My Body to You

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196 pages

“These stories are brutal and lean, a frightening glimpse of the razor thin difference between the sane and the insane, the keepers and the kept.”—Gloria Naylor

“What makes Searle's stories work, I think, is her technical adventurousness, the way she puts different colors and textures together in a kind of prose collage…I cannot imagine anyone not reading on. And few will be disappointed.”—David R. Slavitt, University of Pennsylvania

“Searle's prose has a kind of edgy lyricism, but it describes a territory of dark impulses and characters who maintain a delicate grip on sanity.”—Belles Lettres

“Elizabeth Searle has written these stories in fire. They are thirteen searing portraits of women or girls whose lives have taken them to the extreme of feeling—of loss, discovery, sensuality, self-hatred, passion, loneliness, and love…Searle rivets and reveals, driving home in more than a dozen ways the hard truths—and the good news—that our brains are in both parts of us, that our bodies are the connection.”—Ploughshares

In the thirteen stories of My Body to You, thirteen women or girls pilot their own bodies through a shifting universe of lovers old and young, parents devoted and destructive, sisters of different sexes, children and adults living in the mysterious world of autism. All these characters share keen powers of observations and a heightened sensuality. In a wild variety of settings, they struggle to control—or dare to abandon themselves to—their intensely private passions.

A woman in love with a gay man she calls Sister Kin attempts to escape the bonds of her own body. An eighteen-year-old virgin enters into a passionate affair with an older man who turns out to be a virgin of a different sort. A special education teacher in a school for aggressive teenagers finds herself attracted to another teacher, also female. An intelligent outcast girl bonds with her mindlessly seductive mother to form “one person.”

Searle reveals other characters through inventive and often comic feats of narrative daring. A girl grows into womanhood during a single family dinner that spans twenty years. A middle-aged wife, once dubbed “The First Most Beautiful Woman in the World,” watches her former selves parade before her family in a lively evening of home movies. Two women—one recently divorced, the other a group home resident in love with The Who—join forces as they figure out “What to Do in an Emergency.” An old woman experiences both physical breakdown and spiritual breakdown in a supermarket's vegetable department. A young woman is drawn into the emotional and sexual life of an autistic boy obsessed with the number 8.

Each of these stories is written in a language that strives to match the intensity of Searle's characters; each gives the reader an exceptionally intimate portrait of a unique female and the central, sensual mystery of her body.