One is Daisy,
Two is Pearl,
Three is Rita,
Four is Meg,
Five is Gretchen,
Six is Maggie,
These are the residents of the Heartbreak Hotel, a way station for tour guides on mandatory rest leave from the Museum of the Revolution, located in Buffalo, New York. Twenty city blocks long, the Museum is exclusively devoted to the pains and pleasures of being female, with such exhibits as “The Menstrual Show” (performed in redface), “The Hard-to-Please Momma,” the seductive “Man in the Blue Ford,” “The Litany of the Clothes,” and the infamous “Beauty Parlor.”
Now the Museum is slated to be closed by the city fathers, who can’t quite comprehend the fascination these exhibits hold for their visitors. Determined to block the action, the Hotel’s residents—who include an unhappy comic, an aging cheerleader, an ex-nun, a bitter cop, an accomplished translator who speaks in tongues without an accent, and a woman with legs so beautiful that no one can stand not to touch them—reexamine the Museum, its contents, and its meaning for them as they make their plans to save it. Will they succeed? Or will the Museum’s doors close forever?
Meanwhile, the hotel’s seventh resident, Quasimodo, an unloved and unlovely hunchback, lies in the Intensive Care Unit of a hospital with her life hanging by a thread, the victim of a vicious hit-and-run motorcycle accident. Poor ugly Quasi: Will she live or die? Does anyone care? And two thousand miles away, Gretchen’s Ma boards a Bluebird bus aimed straight for the heart of Heartbreak Hotel.
Fiercely funny, astonishingly inventive, Heartbreak Hotel maps both the familiar and the uncharted landscapes of women’s lives. It is the recipient of the 1986 Maxwell Perkins Prize, awarded by Charles Scribner’s Sons to a first novel of exceptional merit. This hypnotically brilliant literary debut introduces Gabrielle Burton as a passionate new voice in American fiction.