I finished reading Broken as Things Are Last night around midnight. I actually started reading it Friday night, but I read all but the first ten pages or so yesterday. I simply could not put it down. Martha Witt’s first novel is a beautifully written book full of wonderful insights and descriptions that put you right in the middle of the moment. The novel is told from Morgan-Lee’s point of view, a 14-year-old girl with an older brother, Ginx, who has severe emotional issues. The two have a unique if somewhat dangerous connection in a family full of dysfunction. My heart aches for her and her desperation for her mother’s attention and affection:
“Our mother used to love Ginx’s happiness when we came back from hunting, his lovely face giddy as he watched me spin around like a helicopter till I eventually wobbled and fell to the ground in dizziness. She would sit on our terrace and laugh, and I hoped that the sunlight funneled into those moments, somehow capturing them in her mind so she would remember everything clearly, perhaps even the fact that I had been there too.”
Another good scene is where Morgan-Lee is sent to talk to a child psychologist/psychiatrist about an incident between her and Ginx:
“Ginx would have refused to speak without needing to explain. Dr. Sampson’s face darkened as his fingers went up in a triangle, each one leaning against its opposite, the apex lightly touching his lips. I imagined all the other kids this man had tricked into kneeling on the carpet and playing games. I knew how vulnerable other kids work, not like Ginx and me. They would have been immediately duped to the floor, spilling their secrets over Mastermind or Monopoly. There were plenty of places to hide and hatch unfettered dreams, and the doctor obviously counted on this, greedy as he was to incubate as many as possible. Ginx would have shaken his head at talking to strangers. He might have recited the alphabet or counted to ten over and over. I stared at my feet, sitting in the office feeling sorry for other children, understanding for the first time who frail other lives must be.”
But here’s my favorite quote:
“I stared hard at the corner of Aunt Lois’s red robe and realized then that we are allotted at least two lives, that one breaks apart to usher in the next, and that we assume the second life with no fewer shrieks and cries than we began the first. Of course, there is silence afterward; of course, there is peace.”
Something about her writing reminds me of Carson McCullers, who is one of my favorite authors because she also has that knack for putting you right in the middle of a scene, as if you’re standing right next to the main character. So now that I’m done, I can continue working on my Chapter Two.