Shambles
by Debra Monroe


Engine Books, 2011. ISBN 978-0-983-54771-6.
Reviewed by Judy Miller
Posted on 07/14/2011

Fiction: Mainstream

Abandonment is the prevailing theme of Shambles. Center-stage and invisible, it is present in all facets of Delia Arco's life.

Delia Arco was raised by her father and has no recollection of her mother. Shambles examines the fallout Delia lives with from having been abandoned by her mother at a very young age. Married early to escape her sad childhood, Delia's marriage failed. However, she kept her ex-husband's name, likely because it was easier and doing so provided further distance from the emotional pain of being rejected by her mother.

I found Delia a bit slow in understanding why she had trouble with intimacy and relationships. Delia bounced between men, sleeping with Mike when he was in town from time to time and running to and sleeping with boss Hector when Mike mentioned anything about the future.

Delia has few friends outside of work and they are unusual and in shambles themselves: the Hispanic couple next door, "stand-in" parents, and the gay neighbor across the street. Delia (a social worker) is saddled with an inept intern whose parents were murdered and requires her own special kind of mothering. Delia grudgingly steps up and in the process begins to grow, finding strength to face the death of her mother, to embrace the reappearance of her father, and take charge of her infant daughter's care. She begins to heal and forge healthy relationships.

Originally published by Southern Methodist University in hardback in 2004, Shambles is now available in paperback. The book very much echoes Monroe's memoir, On the Outskirts of Normal, reviewed by Story Circle Book Review's Judy Alter.


Debra Monroe grew up in Wisconsin and moved to Texas in 1992. She is the author of two collections of stories, The Source of Trouble, which won the Flannery O'Connor Award, and A Wild, Cold State, and two novels, Newfangled and Shambles. She teaches at Texas State University and lives in Austin, Texas. Find out more on her website.

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