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Book Review: Elegies for the Brokenhearted

June 21, 2010

This is a book about nobodies. The narrator, Mary Murphy, is a silent observer to the destructive forces around her that ultimately shape the outcome of her life. As invisible as her ubiquitous name, Mary is a shy, and at times optionally mute, child and young adult who cares for very little. As silent as she may be to the people in her life, as a narrator she is bitingly, viscerally descriptive and engaging. I found myself completely immersed in her world; I was always rooting for her despite her many shortcomings. The prose in this novel are engrossing and her world is one the reader will fully embrace despite its overwhelming bleakness and the constant disappointment with the people she loves most.

If the majority of the book was engrossing, the end left much to be desired. This woman who had never found inspiration in anything- music, reading, working, even eating and talking- suddenly became a wonderful teacher of underprivileged youth and an effortless mother in the span of a few pages. The most destructive, and formative, relationships in her life (with her mother and older sister) are terminated without closure, and she seems to heal from them effortlessly right in time for the last pages of the book. The reader has already come to accept Mary despite some loose ends; it would have been nice to see a more realistic, albeit less pretty, ending to the story.

This is not the cheeriest book you will read this summer, but Mary is a nobody that everybody will root for.

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