The poignant story of what happens when a woman who thinks she's lost everything has the chance to love again.
Leo has long joked that, in the event of his death, he wants his best friend Garrett, a lifelong bachelor, to marry his wife, Audrey. One drunken night, he goes so far as to make Garrett promise to do so. Then, twelve years later, Leo, a veteran firefighter, dies in a skiing accident.
As Audrey navigates her new role as widow and single parent, Garrett quits his job in Boston and buys a one-way ticket out west. Before long, Audrey's feelings for Garrett become more than platonic, and Garrett finds himself falling for Audrey, her boys, and their life together in Portland. When Audrey finds out about the drunken pact from years ago, though, the harmless promise that brought Garrett into her world becomes the obstacle to his remaining in it.
"The Sweetheart Deal hits all of my favorite topics: loss, pain, friendship, betrayal-but ultimately love. It's the most romantic story I've read in years." (Elin Hilderbrand, author of Beautiful Day and The Matchmaker).
"Heartfelt and wise, Polly Dugan's The Sweetheart Deal reminds us that every difficult ending can lead to a beautiful new beginning." (Sarah Jio, author of The Violets of March and Goodnight June).
"Intimately explores how grief can affect a family.... Reminiscent of Anne Tyler’s novels." (Library Journal)
"There is tender romance here, but it’s more richly a story of an old family falling away and a new one beginning." (Kirkus Reviews)
Two young women who've dated the same man navigate love, destiny, loss, and choice in this powerful debut.
Anna Riley and Anne Cavanaugh have had a lover in common, but it's not until a pivotal moment in one of their lives that their paths unforgettably converge. “Beautiful and connected in unexpected ways....” (Jodi Angel), the linked stories in So Much a Part of You “read like whispered secrets.” (Scott Nadelson)
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.
"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." (Robert Olmstead, author of The Coldest Night).
"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, author of VOLT).
"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." (Publishers Weekly).
"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." (Kirkus Reviews).
"Polly Dugan strikes the heart in SO MUCH A PART OF YOU." (Vanity Fair, "Hot Type").
Polly Dugan lives in Portland, Oregon, and is a reader at Tin House magazine. A former employee of Powell's Books, she is an alumna of the Tin House Writer's Workshop. Dugan's first published story, "A Matter of Time," was Line Zero's Spring 2012 Literary Contest Winner, "Masquerades" (as "One At a Time"), was Narrative's Story of the Week (December 2012), and "Kitten Season" was an Honorable Mention Recipient in Glimmer Train's Short Story Award for New Writers (August 2009).
Are you reading The Sweetheart Deal or So Much a Part of You with your book club? Polly would love to join your meeting either in person (if you’re in the Portland, OR area) or via Skype! Email firstname.lastname@example.org and let us know where your book club is based, which book you’re reading, and when you’re meeting.
Plus, reading group guides for both books are coming soon!