BOOKISH FRIDAY: “LITTLE FIRES EVERYWHERE”

Welcome to another Bookish Friday, in which I  share excerpts from books…and connect with other bloggers, who do the same.

Let’s begin the celebration by sharing Book Beginnings, hosted by Rose City Reader; and let’s showcase The Friday 56 with Freda’s Voice.

To join in, just grab a book and share the opening lines…along with any thoughts you wish to give us; then turn to page 56 and excerpt anything on the page.

Then give us the title of the book, so others can add it to their lists!

What a great way to spend a Friday!

Today’s feature is a recent download:  Little Fires Everywhere (e-book), by Celeste Ng, a riveting novel that traces the intertwined fates of the picture-perfect Richardson family and the enigmatic mother and daughter who upend their lives

 

 

Beginning: Everyone in Shaker Heights was talking about it that summer:  how Isabelle, the last of the Richardson children, had finally gone around the bend and burned the house down.  All spring the gossip had been about little Mirabelle McCullough—or, depending which side you were on, May Ling Chow—and now, at last, there was something new and sensational to discuss.  A little after noon on that Saturday in May, the shoppers pushing their grocery carts in Heinen’s heard the fire engines wail to life and careen away, toward the duck pond.

***

56:  (55, actually; nothing on 56):

Lexie looked chastened for an instant, then rolled her eyes.  Moody darted a look at Pearl:  See how shallow?  But Pearl didn’t notice.  After Mia had gone back into the living room—embarrassed at her outburst—she turned to Lexie.  “I could help you,” she said, quietly enough that she thought Mia could not hear.

***

Blurb:  In Shaker Heights, a placid, progressive suburb of Cleveland, everything is planned – from the layout of the winding roads, to the colors of the houses, to the successful lives its residents will go on to lead. And no one embodies this spirit more than Elena Richardson, whose guiding principle is playing by the rules.

Enter Mia Warren – an enigmatic artist and single mother – who arrives in this idyllic bubble with her teenaged daughter Pearl, and rents a house from the Richardsons. Soon Mia and Pearl become more than tenants: all four Richardson children are drawn to the mother-daughter pair. But Mia carries with her a mysterious past and a disregard for the status quo that threatens to upend this carefully ordered community.

When old family friends of the Richardsons attempt to adopt a Chinese-American baby, a custody battle erupts that dramatically divides the town–and puts Mia and Elena on opposing sides.  Suspicious of Mia and her motives, Elena is determined to uncover the secrets in Mia’s past. But her obsession will come at unexpected and devastating costs.

Little Fires Everywhere explores the weight of secrets, the nature of art and identity, and the ferocious pull of motherhood – and the danger of believing that following the rules can avert disaster.

***

I have heard such good things about this book, and can’t wait to dive into it.  Would you keep reading?

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LET’S POUR A CUP OF COFFEE…AND CHAT!

Good morning!  Whew, was I ready for my coffee this morning….I stayed up late binge-watching Nurse Jackie, and then watched last night’s episode of The Sinners.  Now that I’m sort of awake, let’s chat.  Check in over at Bookishly Boisterous for more participants.

  • I’ve finished two books so far this week:  The Burning Girl, by Claire Messud; and my NetGalley ARC The Best Kind of People, by Zoe Whittall.  (Click titles for my reviews).  Both were engaging reads.
  • Currently I’m reading A Stranger in the House, by Shari Lapena.  I’ve barely started and I’m already fascinated.
  • I’ve been posting excerpts from my novels now and then, and this week I continued an excerpt from Chapter One of Web of Tyranny in Creating Her Own Melodrama.
  • There are more Season 7 episodes available for the Australian drama Offspring; now I’m torn.  Keep going with Nurse Jackie, or take a detour?
  • I recorded Hillary Clinton’s visit to The View yesterday…I’ll be watching it later today, probably.
  • My second son (the LA one) is in Barcelona, headed to Prague, where he’ll visit my eldest son, who lives there, and will then help his daughter Aubrey get settled in for her college semester in Prague.  She is very excited!  I warned him that he might be creating another expatriate, as that is how my eldest began his European sojourn many years ago (a London semester). Meanwhile, she ended her summer here in the states with activities like this one.

