Chapters 1-2 Summary
Published in 2004, Stephanie Kallos's debut novel, Broken for You, explores the relationship between an elderly woman who lives alone in a large Seattle house and a young woman whose heart needs mending.
Broken for You begins with seventy-five-year-old Margaret Hughes sitting in a doctor's office. Margaret has just been told that her frequent headaches are caused by a tumor. The doctor says that with surgery and chemotherapy, Margaret might have a couple more years to live. When Margaret asks about her prognosis if she decides not to have treatment, her doctor is stunned into silence. She then excuses herself, as if to go to the restroom, but she instead sneaks into the elevator and leaves the medical building.
As Margaret walks along the Seattle city streets in the Capitol Hill neighborhood, she comes to a cafe that specializes in desserts. When she notices that the cafe is devoid of customers, she walks in and orders four different sugary delicacies. She is served by a very thin young girl who has a nose ring, at which Margaret tries her best not to stare. The young girl is friendly, telling Margaret that she is studying film. When Margaret asks the young waitress what she would do if she had just been told she did not have long to live, the waitress, after reflecting on Margaret's question, answers she would do things that she had previously been afraid to do.
At this suggestion, Margaret decides to write an ad that she will place in the newspaper. She has decided that she will rent out a room in her enormous 15,000-square-foot Seattle home. Before placing the ad, however, Margaret reminds herself that she must first ask permission from her other "tenants"—Margaret's life-long collection of precious antiques. Over the years, especially since her divorce from her husband, Stephen, Margaret has come to consider her porcelain figurines and upholstered divans as friends and therefore tenants that share her home. Though she will consult these objects before advertising a room for rent, Margaret continues to write the ad as she finishes her desserts. While eating and sipping her tea, she also takes out a photograph of a young boy—her son, Daniel, who is no longer alive.
Later, Margaret is most impressed with the first person, Wanda, who responds to her ad. While showing Wanda around her house, Margaret is surprised and pleased that the young girl volunteers to fix a leaky pipe in one of Margaret's bathrooms. Wanda also takes the time to glue together a china cup that Margaret had dropped and cracked. While sharing tea, Wanda tells Margaret her history, which includes a story of a broken heart. After living with a young man for several years in New York, Wanda discovered that the man suddenly decided to set out on his own. Wanda has come to Seattle to look for him.