Shortlist 2014: A Girl is a Half-Formed Thing

Read an extract from the 2014 Baileys Prize shortlisted novel, A Girl is a Half-Formed Thing

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For you. You’ll soon. You’ll give her name. In the stitches of her skin she’ll wear your say. Mammy me? Yes you. Bounce the bed, I’d say. I’d say that’s what you did. Then lay you down. They cut you round. Wait and hour and day.

Walking up corridors up the stairs. Are you alright? Will you sit, he says. No. I want she says. I want to see my son. Smell from dettol through her skin. Mops diamond floor tiles all as strong. All the burn your eyes out if you had some. Her heart going pat. Going dum dum dum. Don’t mind me she’s going to your room. See the. Jesus. What have they done? Jesus. Bile for. Tidals burn. Ssssh. All over. Mother. She cries. Oh no. Oh no no no.

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I know. The thing wrong. It’s a. It is called. Nosebleeds, head aches. Where you can’t hold. Fall mugs and dinner plates she says clear up. Ah young he says give the child a break. Fall off swings. Can’t or. Grip well. Slipping in the muck. Bang your. Poor head wrapped up white and the blood come through. She feel the sick of that. Little boy head. Shush.

She saw it first when you couldn’t open your eye. Don’t wink so long wind’ll change and you’ll stay that way. I’m not Mammy. It’s got stuck. She pull it open. Hold it up. I can’t it’s all fall down. And now Holy Family on a Saturday night. He is leaning you are sleeping she the chair me whirlabout. Listen in to doctor chat. We done the best we could. There really wasn’t much. It’s all through his brain like the roots of trees. Sorry. Don’t say. That. He’s running out I’m afraid. I’m afraid he’s running down. You should take him home, enjoy him while you can. He’s not. He is. Can’t you operate again? We can’t. Shush. Something? Chemo then. We’ll have a go at that.

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Gethsemane dear Lord hear our prayer our. Please. Intercession. Night in hospital beds. Faces on the candlewick. Lino in the knees. Please don’t God take. Our. Holy Mary mother of all, humbly we beseech thee.

You white-faced feel the needle go in. Feel fat juicy poison poison young boy skin. In your arteries. Eyeballs. Spine hands legs. Puke it cells up all day long. No Mammy don’t let them. Weeks for you. Weeks it. Scared and bald and wet the bed. Dark trees outside for me when it weather rains. She praying in a coat until I am froze. Hard chapel kneelers bare-kneed real repents. She does. And our father was. Where? Somewhere there. I think. There’s good news and bad news. It’s shrunk. He’s saved. He’s not. He’ll never be. So like it lump it a short breath’s what you’ve got. Jesus in her blood that minute. Rejoice sacred heart of Christ. But we’ll never be rid do you understand? he says. Shush now she says shush.

Read an extract from Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie's Americanah here

Read an extract from Hannah Kent's Burial Rites here

Read an extract from Audrey Magee's The Undertaking here

How many of the 2014 Baileys Women's prize shortlisted books have you read? Tweet us @ELLEUK #ELLEBookClub