  • My big confession:  I’ve never been to Europe or anywhere abroad…although I’ve enjoyed time in Canada now and then.
  • I’m traveling vicariously through my kids and grandkids.
  • Meanwhile, I love spending time around here, or going to the beach…but would love to visit the East or the South…when weather permits.  I have a dream of going to BEA in Manhattan…sooner rather than later.
  • Today my daughter and I are having lunch.  An unexpected get-together which she initiated.  Hmm.  Here she is with son Noah at her birthday breakfast with him.  He just started high school!

  • Later today I’m having my manicure…and I think I’ll go with the glittery blue gel again.  I’m enjoying it.
  • I’m glad to finally leave the house!  I’ve been nesting all week, changing into a series of PJs (I had a buying spree of new lounge wear last week), and just savoring my “curl up and read” time.  But now I’m ready to be out there.
  • Next week (September 21-24) is Bloggiesta!  I’ll be working on my Curl up and Read site, and you guessed it.  I’ve already started!

***

And that’s my week so far.  I’m eager to find more books and movies to enjoy…but I think I will stop the recluse routine for a few days.  What’s happening in your week?

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CREATING HER OWN MELODRAMA: AN EXCERPT FROM “WEB OF TYRANNY”

Set in Central California’s farming country, Web of Tyranny introduces a young girl in her tenth year, and then follows her as she grows, changes, and encounters obstacles along the way.  She becomes a woman entangled in the trenches that epitomized her abusive childhood home only to flee into a stultifying marriage with Bob Williams. Seduced by the hope of achieving her goal of a college education and a life free from domination, she is blinded to Bob’s true qualities—and in a very real sense jumps from the pan into the fire. Oppression begets oppression and as Meg walks a thin line of human betrayal, she learns to stake her own claim to happiness—no matter how high the cost….

Today, I’ve continued to excerpt from Chapter One, of Web of Tyranny.

***

So in the summer of her tenth year, Margaret Elaine Graham paid attention to all the melodrama swirling around her and made up stories of her own to add to the mix.

 

 

She imagined that Cousin Lucy, who had turned fifteen that year, must have more excitement in her life than she could handle. Eldest daughter of Aunt Noreen and Uncle Joe, she sashayed into the shed every morning dressed like she was going out on a date. Today she had on tight Capri pants and a little white shirt with a Peter Pan collar; it seemed just a little too snug for the occasion, so Margaret knew that she must have a secret lover. She probably met him during lunch break. They would rendezvous down by the barn, behind the bales of hay; or maybe, they would meet down the hot country road at the next farm, behind the rows of grapes. Down where the packing boxes could be pressed into service as couches or chairs. He was probably one of the fruit pickers’ kids. Maybe that boy with the mysterious and brooding expression, the one whose jeans were too tight. Or maybe he was an outsider, a city boy working on a farm for the summer.

 

 

Margaret sometimes wandered down behind the grapevines, hiding in the foliage, hoping to catch a glimpse of Lucy kissing her boyfriend. But no matter how hard she tried, Margaret never caught her in the act. She sometimes wondered if Lucy’s boyfriend was something that she’d made up in her head. But then she remembered hearing Vernon and Lucy whispering their secrets and laughing. No, she wasn’t imagining things.

 

 

Sitting on the empty packing boxes one day, Margaret flashed back to a time when she and Vernon, three years older, had made trains out of them. Lining them all in a row, turning them right side up, they could sit inside the boxes, pretending they were train cars.

 

 

Now Vernon was too old to hang out with the likes of a ten-year-old. He followed Lucy, or even Charles, and they would disappear behind the barn. Probably smoking cigarettes.

