Jan Stafford Kellis

Broken For You

Broken For You by Stephanie Kallos, (Grove Press, 2004, 400 pages).

Septuagenarian Margaret Hughes has a brain tumor. Instead of pursuing traditional, radical life-saving treatment, she decides to change her life, starting with advertising for a boarder to share her Seattle mansion. Margaret’s mansion houses thousands of precious porcelain dishes and figurines collected by her father in Europe in the 1940s. Thus far, Margaret has dedicated her life to the upkeep of these pieces—she confers with the gravy boats, listens to the tea cups, understands the needs of the vases.

When Wanda Schultz responds to Margaret’s newspaper ad, she becomes Margaret’s first boarder. They quickly form a familial-like bond and begin the friendly work of healing each other without learning exactly what it is they’re repairing.

Margaret moves in more boarders as needed: a chef, a nurse, a carpenter-artist. The characters are so realistic, you’ll wish you could meet—or even join—the society of purpose-driven creatives. You’ll want to wander into Margaret’s mansion and experience the atmosphere of art in progress, witness Wanda’s genius and meet the chef.

There’s friendship here, of course, and surrogate families and circular life cycles and art and madness (the good kind) and color and passion. It took Kallos seven years to write this book, but it’s worth every moment. Read this one slowly—savor it like the best Thanksgiving feast you’ve ever had. You won’t soon forget it.