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Publication Date

Spring 2018

Degree Type

Thesis - Campus Access Only

Degree Name

Master of Fine Arts (MFA)


English and Comparative Literature


Nicholas Taylor

Subject Areas

Creative writing


Half is a realistic novel that follows the multigenerational conflicts between two half-sisters and their different mothers. Through the characters, I investigate the origins of our hushed animosity and passionate love for each other. I look at what it means to be an outsider and insider in a family dynamic, questioning which the freer position is. The novel follows two half-sisters, Valerie and Jolene, alternating close third person perspectives on each woman. The story begins with Jolene, a middle-aged divorcee and mother living in California. Jolene has returned to her hometown in Missouri for her mother’s funeral. There, she discovers from her brother that her long-dead father had a secret family in western Kansas. Jolene tracks down the daughter of this illicit union. Her father’s mistress, Phoebe, was obsessed with everything Jolene’s mother and her “legitimate” family represented. Phoebe went so far to write “the other woman” letters and named her own daughter Valerie, after Jolene’s mother. Jolene inherits her mother’s letters from Phoebe--letters that until now have been kept secret from all eyes but the two women who shared a man and something much deeper than him. Jolene and Valerie begin a friendship, which morphs into a rivalry, which morphs into a sisterhood. Together, Jolene and Val brave cancer, loneliness, and the unexpected entrance of the woman held responsible for starting it all: Phoebe.