Excerpt from Half Broken Things by Morag Joss, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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Half Broken Things

By Morag Joss

Half Broken Things
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  • Hardcover: Sep 2005,
    320 pages.
    Paperback: Jul 2006,
    320 pages.

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January

Walden Manor August

This is not what it might look like. We're quiet people. As a general rule extraordinary things do not happen to us, and we are not the type to go looking for them. But so much has happened since January, and I started it. Things began to happen, things I must have brought about somehow without quite foreseeing where they would lead. So I feel I must explain, late in the day though it is. I'm going to set out, as clearly as I can, in the order in which they occurred, the things that have happened here. And I shall find it difficult because I was brought up not to draw attention to myself and I've never been considered a forthcoming person, never being one to splurge out on anything, least of all great long explanations. Indeed, Mother always described me as secretive. But that was because, with her, I came to expect my reasons for things to be not so much misunderstood as overlooked or mislaid, and so early on I stopped giving them.

Father was usually quiet, too. When I think back to the sounds of the house in Oakfield Avenue where I grew up, I do not remember voices. I think we sighed or cleared our throats more often than we spoke words. I remember mainly the tick of Father's longcase clock in the dining room we never ate in, and then after the clock had gone, a particular silence throughout the house that I thought of as a shade of grey. And much later when I was an adult, still there looking after Mother, the most regular sound was the microwave. It pinged a dozen times a day. In fact, until recently, whenever I heard a certain tone of ping, in a shop or somewhere like that, I would immediately smell boiling milk. But when I was a child there was just the clock, with silences in between.

Mother had few words herself. She often went about the house as if she were harbouring unsaid things at great personal cost, with a locked look on her mouth. That being so, I suppose Father and I felt unable to open our own mouths very much. What happens to all the things you might say or want to say, but don't? Well, they don't lie about in your head indefinitely, waiting to be let out. For a time they may stay there quite patiently, but then they shuffle off and fade until you can't locate them any more, and you realise they're not coming back. By then you're past caring.

So I grew to think of myself as someone not in particular need of words. I did not acquire the habit of calling them up; not many at a time at least, not even to myself in my own head. Things in my head had been very quiet for a long time, before all this.

But I have been wrong about this aspect of myself, as about others. I find that there are words there after all. Now that I need them, my words have come crowding back, perhaps because I have a limited time in which to get them all down (today is the 20th, so only eleven more days). I am pleased that my hands remember the old touch-typing moves without seeming to involve me at all. The letters are hitting the paper in this old typewriter almost as if they were being shot out of my finger-ends. Which is just as well, because I'm busy enough dealing with all the clamouring words that are flinging themselves around in my head, fighting over which gets fired out first. I'm in a hurry to let them loose. I want to explain, because it is suddenly extremely urgent and important that, in the end, we are not misunderstood.

Excerpted from Half Broken Things by Morag Joss Copyright © 2005 by Morag Joss. Excerpted by permission of Delacorte Press, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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