 

 

Left to her own devices, Margaret listened, spun fantasies in her head, and tried not to be noticed. Sometimes, if she was really lucky, she could sneak off during lunch break and read a couple of chapters in her library book. She had to be very careful, because Father wouldn’t tolerate her reading those books. They were just adventure books, or sometimes love stories. But Father thought the books were frivolous and ungodly. If he saw them, he would toss them out in the incinerator. Margaret knew this because it had happened just last year.

 

 

She still shuddered at the memory of her father’s face as he’d shouted condemnation and lit the match to the blaze that had engulfed the trash, consuming her precious book. She had a hard time putting this new version of her father together with the daddy he had been, because once upon a time, Vincent Graham had been her hero. Sometimes Margaret could almost see traces of that daddy in his face; in the evenings, when he sat there reading his newspaper, all the sharp lines in his face disappeared. Or when he sat back in his big chair, falling asleep after dinner, she recalled how she had once trailed along after him when he took the milk cans out to the road. He would lift her up and put her on the cart; she could feel the breeze in her hair, smell the heavenly aroma of the countryside, and feel safe. Back then she’d still called him Daddy.

 

 

When had it all changed? Her memories blurred. One minute she was childlike and carefree, with Daddy tossing her in the air; then he was this stern Father with the gruff exterior and the harsh tones to his voice.

***

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REVIEW: THE BURNING GIRL, BY CLAIRE MESSUD

Julia and Cassie have been friends since nursery school. They have shared everything, including their desire to escape the stifling limitations of their birthplace, the quiet town of Royston, Massachusetts. But as the two girls enter adolescence, their paths diverge and Cassie sets out on a journey that will put her life in danger and shatter her oldest friendship. The Burning Girl is a complex examination of the stories we tell ourselves about youth and friendship, and straddles, expertly, childhood’s imaginary worlds and painful adult reality—crafting a true, immediate portrait of female adolescence.

Claire Messud, one of our finest novelists, is as accomplished at weaving a compelling fictional world as she is at asking the big questions: To what extent can we know ourselves and others? What are the stories we create to comprehend our lives and relationships? Brilliantly mixing fable and coming-of-age tale, The Burning Girl gets to the heart of these matters in an absolutely irresistible way.

My Thoughts: Julia (JuJu) and Cassie met in nursery school and bonded over similar interests, and a unique ability to know what the other girl was feeling.

At some point, and after Cassie has seemingly turned away from Julia, rather abruptly, the two are barely civil for a while. In fact, some of Cassie’s new friends are downright mean girls.

The Burning Girl moves back and forth in time, showing us some of their best adventures together, like exploring the abandoned asylum near the quarry. Those moments spent there would come back later in the book in a pivotal way.

Cassie is described as frail, beautiful, and with “famous” white blond hair. But her behavior over the years is “slutty,” according to the other girls, and soon Cassie is isolated from everyone except the bad girls. Cassie’s issues exacerbate after her mother invites her new boyfriend to stay with them. Dr. Anders Shute seems to offer Cassie’s mother Bev a feeling of upward mobility, in which she can feel “better than” she once felt. Meanwhile, Cassie struggles with her daddy issues and resents Dr. Shute’s controlling attitudes.

What happens when Cassie completely goes off the rails, disappearing mysteriously? After her second disappearance, Julia is drawn into a sense of connection with Cassie again, having dreams of a dark cloak covering a “burning girl.”

I like Julia’s musings near the end: “Whatever choices we think we make, whatever we think we can control, has a life and a destiny we cannot fully see. That I can sense the way the plot will go, that I could…save the life of one Cassie Burnes—it’s only an illusion I cling to.”

A book that moved slowly in the beginning, but always had a hint of darkness that might be revealed later on, the tale was a coming-of-age story with mystical edges. Still, I could only give this book 4 stars. It kept me engaged, but there was much to ponder that left me shaking my head.

