Dear Ms. Hart,
On the first Friday of each month, Sadie Danning, the narrator of your book, Broken, has lunch on an atrium bench. Joe, whose last name Sadie doesn’t know, sits down with his own lunch next to her and tells her a story, and Sadie imagines herself within that tale.
This month my name is Mary and apparently, I’m as contrary as the nursery rhyme. First I said I wanted to fuck, but now I’m refusing to come out of the bathroom.
This month, if I have a name, it’s lost in the pounding beat blaring from the speakers of the club. I’m wearing a short, tight skirt and a shirt made up of two scarves tied behind my neck.
This month, my name is Brandy, and I giggle a lot. This annoys Joe, but he pretends it doesn’t because he wants to get laid.
Yes, Joe’s stories are erotic. They are the stories of his sexual conquests, one night stands with a variety of women.
When Broken begins, Joe and Sadie have been meeting for lunch on a monthly basis for over two years. Sadie has been listening to Joe’s sexual adventures for about a year and a half. There is a lot that she doesn’t know about Joe, but Sadie also knows too much. Sadie is a married woman.
Sadie and Adam Danning had a fairy tale romance when Sadie was in college and Adam in graduate school. Adam studied literature and wrote poetry, was vibrant and wild, brilliant and just a little dangerous, and Sadie fell in love with him with her entire being. After Sadie got her master’s degree in psychology, Adam and Sadie married. They were happy together until the day Adam suffered a spinal chord injury while skiing, and was paralyzed from the neck down.
Now Adam is a quadriplegic, and Sadie’s evening and weekends are spent doing the work of caring for him. Adam and Sadie are lucky to have part-time helpers, but it also means they don’t have much privacy. Their sex life is all but nonexistent, and tension has found a home in their marriage. Sadie composes a smile on her face before she ever enters the bedroom where Adam spends all his time, while Adam doesn’t disguise his bitterness at what has happened to him.
Sadie was always considered the strong one in her family, so she does not turn to them for help, especially since she feels that they aren’t ready to hear the truth about how painful and difficult her life has become. Instead, she goes to the atrium just once a month, and fantasizes about the hot sex Joe describes to her.
One of the things I appreciated very much was that there were no villains here, just three people with human limitations. Sadie pours her heart out in the narration of her story, and confesses not only her conflicted feelings for Adam and Joe, but also her burdens and the effort that carrying them requires.
I understood Sadie and sympathized with her almost throughout the entire book. There were just a couple of brief moments in which I got tired of hearing about her difficulties, in light of Adam’s, but Sadie’s own awareness that Adam’s suffering was worse then hers defused my annoyance, and made me understand why she sacrificed too much of herself and then struggled with those sacrifices.
Sadie feels guilty for her attraction to Joe and what she calls her “emotional affair,–? but at the same time, Joe’s stories provide an imaginary escape from a life that is about keeping one foot in front of the other as her husband cannot do; holding together the pieces of a broken relationship. Joe’s stories are Sadie’s only joy, her ray of light. He is, as she says, a kind of Scheherazade, telling tales that save not his life, but Sadie’s.
For me, Joe started out with three strikes against him, since he (A) had slept with lots of women, (B) kissed and told, and (C) chose a married woman to tell his stories to. So I was surprised at just how much I came to like him.
What’s clear about Joe in all of his stories is his appreciation of women, and it quickly also becomes evident that although he hasn’t always looked for commitment, he starts to want it, and his stories become about the search for something more. As I came to know Joe through his erotic tales, I began to feel that he sensed Sadie’s need of the happiness that his stories gave her.
I would have liked to gain a better understanding of how Joe views Sadie, and what drew him to her in the first place, as well as have a better sense of just how much he knows about Sadie as the book begins, and whether he is aware that her husband is quadriplegic. I have my theories about these things, but a little more clarity would have been good.
Adam’s bitterness is completely understandable, and I loved that I was able to sympathize with him as well as with Sadie. Prior to his accident, Adam had always been confident and sure, the one whom Sadie relied on, the one who took care of her. His paralysis reverses that role, and Adam resents the fact that he now needs Sadie to feed and bathe him. Sometimes Adam lashes out at Sadie, but it’s because life has been cruel to him.
I could see that these three people were on an emotional collision course, but whenever I started dreading it, one of Joe’s erotic encounters would come along, and its sexiness and humor would leaven the book’s tough subject matter. I loved the way the women Joe was involved with were each of them Sadie (who narrated these stories to me as she fantasized about being the woman Joe was telling her about) yet each someone else (and usually an interesting someone), too. It made the sex scenes varied and several were quite hot, so my experience paralleled Sadie’s; I too looked forward to Joe’s next tale.
Readers should be aware that Broken is even less like a traditional romance than your previous book, Dirty. Broken is a dark and gritty book, but for me, its very bluntness and realism made its romantic elements more compelling, and though it wasn’t always comfortable reading, I found it enjoyable throughout. I won’t give away the resolution of the triangle, but I will say I thought Broken ended on a positive and optimistic note.
Once again, as with Dirty, I was left with the feeling of having just consumed a very satisfying meal as well as a sense of having discovered something I';ve always wanted without ever having known that this is what I’ve been missing. A- for this one.