Perabo, Susan 1969-
Perabo, Susan 1969-
Born 1969. Education: University of Arkansas, M.F.A.
Office—Department of English, Dickinson College, P.O. Box 1773, Carlisle, PA 17013. E-mail—[email protected]
Dickinson College, Carlisle, PA, writer-inresidence and associate professor.
Perabo was the first woman to play NCAA baseball, an achievement commemorated by a plaque in the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, NY.
Writers in the Schools: A Guide to Teaching Creative Writing in the Classroom, University of Arkansas Press (Fayetteville, AR), 1998.
Who I Was Supposed to Be (short stories), Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 1999, published as Explaining Death to the Dog, Bloomsbury (London, England), 2000.
The Broken Places (novel), Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 2001.
Contributor to periodicals, including TriQuarterly, Story, Glimmer Train, and Black Warrior Review.
Susan Perabo has won praise from critics for her astute writing, both in her short stories and in her first novel, The Broken Places. Eleven of the author's stories are collected in Who I Was Supposed to Be, which was published in England as Explaining Death to the Dog. The characters in these tales are often dysfunctional, but creative enough to "imagine radical, often desperate, but never easy answers for the questions wracking their ordinary, anxious lives," mused a Publishers Weekly reviewer. In one story, a widow spends nearly a thousand dollars a week on lottery tickets; in another, a couple of modest means come into a small inheritance, only to spend it all on a designer dress once worn by Princess Diana. Violence often plays a large part in these stories: two young friends commit a murder; a young boy sees his father beaten by four men; a man is mugged, then pretends he has amnesia in an attempt to win back his ex-wife. This harsh subject matter is leavened with "humor and an abiding faith in human resilience," noted the writer for Publishers Weekly. Booklist contributor Allen Weakland called Who I Was Supposed to Be a "stunning" collection, and Margaria Fichtner wrote in the Miami Herald that Perabo "is all too conscious of the disappointments and tragedies that dent our confidence in daily life. Her keenly observed, insightful stories leave us appalled and hopeful and wonderfully dazzled."
In her first novel, The Broken Places, Perabo explores aspects of heroism and celebrity with the story of Sonny Tucker, a small-town fireman who risks his own life to save a teenaged boy from a burning building. Ian, the rescued youth, is a swastika-tattooed troublemaker who caused a great deal of trouble for the locals. In order to free him from the wreckage inside the blaze, Sonny is forced to amputate Ian's foot with an ax. The dramatic story immediately propels Sonny to fame, but his life changes much for the worse after the incident. He begins to drink and neglect his family while he spends a great deal of time with the unpleasant boy he saved. The novel is narrated by Paul Tucker, Sonny's twelve-year-old son, and it is largely concerned with Paul's struggle to understand the change that has come about in his father. It is "a simple, powerful story," wrote Sarah Churchwell in the Times Literary Supplement. Reviewing the book for the New Statesman, Helen Brown criticized the author's tendency to give excessive explanations of her characters' motivations, but she concluded, "In a time of so much dry and lazy fiction, Perabo's excited pace and upfront compassion hit you like a jet of water from a fireman's hose."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Booklist, August, 1999, Allen Weakland, review of Who I Was Supposed to Be, p. 2028; August, 2001, Gillian Engberg, review of The Broken Places, p. 2090.
Economist, February 19, 2000, review of Who I Was Supposed to Be, p. S14.
Miami Herald, August 4, 1999, Margaria Fichtner, review of Who I Was Supposed to Be.
New Statesman, January 20, 2003, Helen Brown, review of The Broken Places, p. 52.
Publishers Weekly, July 19, 1999, review of Who I Was Supposed to Be, p. 186; August 6, 2001, review of The Broken Places, p. 63.
School Library Journal, October, 2001, Susan H. Woodcock, review of The Broken Places, p. 196.
Times Literary Supplement, May 26, 2000, Annmarie Drury, review of Explaining Death to the Dog, p. 22; January 17, 2003, Sarah Churchwell, review of The Broken Places, p. 21.
Salon, http://www.salon.com/ (March 4, 2004), Maria Russo, "Writer Dogged by Her Jock Past."