- Paperback: 256 pages
- Publisher: Back Bay Books; Reprint edition (August 11, 2015)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0316320293
- ISBN-13: 978-0316320290
- Product Dimensions: 5.6 x 0.8 x 8.3 inches
- Shipping Weight: 7 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 12 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #602,233 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Paperback – August 11, 2015
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Showing 1-6 of 12 reviews
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In the first story we meet John Riley a kid during the depression with a paper route. John Riley is in the 2nd story but then time has passed and he's the father of Anna who has just started riding lessons. For me the main characters in the stories are Anna and Peter. We don't meet Peter till he is in college.
The bulk of the stories take place in the 80's and I liked being reminded of things before the internet and before everyone had smartphones and ipads. People would go to college be seriously connected to a person and then go home for summer not call or visit and then avoid each other when classes started again. No texting back then and you couldn't call long distance all the time. In the 2nd story John Riley has his daughter get a watch because he doesn't like Anna being late all the time and he has her set it five minutes ahead of time. I remember when I had relatives who had their clocks and watches set 20 minutes fast to avoid being late. Who would do that today when while we still have clocks the time is always availible on our devices. I appreciate it when an author gets all these little things right.
I read So Much a Part of You as a netgalley copy. I think this book would be perfect for a book club selection because there would be so many good topics to discuss but even if you don't belong to a book club I still highly recommend it and I look forward to reading the author's next work.
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.
The end result is to bring together Peter, Anna and Anne, a young man of questionable moral compass and two young women who have loved him. Through these three young people Dugan explores the dynamics of families, relationships, love, any loyalty.
I found it hard to connect with Dugan's characters; I felt they were lightly sketched rather than fully drawn, perhaps the result of the short story format as opposed to a more traditional novel. Because of this I found myself reading one story at a time, putting the book down between vignettes then restarting later. I never got deeply involved with any of the tales, a must for me to really enjoy a book.
Not a bad read, but rather light fare. This would be a good book to read in snippets such as a lunch hour.