So Much a Part of You, by Polly Dugan
Publisher: Little, Brown & Co.
240 pages, hardcover
Expected Publication: 10th June 2014
Are you still friends with the people you grew up with? Those whom you were inseparable through elementary school? High school? Is your current life where you planned for it to be when you entered into college? Or graduated? Is it even heading in the direction you originally planned?
Is your life what your ancestors imagined would come from their struggles and success? Are you building a life and family, looking at your own children or grandchildren and hoping for what type of future life they will have?
Despite all we put of ourselves into relationships, could everything turn out terribly different from what we desire?
These are the types of questions explored by Dugan in the short collection of chronological stories. Connected one-to-the-next with shared characters, the collection as a whole spans across a few generations and families to reveal the broad effects of the passage of time and changing circumstances on individuals and relationships.
So Much a Part of You is not a reading experience where you follow a protagonist through an exciting plot and get to live vicariously through the adventures and how much you ‘like’ the character. This is a literary collection, about matters more general, and deeper. The situations in the stories of this collection may include tragedies or condition you’ve never experienced, from physical accidents, to alcoholism, to one-night-stands, or an abortion. The characters may make choices that you have never faced, or think you would never make.
What is relatable, what is emotionally resonant and evokes reflection is the general effect these situations and choices have on the characters in the stories and that the reader can then apply to their own personal life. For we have all faced rough situations and tragedy. We have all made choices, good and bad.
So too with the characters in So Much a Part of You. None of them end up where they may have expected. In some cases this is unfortunate, and in others it becomes clear that a new and better relationship has opened up in their life, that they would never have foreseen, but which for that particular time and place is exactly what they need, and dearly precious.
With the connected format of the collection, readers are able to see some characters from different perspectives and periods, creating a complexity that would be harder to obtain from a single short story. Dugan’s writing is fluid and conversational, making this a relatively quick read. The overall emotional reflection it could engender will last longer.
Four Stars out of Five
I received a free advanced reading copy of this from the publisher through the Goodreads’ First-reads giveaway program.