance and the captured moment, the effect of which is how lonely and alien we can be to ourselves and together. The pathway to the heart is through the mind. I think of such writers as Joy Williams and Ann Beattie, only more spare and more raw and who, in their own way, were more spare and raw than O'Connor and Welty."Robert Olmstead
"Polly Dugan makes the greatest deal the best of literature can offershe will be honest, completely bare, and deliver a reader wholly into the secret world of her character's empathy. What a powerful and glorious thing it was to become these characters, to have my worldview touched by their lives. It's a rare skill to write pain with such love, such care, such warmth, and like Alice Munro and Elizabeth Strout, Polly Dugan has achieved a small miracle in breaking my heart and still having me ask for more. SO MUCH A PART OF YOU announces a potent and fresh new voice to the landscape of short fiction."Alan Heathcock
"There's a rawness to Polly Dugan's stories that lure you in and won't let go. The settings may be every day, but SO MUCH A PART OF YOU lingers in the imagination."Lucinda Rosenfeld, author of The Pretty One
"Polly Dugan's stories read like whispered secrets. With their quiet drama, their nuanced internal conflicts, their characters full of longing, they immerse us in the messy mysteries of ordinary lives. But their vision is clear-headed and generous: they show us that even our briefest connections, our smallest actions, our most private thoughts can have great weight and consequence."Scott Nadelson, author of Aftermath
"A solid debut.... Dugan's writing flows well and with thoughtfulness as she explores love, loss, and friendship through the three main characters and their families. Their decisions and foibles make for some emotional reading."Publishers Weekly
"By portraying various individuals in their twenties and thirties as they move through formative stages in their lives, the ten linked stories in Dugan's debut collection convincingly capture the human condition.... With decisive economy and the dramatic immediacy lent by her use of the present tense, Dugan's powerful stories present a fast-paced, cohesive, and satisfying read."Joyce Townsend, Library Journal
"Readers, take notice.... Strong characterization and acute rendering of settings provide glimpses into the successes and sorrows of these middle-class Irish Catholics.... Although short story fans are a natural audience for this promising debut, it will also appeal to general fiction readers."Ellen Loughran, Booklist (starred review)
"A debut collection that could practically pass for a novel.... Subtlety of characterization is often the writer's strength, as her stories move through the conventional details of domesticity to panic attacks and 'uncharted insanity,' showing the fragility beneath even the most stable lives."Kirkus Reviews
"Polly Dugan strikes the heart in SO MUCH A PART OF YOU."Vanity Fair, "Hot Type"
"What struck me about the stories in SO MUCH A PART OF YOU is how finely wrought they are, how controlled."Steve Almond, Rumpus
"A quiet triumph.... SO MUCH A PART OF YOU marries the scope of a novel with the graceful economy of a good short story. The linked stories in the collection are individually modest, almost unobtrusive. Set against one another, though, they reveal surprising connections-reflecting perspective and insight back onto themselves.... Part of the pleasure of this book is that it brings the reader into glancing proximity to so many people, and so many stories. It's about as close as fiction comes to capturing the way people really do move in and out of each others' lives."Alison Hallett, Portland Mercury
"Utterly real and insightful."BookPage
"Full of emotion. [Dugan's] characters experience love, loss, grief and anxiety, and she conveys those emotions beautifully."Gayle Weiswasser, Readerly
"The ten stories in this collection are beautiful and connect in unexpected ways-but underneath the beauty, the stories hum with electricity that is as unpredictable as a downed power line, as dangerous as the third rail, and I read with my breath held, and my heart in my throat. These are the best kind of stories-dark and tender and sharp."Jodi Angel, author of You Only Get Letters From Jail
By portraying various individuals in their twenties and thirties as they move through formative stages in their lives, the ten linked stories in Dugan's debut collection convincingly capture the human condition. At the heart of these pieces are college friends Anna Riley and Anne Cavenaugh, as well as Peter Herring, who has been involved with them both. Throughout we meet characters who love their pets more than their children, mothers who fade into the background, daughters who manage to find the grace and strength to overcome the crippling effects of their upbringing, and, affectingly, the alcoholic son of an alcoholic father who, when he becomes a father himself, evokes fear and shame in his own daughter. As the narratives explore love, faith, betrayal, joy, friendship, and tragedy, they highlight how choices made by parents influence their offspring so indelibly. VERDICT With decisive economy and the dramatic immediacy lent by her use of the present tense, Dugan's powerful stories present a fast-paced, cohesive, and satisfying read.—Joyce Townsend, Pittsburg, CA
A debut collection that could practically pass for a novel; almost all the stories feature members of a single family through three generations, focusing on Anna Riley as she grows from childhood equestrienne to wife and mother.In the opening story, "The Third Rail," John Riley is the 12-year-old son of an abusive, alcoholic father in the midst of the Depression. By the second tale, "A Matter of Time," it's the mid-1970s, and John has become the alcoholic father of 10-year-old Anna; the stories continue chronologically, focusing on Anna (and occasionally her troubled relationship with her father) as she navigates adolescence, love, marriage, motherhood and life "as a middle-aged orphan." But Anna is not the main character in every story; some feature the college days of Peter, who will become her husband, and his doomed romance with Anne, who will eventually form a close friendship with the initially wary Anna. There are complications involving abortions and all sorts of deaths—pets, babies, parents—causing Anna to muse, somewhat heavy-handedly, that "life is too hard sometimes, but life is all there is." Yet subtlety of characterization is often the writer's strength, as her stories move through the conventional details of domesticity to panic attacks and "uncharted insanity," showing the fragility beneath even the most stable lives. Though some of these stories work fine on their own, most benefit from the context provided by the others, the development of character and the complexities of relationships from one to the next.Not surprisingly, Dugan is at work on a novel, which readers will eagerly anticipate after reading this promising collection.