I have just finished reading the second of Stephanie Kallos’ two novels. They are both so good I want to share them with you.
Broken for You (Atlantic Monthly Press, 2004) is a crazy, beautiful book, poetic, layered and loving. The plot wraps around Margaret, who has a brain tumor and has been living alone in a mansion full of antiques since her father dies. She rents a room to Wanda, a stage manager whose parents both left when she was little. Wanda is always searching for her parents and for Peter, the guy who dumped her. The story that unrolls is just beautiful. Among the amazing twists are Margaret’s sudden plan to start breaking all the glass that fills her house and Wanda’s inspired way to use the pieces.
Sing Them Home (Atlantic Monthly Press, 2009) is another masterpiece, even better than Broken for You. Kallos is a weaver, bringing together many beautiful threads to weave one warm, luxurious blanket. She tells her story from multiple points of view, her protagonists both living and dead, past and present, but it all comes together in the end. We begin with Llewellyn Jones, the mayor, who insists on going golfing despite an oncoming storm. He is killed by lightning. His death inspires the events that follow. This is not the first time the Jones family loses someone to extreme weather. Llewellyn’s wife Hope disappeared and his daughter Bonnie was injured in a tornado back in 1978.
The book tells the stories of Llewellyn’s nurse and lover, Viney; his daughter Larken, a lonely art professor; his son Gaelan, a weatherman and avid bodybuilder, and Bonnie, an odd duck who lives in a converted garage and collects artifacts scattered by the tornado. We also meet Blind Tom, the piano tuner, and a host of other wonderful characters. So much happens, so much love, loss, and fun. We also get a heavy dose of the Welsh culture that pervades fictional Emlyn Springs, Nebraska, without ever feeling the weight of Kallos’ extensive research. This is a long book. The language is beautiful and requires concentration, and yet, at the end of 540 pages, I didn’t want to let it go. The people are so real I’m sure that if I went to Nebraska, I would find them there.
Kallos has had a varied career, including years working in the theater. She includes a hilarious resume at her website, http://www.stephaniekallos.com/. Take a look and have fun.