Broken as Things Are: A Novel
Picador, 2005 (2004)
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Reviewed by Marie Hashima Lofton
artha Witt's debut novel is the story of a young girl's relationship with her older brother who has Asperger's Syndrome, a condition related to autism in which a person has difficulties with social and communication skills, and may view the world differently than others do. Morgan Lee is one of three siblings. Ginx is the beautiful withdrawn older brother who latches onto Morgan Lee when she is born, the two becoming inseparable. Ginx develops an obsession over his younger sister, which becomes apparent when Morgan Lee tries to find her own friendships. She learns to live in Ginx's world, even acquiring the skills to communicate with him in a secret language only they understand. Though this is the only world she knows, the relationship isn't healthy, as the reader will eventually understand.
organ Lee has lived this way all her life, and part of her feels that it is wrong to seek out others when Ginx is there for her at home. But she eventually pursues a friendship with Billy, a boy who becomes her first crush. Inadvertently he comes between Morgan Lee and Ginx. Another relationship, with a sister and brother duo (Sweety-boy and Jacob) also causes tension between Morgan Lee and Ginx, with repercussions unfolding in a momentous ending. In the meantime, a third sibling, Dana, is treated in the family as if she were a second thought. Though she's the youngest of the three children, the parents' focus seems to be on Ginx and Morgan Lee, for different reasons. Their mother pleads with Morgan Lee to leave Ginx alone. Why? The family situation becomes strained with the difficulties of raising an adolescent such as Ginx, but also because he begins to exhibit behaviors that are not only inappropriate, but also dangerous. Dana, the odd one out, moves next door with their Aunt Lois (who is obsessed with Mary Kay and makeup) and Uncle Pete to escape the dysfunction of her own home.
hough the complexities and dynamics between these family members may be hard to understood at first, they become clear by the time the reader has finished the story. It ends with a bang, but at the same time there is no real resolution.
Broken as Things Are
is a dark novel that follows in the tradition of classic Southern Literature, and a promising beginning to a literary career.
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