Two young women who've dated the same man navigate love, destiny, loss, and choice in this powerful debut.
Peter Herring was the center of Anne's universe in college, and now, a few years later, he's become the center of Anna's, and merely a minor player in his ex-girlfriend's world. That is, until Peter and Anna are invited into Anne's parents' home to visit with her dying mother, and he finds himself drawn back into her orbit.
Years later, when her own mother is dying, Anna will find herself yearning to reach out to Anne, with whom she had shared such a brief but intimate bond, and find solace in that moment from long ago. Perspective evolves with time, and so with time, what Peter means to each woman -- as lover, as friend, as connection to the past -- also evolves.
Through exploring Anne's and Anna's ties to Peter and unfolding the narratives of the people who weave meaningfully in and out of their lives, Polly Dugan reveals the power of family secrets, the ripple effects of her characters' emotional choices, and how poignantly their intertwined relationships shape who they are and how they love.
Possessing that rare ability to write the sweep of emotion with tenderness, Polly Dugan invites readers to witness the moments that define her characters -- the moments that come back full circle to comfort or haunt them, or both. So Much a Part of You will break your heart and still have you asking for more.
About the Author
Polly Dugan lives in Portland, Oregon, and is a reader at Tin House magazine. A former employee of Powell's Books and Guide Dogs for the Blind, she is an alumna of the Tin House Writer's Workshop. She is the author of the story collection So Much a Part of You.
"This is what short story should be: exact and faithful invocations, full of nerve and stranded emotion, which leave eddying waves of thought and strangeness that linger long after the covers are closed shut. The stories are simultaneously eerie and poignant. They achieve a cool distance and the captured moment, the effect of which is how lonely and alien we can be to ourselves and together. The pathway to the heart is through the mind. I think of such writers as Joy Williams and Ann Beattie, only more spare and more raw and who, in their own way, were more spare and raw than O'Connor and Welty."
"Polly Dugan makes the greatest deal the best of literature can offer--she will be honest, completely bare, and deliver a reader wholly into the secret world of her character's empathy. What a powerful and glorious thing it was to become these characters, to have my worldview touched by their lives. It's a rare skill to write pain with such love, such care, such warmth, and like Alice Munro and Elizabeth Strout, Polly Dugan has achieved a small miracle in breaking my heart and still having me ask for more. SO MUCH A PART OF YOU
announces a potent and fresh new voice to the landscape of short fiction."—Alan Heathcock
"There's a rawness to Polly Dugan's stories that lure you in and won't let go. The settings may be every day, but SO MUCH A PART OF YOU lingers in the imagination."
—Lucinda Rosenfeld, author of The Pretty One
"Polly Dugan's stories read like whispered secrets. With their quiet drama, their nuanced internal conflicts, their characters full of longing, they immerse us in the messy mysteries of ordinary lives. But their vision is clear-headed and generous: they show us that even our briefest connections, our smallest actions, our most private thoughts can have great weight and consequence."
—Scott Nadelson, author of Aftermath
"A solid debut.... Dugan's writing flows well and with thoughtfulness as she explores love, loss, and friendship through the three main characters and their families. Their decisions and foibles make for some emotional reading."
"By portraying various individuals in their twenties and thirties as they move through formative stages in their lives, the ten linked stories in Dugan's debut collection convincingly capture the human condition.... With decisive economy and the dramatic immediacy lent by her use of the present tense, Dugan's powerful stories present a fast-paced, cohesive, and satisfying read."
—Joyce Townsend, Library Journal
"Readers, take notice.... Strong characterization and acute rendering of settings provide glimpses into the successes and sorrows of these middle-class Irish Catholics.... Although short story fans are a natural audience for this promising debut, it will also appeal to general fiction readers."
—Ellen Loughran, Booklist (starred review)
"A debut collection that could practically pass for a novel.... Subtlety of characterization is often the writer's strength, as her stories move through the conventional details of domesticity to panic attacks and 'uncharted insanity,' showing the fragility beneath even the most stable lives."
"Polly Dugan strikes the heart in SO MUCH A PART OF YOU."
—Vanity Fair, "Hot Type"
"What struck me about the stories in SO MUCH A PART OF YOU is how finely wrought they are, how controlled."
—Steve Almond, Rumpus
"A quiet triumph.... SO MUCH A PART OF YOU marries the scope of a novel with the graceful economy of a good short story. The linked stories in the collection are individually modest, almost unobtrusive. Set against one another, though, they reveal surprising connections-reflecting perspective and insight back onto themselves.... Part of the pleasure of this book is that it brings the reader into glancing proximity to so many people, and so many stories. It's about as close as fiction comes to capturing the way people really do move in and out of each others' lives."
—Alison Hallett, Portland Mercury
"Utterly real and insightful."
"Full of emotion. [Dugan's] characters experience love, loss, grief and anxiety, and she conveys those emotions beautifully."
—Gayle Weiswasser, Readerly
"The ten stories in this collection are beautiful and connect in unexpected ways-but underneath the beauty, the stories hum with electricity that is as unpredictable as a downed power line, as dangerous as the third rail, and I read with my breath held, and my heart in my throat. These are the best kind of stories-dark and tender and sharp."
—Jodi Angel, author of You Only Get Letters From Jail