A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius

Sarah Mulhern Character Analysis

A woman Eggers has admired since childhood, when they were both on the same swim team. Two years his senior, Sarah was a proficient swimmer and diver, and Eggers never worked up the nerve to talk to her. Shortly after his father dies, though, he finds himself drunkenly talking to her in a crowded bar, and it isn’t long before they sneak off and go to her house, where they have sex while trying to keep her parents from hearing them. The next morning, Sarah sneaks Eggers out of the house and drives him home. When they arrive, he wants to explain that this was a mistake and that he’s dating Kirsten, but he catches a glimpse of his frail mother through the window of the family room. Not wanting his mother to see him in Sarah’s car, he kisses her goodbye and scrambles out. Many years later, when he returns to Lake Forest for a wedding, Eggers goes on a date with Sarah and spends another night with her. This time, he enjoys the feeling of waking up in her bed the next morning. He wants to go to breakfast and slowly pass the morning with her, but she makes up an excuse about having somewhere to be, and he suddenly finds himself on her doorstep wondering what happened.
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Sarah Mulhern Character Timeline in A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius

The timeline below shows where the character Sarah Mulhern appears in A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 6
Coming of Age, Parenthood, and Responsibility Theme Icon
Death, Humor, and the Worst-Case Scenario Theme Icon
Identity Theme Icon
Guilt and Poetic License Theme Icon
Eggers launches into an “anecdote” about Sarah, a girl two years older than him who was on his swim team. Eggers always... (full context)
Chapter 10
Self-Consciousness and Meta-Narration Theme Icon
Coming of Age, Parenthood, and Responsibility Theme Icon
Death, Humor, and the Worst-Case Scenario Theme Icon
Guilt and Poetic License Theme Icon
...and people he wants to visit: the funeral home, his old house, his father’s friend, Sarah, and several others. “The idea, I suppose, is the emotional equivalent of a drug binge,”... (full context)
Coming of Age, Parenthood, and Responsibility Theme Icon
Death, Humor, and the Worst-Case Scenario Theme Icon
...his house makes him feel absolutely nothing. Afterwards, he finds a pay phone and calls Sarah, asking her if she’d like to have lunch or coffee in the coming days. “She... (full context)
Self-Consciousness and Meta-Narration Theme Icon
Death, Humor, and the Worst-Case Scenario Theme Icon
Identity Theme Icon
Guilt and Poetic License Theme Icon
...me than himself,” Eggers reflects. Before hanging up, he tells John he’s planning on seeing Sarah the next day. “Oh man,” John says. “You have to tell me how it goes.” (full context)
Coming of Age, Parenthood, and Responsibility Theme Icon
Death, Humor, and the Worst-Case Scenario Theme Icon
Guilt and Poetic License Theme Icon
Eggers and Sarah enjoy an evening of drinking and talking about what it was like to grow up... (full context)
Coming of Age, Parenthood, and Responsibility Theme Icon
Death, Humor, and the Worst-Case Scenario Theme Icon
Eggers’s thoughts about his mother lead to a whirlwind of worries, including that Sarah can sense that he heard Sari Locker on the radio earlier that day. He also... (full context)