Thursday, June 26, 2008

Deaf Character in Cary Holladay's A Fight in the Doctor's Office, winner of the Miami University of Ohio Novella Competition

A Fight in the Doctor's Office by Cary Holladay
Reading Level: Adult
Paperback: 135 pages
Publisher: Miami University Press (August 2008)

It is Spring, 1967. Jenny Hall Havener, a young woman who has just been jilted by her husband, sets out from Washington, DC, with her wealthy parents on a combination vacation/husband-search. In rural Virginia, Jenny happens to meet an elderly black woman with a great-grandson, Benjamin, with whom Jenny is instantly smitten. She wants the little boy for her own, so much that she abandons her search for her husband and settles, then and there, in Glen Allen, Va., the community where Benjamin and his family live. Thus begins a tug of war between privileged, white Jenny, and impoverished, African-American Hattie Johnson, the child's great-grandmother.

Benjamin is the deaf character in this book and author, Cary Holladay states that "his deafness is integral to the story".

Holladay won the 2007 Miami University Novella Contest for A Fight in the Doctor’s Office. Holladay beat out more than 150 entries to win the contest, which is sponsored by Miami University in Oxford, Ohio.

On a personal note (since the story takes place in my neck of the woods)... it makes me a bit sad to remember when Glen Allen was actually considered 'rural'. My dad worked in Short Pump and I remember nothing but grass and trees aside from a few buildings. Now Short Pump even has its own tourism site. (sigh)


roselle said...

I don't understand how deafness is "integral to the story." Ben is a very precocious 3 yr old. (Most 3 year olds would not interpose themselves during a fight between primary care taker (grandmother) and attacker. That was something a much older child would do. Second, if it is integral, its the deaf leading the blind (Jenny's visual difficulty becomes apparent late in the narrative.)

The novella is so full of contrasts and themes that I do not believe it appropriate as a YA story. The author despises her protagonist. Jenny is a veritable dumb (not deaf) immoral, biased, narcissist who cannot stand up by herself.

I am still wondering what the denoument of the novella actually is. One person I spoke with thinks that she marries the photo shop owner. I do not agree.

I highly recommend this book to adults.

Sharon Pajka,Ph.D. said...

Thanks for your comment. I do post adult 'cross-over' texts from time to time for my older teen readers who prefer books with more adults themes.

The author Cary Holladay stated that "[Benjamin's] deafness is integral to the story".