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Plastic by Margaret Gracie  

Plastic presents twelve linked short stories that unfold the tale of Debbie Pearce, a former pageant queen who struggles to balance the responsibilities of motherhood with her relentless pursuit of the American Dream.

Deborah Pearce has it all. The former Miss America lives an enviable life in La Jolla, California, with a modelling career, a doting husband, two kids and all the fashionable clothing money can buy.

Somehow, it isn’t enough. Image-obsessed Debbie is plagued by dissatisfaction, anxiety and an unquenchable desire for admiration. Her once-promising career is stagnant, the value of her brand diminishing with every passing day. Her two children, neither beautiful nor charming, become petulant and resentful in the face of her ill-concealed disappointment, acting out in ways that have far-reaching consequences for the entire family. But Debbie refuses to let that stop her from striving toward the life she craves ... until one day her seemingly perfect world pulls her under, threatening to drown her in disappointed hopes.

Told from the perspectives of eleven interconnected characters, Plastic is a story of loneliness and longing, of alienation and acceptance, and of the never-ending pursuit of the American Dream.

Review text

‘Margaret Gracie’s debut novel, Plastic, pulls back the layers of perceived perfection in a shallow world where beauty and success are measured at face value.... This book may appear to be a light read, despite its darker subject matter; however, it holds an important message. Peel back the layers. Highly recommended.’

—Andrea McKenzie Raine, Goodreads

Review quote

‘The book’s character development is excellent, the plot suspenseful, and the theme oh-so-topical: the complicated relationship between beauty, status, image, happiness, and women’s place in contemporary Western society.’

—Liz Walker, Goodreads

Excerpt from book

That summer I lived for Sundays. The minutes sped by when I was with Deb, while the rest of the week dragged on. Our parents didn’t have money for summer camps, so Jason and I hung out with our friends on the beach and played pick-up games on the playground. My school friends complained that I worried too much about my skin and nails and they teased me about pretending I was rich when I wore the clothes Aunt Deb bought me. But when I hung out with Tiff, she made fun of me now, too.

‘Wanna walk down to the beach?’ she asked one Saturday afternoon at her house. She sat on the edge of the pool and kicked her feet to make waves. Late August sun burned at its brightest intensity. The city waited for the heat to break, the marine fog to roll in, anything to shatter the high pressure.

‘Is your mom coming home soon? We could practice pageant walking.’ I wore a pink bikini and strutted back and forth in wedge sandals, trying to sashay.

Tiff jumped up. Her green and blue tankini shimmied over her stomach. ‘This is you.’ She pranced around with her nose in the air, her thighs jiggling with each step. Water dribbled down her shins onto the deck.

‘Stop being such a retard.’

She stuck out her tongue. ‘You’re the retard.’

‘I’m walking the way your mom showed me.’

‘My mom is a model.’ Tiff picked up her lime green flip flops, sneered at them for a second then hurled one at the fence. ‘You’re just a wannabe.’ The smack echoed across the deck.

‘Oh, yeah?’ I looked for something to throw but saw only furniture, pieces too big to grasp. ‘Well, at least I’m beautiful.’

‘Says who?’

‘Your mom.’ I puffed up my chest. ‘She thinks I should be her daughter.’

[Continued in Plastic....]

Unpublished endorsement

‘Margaret Gracie’s Plastic revolves around the life of Debbie, a former Miss America, and the power and damage her extraordinary beauty can wield. Via Gracie’s deft storytelling in multiple points of view, we’re transported into a world where appearances hold massive importance—at a cost that goes far beyond skin deep.’

—Julie Paul, author of The Jealousy Bone and The Pull of the Moon

Unpublished endorsement

‘Ms. Gracie has created in Pearce a character we both despise and sympathize with, a combination that is always difficult to pull off.’

—Donna Long, Kestrel

Unpublished endorsement

‘This collection of interwoven stories offers a devastating examination of the current cultural belief that money and beauty are at the heart of happiness. Mentoring Margaret Gracie a few years ago, I was struck then, as I am now, by her critical understanding of these ‘‘plastic’’ characters whose lives she dissects with a sharp and clever knife, but also with great compassion for their struggle ... each one of them trying to find some deeper, more meaningful reality than the superficial values encasing and imprisoning them. The retired beauty queen Deb, whose ambitions are the focal point around which most of these stories turn, will remind many readers of Amanda, the mother in The Glass Menagerie: great harm can be done by parents who do not allow us to be the people we really are.’

—Isabel Huggan, author of Belonging: Home Away from Home

Unpublished endorsement

With Plastic, Margaret Gracie explores how hyper-capitalist values infiltrate our minds and dominate our bodies. The Pearce family offers us a mirror, demonstrating the unfairness of expectations placed on mothers versus those placed on fathers, and the shallowness of our money- and beauty-obsessed culture. A potent, ambitious debut.

—Deborah Willis, author of Vanishing and Other Stories


Credit: Poppy Photography

Margaret Gracie has worked as an ESL instructor, translator, communications consultant and as a writer and editor for the federal government. Her short stories have been published in Canadian and American journals as well as in a British anthology. Plastic is her first published book of fiction. She currently lives in Victoria, BC in her dream home overlooking the harbour.

For more information please visit the Author’s website »

The Porcupine's Quill would like to acknowledge the support of the Ontario Arts Council and the Canada Council for the Arts for our publishing program. The financial support of the Government of Canada through the Canada Book Fund (CBF) is also gratefully acknowledged.

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FICTION / Literary

FICTION / Short Stories

ISBN-13: 9780889844049

Publication Date: 2017-06-01

Dimensions: 8.75 in x 5.56 in

Pages: 232

Price: $22.95