***

REVIEW: Z, A NOVEL OF ZELDA FITZGERALD, BY THERESE ANNE FOWLER

 

When beautiful, reckless Southern belle Zelda Sayre meets F. Scott Fitzgerald at a country club dance in 1918, she is seventeen years old and he is a young army lieutenant stationed in Alabama. Before long, the “ungettable” Zelda has fallen for him despite his unsuitability: Scott isn’t wealthy or prominent or even a Southerner, and keeps insisting, absurdly, that his writing will bring him both fortune and fame. Her father is deeply unimpressed. But after Scott sells his first novel, This Side of Paradise, to Scribner’s, Zelda optimistically boards a train north, to marry him in the vestry of St. Patrick’s Cathedral and take the rest as it comes.

What comes, here at the dawn of the Jazz Age, is unimagined attention and success and celebrity that will make Scott and Zelda legends in their own time. Everyone wants to meet the dashing young author of the scandalous novel―and his witty, perhaps even more scandalous wife. Zelda bobs her hair, adopts daring new fashions, and revels in this wild new world. Each place they go becomes a playground: New York City, Long Island, Hollywood, Paris, and the French Riviera―where they join the endless party of the glamorous, sometimes doomed Lost Generation that includes Ernest Hemingway, Sara and Gerald Murphy, and Gertrude Stein.

Everything seems new and possible. Troubles, at first, seem to fade like morning mist. But not even Jay Gatsby’s parties go on forever. Who is Zelda, other than the wife of a famous―sometimes infamous―husband? How can she forge her own identity while fighting her demons and Scott’s, too? With brilliant insight and imagination, Therese Anne Fowler’s New York Times bestseller brings us Zelda’s irresistible story as she herself might have told it.

 

My Thoughts: So much has been written about Scott and Zelda, about their party lifestyle, their drinking, the craziness…

But Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald, narrated in Zelda’s imagined first person voice, offers a depth that I haven’t found in other books about her…and them.

I could sense her emotions, her desires, and the sadness that lingered whenever she felt overlooked or tossed aside. I felt rage at the injustice of Scott taking credit for her writings when, at times, his own failed to materialize. His rationalizations might have made sense if he had been more productive, but the excuse that his name on her work would make it more legitimate seemed like his ego talking.

Of course, in the beginning, they were the Golden Couple…romantic, gorgeous, and living a lavish lifestyle. Then they were gallivanting all over Europe, partying with the artistic set, and for a while it seemed as if nothing could stop them.

Based on the true story of their lives, we know there will be no happy ending. But I loved reading about their journey along the way, especially hers. I believe that the era in which Scott and Zelda lived defined much of the path for Zelda, with mental health professionals determining that wellness for a woman meant being a “good wife,” subject to her husband’s needs. An impossible role for a woman like Zelda, in my opinion. A 5 star read.***

BOOKISH FRIDAY: “I’LL HAVE WHAT SHE’S HAVING”

Welcome to another Bookish Friday, in which I  share excerpts from books…and connect with other bloggers, who do the same.

Let’s begin the celebration by sharing Book Beginnings, hosted by Rose City Reader; and let’s showcase The Friday 56 with Freda’s Voice.

To join in, just grab a book and share the opening lines…along with any thoughts you wish to give us; then turn to page 56 and excerpt anything on the page.

Then give us the title of the book, so others can add it to their lists!

What a great way to spend a Friday!

Today’s feature is a recent download:  I’ll Have What She’s Having, by Erin Carlson, a backstage look at the making of Nora Ephron’s revered trilogy–When Harry Met Sally, You’ve Got Mail, and Sleepless in Seattle–which brought romantic comedies back to the fore, and an intimate portrait of the beloved writer/director who inspired a generation of Hollywood women, from Mindy Kaling to Lena Dunham.

 

Beginning:  (Introduction) MFEO (Made for Each Other)

“God, are we gonna get away with this?”

So muttered Nora Ephron, smiling despite herself as she watched Meg Ryan traverse the Empire State Building observation deck to greet her destiny, Tom Hanks.  In one corner of the set, painstakingly constructed to match the real thing, the director wore super-sized headphones and kept her eyes glued to the monitor.

***

56:  “What about fake orgasms?”

