PERSONAL: Born in Hillsborough, NC; married; children: one daughter, one son.
AWARDS, HONORS: Grants from New York Times Foundation and Thomas J. Watson Foundation; residencies at Yaddo and Ragdale.
Broken as Things Are (novel), Henry Holt (New York, NY), 2004.
SIDELIGHTS: Martha Witt's debut, Broken as Things Are, is set in her native North Carolina. It was called "an often profound, unsettling story of children struggling to understand love, truth, and sacrifice with little help from ineffectual adults," by Gillian Engberg in Booklist.
When Morgan-Lee was born, her autistic older brother, Ginx, became obsessed with her. Ginx and his sister developed a secret language that only they could understand; then, when Ginx turned five, he began to speak normally and in complete sentences. Instead of beginning sentences with "I," he said "we," including Morgan in his self-reference. Other family members include their mother, who naps and practices yoga; their father, who cares for the children but is ineffectual in his parenting; and younger sister Dana, who has given up on her family and moved in with her Aunt Lois, a caring woman whose life revolves around her Mary Kay makeup business.
As they mature, Ginx becomes even more possessive of Morgan-Lee and often abuses her, striking out during his rages, which escalate when she falls in love with her childhood friend, Billy. Dana falls in with a brother and sister, Jacob and Sweety-Boy (the sister), and a Kirkus Reviews contributor commented that the section of the novel that concerns a party Dana attends at these friends' house "may be the most brilliantly described, and outright hilarious, portrait of kids and alcohol ever." Morgan-Lee, who assumes the role of Dana's protector, spends a night with Jacob that sparks unexpected jealousies, a scene the reviewer called "another flawless, pitch-perfect section" The Kirkus writer concluded by saying that Broken as Things Are "follows old trails, yet everything you come upon seems absolutely new. A real wonder." Library Journalcontributor Reba Leiding wrote that "Witt's image-laden prose … beautifully evokes that time in childhood when boundaries between fantasy and reality are not yet clear."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Booklist, July, 2004, Gillian Engberg, review of Broken as Things Are: A Novel, p. 1823.
Kirkus Reviews, June 15, 2004, review of Broken as Things Are, p. 557.
Library Journal, September 1, 2004, Reba Leiding, review of Broken as Things Are, p. 144.
Publishers Weekly, July 19, 2994, review of Broken as Things Are, p. 144.
Martha Witt Home Page, http://www.marthawitt.com (April 18, 2005).