sarah broughton

writer & artist

Other Useful Numbers


It’s my father’s voice I hear echoing faintly down the stairs, but my sister who steps silently into the hallway.

“Hello Tracy,” she says and moves towards me, pushing my head into her shoulder. I stay there for a while, trapped in the alcove of her collarbone, until my face becomes wet and she releases me.

“I’m Mike,” says Mike.

“Hello,” says Ruth.

Ruth is my sister. What else can I say? We look alike, even though that’s not possible. Even today, even dressed in her solicitor’s uniform and me looking the way I do, there’s a resemblance. Ruth has a husband as well as a job. But before she started down that path, before Alan hapless and hopeless walked into her life, she was full of – dreams or desire maybe – something like that.

“This is my sister, Ruth,” I say to Mike.

“I can tell!” Mike says enthusiastically. Then he changes gear, clears his throat and says how sorry he is. He says he knows how we’re feeling and I swear I see a tear in the corner of his eye as he struggles to think of another word for ‘died’. In the end he says ‘passed’ as if he’s an American.



other useful numbers

 'A great portrait of a dislocated mind ... absorbing, moving and funny.'

 Lesley Glaister

'Dryly captures the madness and the sadness of families through this perfectly observed account.'

Marina Lewycka, author of A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian

'This debut novel is an arresting study of the searing effects of loss on the human mind and the way in which such loss is ignored, dismissed and denied in modern society.'

Gwales review.

'At the end of Other Useful Numbers, Tracy, the narrator says "at least that's how I remember it." Tracy, a bed-hopping, kleptomaniac lost soul who at the start of the book  " can't see beyond (her) next packet of cigarettes," has been on a journey, both external and internal, searching for clues that might lead her to her missing ex-lover, Anita. But the clues never quite match up and her memories are unreliable - shockingly so, it turns out.'

Catrin Clarke Read more >> 

An edited chapter from Other Useful Numbers, 'The Shoes with No Soul', was published in Matter magazine in September 2007. Read more>>

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