Although Nora received sole credit for proposing that women feign sexual climax, Rob and Andy peg the source as model and actress Dani Minnick, who starred in a series of Virginia Slims cigarette ads during the 1980s.

***

Synopsis:  In I’ll Have What She’s Having entertainment journalist Erin Carlson tells the story of the real Nora Ephron and how she reinvented the romcom through her trio of instant classics. With a cast of famous faces including Rob Reiner, Tom Hanks, Meg Ryan, and Billy Crystal, Carlson takes readers on a rollicking, revelatory trip to Ephron’s New York City, where reality took a backseat to romance and Ephron–who always knew what she wanted and how she wanted it–ruled the set with an attention to detail that made her actors feel safe but sometimes exasperated crew members.

Along the way, Carlson examines how Ephron explored in the cinema answers to the questions that plagued her own romantic life and how she regained faith in love after one broken engagement and two failed marriages. Carlson also explores countless other questions Ephron’s fans have wondered about: What sparked Reiner to snap out of his bachelor blues during the making of When Harry Met Sally? Why was Ryan, a gifted comedian trapped in the body of a fairytale princess, not the first choice for the role? After she and Hanks each separatel balked at playing Mail’s Kathleen Kelly and Sleepless‘ Sam Baldwin, what changed their minds? And perhaps most importantly: What was Dave Chappelle doing … in a turtleneck? An intimate portrait of a one of America’s most iconic filmmakers and a look behind the scenes of her crowning achievements, I’ll Have What She’s Having is a vivid account of the days and nights when Ephron, along with assorted cynical collaborators, learned to show her heart on the screen.

***

As a big fan of Nora Ephron, I couldn’t wait to get my hands on this book. What do you think?  Would you keep reading?

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THOUGHTS ON A THURSDAY….

Good morning!  Let’s have a little chat over coffee.  Today I brought one of my favorite Mary Engelbreit mugs, which reads:  Just for Today, Be Happy.  My motto for today.  Join up with Christine, at Bookishly Boisterous, to see what others are chatting about.

  • Sometimes the simplest things can make me happy.  Like going to a sale at a favorite shop and loading up on cute PJs.  Yes, I love lounging around in them, and my “old” ones were getting a little faded and ratty…sigh.  Now I have several, with big Tees on top that say things like “No Coffee, No Talkie” and “Dear Coffee, Thanks a Latte.”
  • After curbing my book buying impulses a little in May, June, and July, I went nuts in August and bought 17 books!
  • I am making progress whittling away at my stacks, and have currently finished 79 purchased books this year.  Some of them were bought in the last half of 2016…but still, purchased books moving off the TBR.
  • Some might say STOP BUYING SO MANY.  That will be something to work on…later.
  • The book buying, the PJ buying, the focus on BEING HAPPY…all of it is to distract me from the horrible things going on in the world around us.  If I can’t change it, or control it, I can try to focus on other things.  Like creating new blog headers.  I took a shot of my new one over at Serendipity.
  • So far this week, I’ve read two books:  The Truth We Bury, by Barbara Taylor Sissel, and Lies She Told, by Cate Holahan, a riveting NetGalley review book coming out next Tuesday. (Click titles for my reviews).
  • Now I’m back to reading Z:  A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald, which is moving along slowly, since I keep stopping to move on over to other books.  Having more than one going at a time is not my favorite way to read…but I’m doing it mostly when I have print books to read, but prefer to take my e-books when I go out.
  • Sometimes I think I should stop reading ARCS, as even though I love them, the deadlines add pressure…and I start to visualize myself back at the job.  LOL.
  • Nevertheless, I ordered a new Vine review book, coming later this week.  The deadlines are more fluid there.  Happy People Read and Drink Coffee sounds like fun to me.

So…that’s my week so far.  Come on by, and let’s chat!

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BOOKISH FRIDAY: “Y IS FOR YESTERDAY”

Welcome to another Bookish Friday, in which I  share excerpts from books…and connect with other bloggers, who do the same.

