Juanita Rice's Reviews > Broken for You

Broken for You by Stephanie Kallos
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's review
Dec 31, 11

bookshelves: fiction, fantasy
Read from December 27 to 28, 2011

Here's a book that's a pleasure to read, everything ends happily, all the characters you get to know are good and decent and delightful, and it all ends happily—even the two or three deaths along the way are good. No one is hopelessly depressed or poor, although some may start that way. It's well-shaped and well-paced. The narrative is straightforward, although there is a good deal of past to incorporate that explains why, at first, so many of the people are loners.

Author Stephanie Kallos is a twenty-year veteran of the theatre, and since I have a similar background I credit that experience as contributing to the shaping and timing, the sense of scenes, of plot progress. And of course since two of the characters work in stage management, some of the book's interest derives from a glimpse of backstage workings. "We're going into techs next week," says one character. "Tex? Texas?" queries the other. (The explanation is "technical rehearsals," the harrowing gauntlet through which any production must pass before opening night.)

Still, as well-written and as fun as the book is, by two-thirds the way through it became apparent the book is going to be glib, like one of those movies with beaming couples and zany singles in the previews, and phrases like "Heartwarming," "Charming," "deeply felt." One of those movies I rarely watch because they are always rather depressing to me—as if I'm one of the few people on earth who find it unbelievable that no character has a dark side, that no character meets degradation and humiliation. It's a world in which everyone lives happily ever after, even when they acknowledge how dirty is the fortune they inherit. They're still light-hearted and sunny.

I don't mind farce, mad-cap, zany comedies, but this story presents itself as realism, romantic realism. And the center of the history in this plot is the Holocaust. Yes, that Holocaust. Shoah in Hebrew. I don't think it's a spoiler to say that the main character is an extremely wealthy older woman who has inherited numberless and priceless china and porcelain art objects despoiled from the Jews by the Nazis and all the collaborators and predators that scavenged around them.

A cheery romance built on such a slagheap of slaughter? Troubling.
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