Fat Books & Thin Women

Story Sunday: Matt Getty’s “Keeping Susie Whole”
February 26, 2012, 7:27 pm
Filed under: Story Sundays | Tags: , , , , , ,

Story Sundays is a weekly feature at Fat Books & Thin Women. Always short stories, always ones available online for free.

Matt Getty’s “Keeping Susie Whole” is such a gorgeous and strange read. At first the central image of this story, that of a girl literally coming apart when she’s upset, seems little more than a clever conceit. As the story continues, though, it becomes far more, a meditation on what it is to be a parent, to want something for a child, and to watch that child fail to meet unexpressed expectations and in time find her way to some private understanding of her self.

Really, what is there to say about the story? It opens with an image that seems, again, a play, but Getty never stops developing Susie, her relationship with her parents, and the ways she comes apart.

Susie was two when parts of her body started falling off. At first it was minor—fingertips, earlobes, the pinky toe on her left foot. Sheila and I would find them lying around the house, discarded, collected in small piles like forgotten toys, bits of cereal she’d spilled from the high chair.

What I like so much about this story is the very honest way Getty’s characters shift in their attitudes and reactions towards Susie coming apart, and the ways that even those comings apart change over time. Susie, Susie’s husband, and her mother and father, shift between accepting and promoting her gift, and wanting to keep it something hidden within the confines of their home, or tamped down altogether. And the early images of the narrator and his wife trying to fit Susie back together are simply remarkable.

Often, Sheila had to pin her shoulders as I struggled to snap her legs back into her hips. Other times she sat on Susie’s feet as I pieced her face back together, eyebrows furrowing angrily as soon as I pressed them down, lips curling into a frown as soon as I pinched them back over the edges of her mouth, tongue thrashing about as soon as I’d anchored it back into her throat, giving voice to screams that made the hairs on my forearms stand up.

“Mine!” she shouted. “My face. No! No want face. Leave me alone. My face!”

A clever and moving story.

Read “Keeping Susie Whole” online


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1 Comment

Definitely a strange, but fascinating short story. The part that especially stands out is when the three of them are putting her together, pulling all-nighters basically to do it like it’s a terrible parody of a group school project session.

Comment by Christy

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