Summary and book reviews of Broken For You by Stephanie Kallos

Broken For You

By Stephanie Kallos

Broken For You
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  • Hardcover: Sep 2004,
    368 pages.
    Paperback: Sep 2005,
    400 pages.

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Book Summary

Broken for You is a debut novel of infinite charm and tremendous heart that explores the risks and rewards of human connection, and the hidden strength behind things that only seem fragile. With a riotous energy that recalls the works of John Irving and Anne Tyler, Kallos brings to life a delightful set of characters—among them an old woman who converses regularly with her porcelain collection; a young woman who can fix a leaky sink but can’t stop her own tears from falling; a Yeats-loving bowling enthusiast; and a woman who survived a world war with her sense of humor (and her affinity for Hawaiian shirts) intact.

When we meet septuagenarian Margaret Hughes, she is living alone in a mansion in Seattle with only a massive collection of valuable antiques for company. Enter Wanda Schultz, a young woman with a broken heart who has come west to search for her wayward boyfriend. Both women are guarding dark secrets and have spent many years building up protective armor against the outside world. But as the two begin their tentative dance of friendship, the armor begins to fall away and Margaret opens her house to the younger woman. This launches a series of remarkable and unanticipated events, leading Margaret to discover a way to redeem her cursed past, and Wanda to learn the true purpose of her cross-country journey. Along the way, a famous mosaic artist is born, a Holocaust survivor is reunited with her long-lost tea set, and a sad-eyed drifter finds his long-lost daughter.

Funny, heartbreaking, and alive with a potpourri of eccentric and irresistible characters, Broken for You is a testament to the saving graces of surrogate families, and shows how far the tiniest repair jobs can go in righting the world’s wrongs.

One
Margaret

When Margaret Hughes found out she had a brain tumor, she stared at the black-and-white images illuminated on the screen behind her physician’s desk—"slices," he called them. She was surprised to see that her brain looked like two halves of a desiccated walnut.

Her physician spoke of cisterns, vessels, ventricles, a star. Of cells that had forgotten how to die. It was so complicated, so difficult to understand, but in all fairness she had no one to blame but herself. She was the one who’d insisted on seeing the images, made him promise that he’d be straightforward, tell her the names of things, explain why she’d been experiencing these headaches, these slips of the tongue, errors in cognition, apparitions. The fact that he continually referred to the images as "slices" only made matters worse; Margaret had already been so flustered before her appointment that she’d left home without finishing breakfast.

Dr. Leising pointed out the...

Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!
  1. How is Margaret portrayed in the beginning? Who is this woman who is entombed in a vast, carefully dusted house with her father’s collection? An unlikely heroine, she is an old, peculiar recluse. How is her diagnosis an inciting force for change? Talk about her growing appreciation of the uncommonness of common things.

  2. In the clamor of the first armload of plate crashing, Wanda "suddenly knew that she had found a home with someone who was as deeply aggrieved and crazy as she was. It was tremendously comforting" (p. 133). How does the Hughes house, truly a sanatorium, provide a haven and structure for these women to pass through madness to sanity? Can you think of other books or plays that explore the same theme?

  3. When Wanda ...
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Reviews

BookBrowse

Broken For You is a marvelous, heart-warming read with a well-crafted plot and an undercurrent of very funny but gentle wit. Reviewers have drawn comparisons between Kallos and a wide range of writers including John Irving, Anne Tyler, Carol Shields, Tennessee Williams and Margaret Atwood, however, the book that kept coming back to my mind was Fannie Flagg's Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle-Stop Cafe.   (Reviewed by BookBrowse Review Team).

Full Review Members Only (381 words).

Media Reviews
Susan Coll - The Washington Post

The novel itself is a mosaic of eccentric characters and their interlocking storylines, which sometimes border on the fantastic … So lovely is the world Kallos has created that it seems more reparative to curl up on the couch with this book and suspend belief than to deconstruct the plot.

Detroit Free Press - Susan Hall-Balduf

Broken for You is moving and endearing, painful and satisfying, put together in just the right shape.

Publishers Weekly

Though it takes a while to get started, this haunting and memorable debut is reminiscent of early Atwood, peopled by lovably imperfect and eccentric characters.

Kirkus Reviews

Starred Review. Kallos has a rare, deft way with whimsy, dream sequences and hallucinations. Comparisons to John Irving and Tennessee Williams would not be amiss in this show-stopping debut.

Booklist - Jennifer Baker

Starred Review. Well-crafted plotting and crackling wit make this debut novel by Seattle author Kallos a delight to read and a memory to savor.....Book groups will enjoy discussing the layers of meaning, the stylistic nuances, and the powerful message of hope secreted in these pages.

Library Journal - Jenn B. Stidham

Starred review. Kallos has given us a compelling, richly layered story reminiscent of works by John Irving and Anne Tyler in its bittersweet humor and well-drawn characters. Carol Shields also comes to mind for the sharp attention to domestic detail and insight into the tenuous relationships of contemporary life.

Author Blurb Lolly Winston author of Good Grief
A seventy-six-year-old woman who’s just learned that she has a brain tumor takes in a thirty-four-year-old woman who’s just been dumped by her boyfriend. Can this be funny? Yes. Painfully funny, beautifully written, and completely original. I love this novel.

Author Blurb Sheri Holman, author of The Dress Lodger and The Mammoth Cheese
Stephanie Kallos’s lovely and heartfelt first novel is a gift. A story of broken hearts and broken promises, it is also the story of the ways we put things back together—messily, beautifully, and ultimately triumphantly. Kallos is a writer to watch, and one who, mercifully, still believes in happy endings.

Author Blurb Nancy Rawles, author of Crawfish Dreams
Let the angels in! With this story of transformative friendships, Stephanie Kallos calls us to leave the dreary wisdom of our lives and seek the company of souls adrift. Good things come in pieces.

Author Blurb Tova Mirvis, author of The Outside World and The Ladies Auxiliary
In this sparkling debut novel, Stephanie Kallos has created an extraordinary testament to the power of love and forgiveness. Broken For You is a big-hearted book that pulses with life.

Reader Reviews
linda

Heart Warming
Some books you hurry to finish, others you savour. Some are a one-time read, others need to be read over & over. This book will stay with me forever.

Smillw

Broken for You
This is a wonderful book. I loved the various eccentric and "broken" characters that all have a story and yet the ultimate lesson is love and hope.

Kate

Passing it on
Broken for you is one of those book you HAVE to pass on to everyone you know. My heart broke and healed during the reading and by the end I was emotionally drained and yet filled with the hope and love this book inspires. The characters were such a...   Read More

Linda Meyer

"Broken for You" is one of the freshest and most life-affirming novels I've read. Because of its positive messages, I will definitely be recommending it to others as well as rereading it myself. Multiple perspectives provide depth, ...   Read More

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Beyond the Book

Stephanie Kallos spent twenty years in the theater as an actress and teacher. Her short fiction has been nominated for both a Raymond Carver Award and a Pushcart Prize. Broken for You is her first novel. She is currently working on a new novel, Hope's Wheelchair. She lives in Seattle with her husband and two children.

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