Let’s begin the celebration by sharing Book Beginnings, hosted by Rose City Reader; and let’s showcase The Friday 56 with Freda’s Voice.

To join in, just grab a book and share the opening lines…along with any thoughts you wish to give us; then turn to page 56 and excerpt anything on the page.

Then give us the title of the book, so others can add it to their lists!

What a great way to spend a Friday!

Today’s feature is a new book from an old favorite:  Y is for Yesterday, by Sue Grafton.

 

Beginning:  (The Theft, January 1979)

Iris stood at the counter in the school office, detention slip in hand, anticipating a hand-smack from Mr. Lucas, the vice principal.  She’d already seen him twice since her enrollment at Climping Academy the previous fall.  The first time, she’d been turned in for cutting PE.  The second time, she’d been reported for smoking outside study hall.  She’d been advised there was a smoking area set aside specifically for students, which she argued was on the far side of campus and impossible to get to between classes.

***

56:  As a child, Sloan had pined for the father she never knew.  In the photograph of him, which had been taken at the ski resort, he was dark-eyed and tanned, with a flash of white teeth and ski goggles pushed up in his dark hair.  While Sloan was growing up, his image had been the source of fantasies—hopes that he hadn’t really perished in the accident.

***

Blurb:  The darkest and most disturbing case report from the files of Kinsey Millhone, Y is for Yesterday begins in 1979, when four teenage boys from an elite private school sexually assault a fourteen-year-old classmate—and film the attack.  Not long after, the tape goes missing and the suspected thief, a fellow classmate, is murdered. In the investigation that follows, one boy turns state’s evidence and two of his peers are convicted. But the ringleader escapes without a trace.
       
Now, it’s 1989 and one of the perpetrators, Fritz McCabe, has been released from prison. Moody, unrepentant, and angry, he is a virtual prisoner of his ever-watchful parents—until a copy of the missing tape arrives with a ransom demand. That’s when the McCabes call Kinsey Millhone for help. As she is drawn into their family drama, she keeps a watchful eye on Fritz. But he’s not the only one being haunted by the past. A vicious sociopath with a grudge against Millhone may be leaving traces of himself for her to find…

***

I love this series, so I’m eager to enjoy this latest outing.  What do you think?

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COFFEE CHAT: BOOKS, MOVIES, & OBSESSIONS….

Welcome to another Coffee Chat!  Let’s hop on over to Bookishly Boisterous, and link up.

  • Today (August 31), is my DIL’s birthday, exactly one week after her husband’s (my youngest son).
  • A year ago, my granddaughter and I traveled to the northernmost part of the state to visit them and celebrate on their birthdays.  (Below), see the beauty we enjoyed during that trip.

  • This week, I’ve been catching up on my reading.  I finished a print volume that was sitting on my nightstand, as it was too hefty to take with me when I went out.  (Home, by Harlan Coben – click for my review).  Two other books I finished were, of course, Kindle books:  (After She Fell and The Good Daughter).  When I think of how I resisted the Kindle!  Now I can’t imagine life without it.
  • However, occasionally I find hardcover books on the bargain table…and some books I want are not available in the e-book format.  I’m still waiting for my copy of Did You See Melody?, by Sophie Hannah.  I think it must be coming by pony express!  Oops, I just checked the tracking number, and it arrived today!  Yay!

  • Because Bloggiesta is coming (Sept. 21-24), I’ve been working on my Curl up and Read blog.  New theme, header, and background…so far.  I tend to get carried away.
  • My DVR is primed to record two favorite shows tonight:  Younger and The Sinner.  Plus, the movie Jackie.  America’s Queen, one of the books I’m reading (in print format) is about Jackie.
  • See (below), another bookshelf is filling up with recent hardcover purchases.  To the right, in the hallway, you can see my shelves of DVDs.

  • It may be time to do another purge!
  • It’s not that I’m resisting the purge, but the last time I did major culling, it was two years ago, and I literally took away hundreds of books.  I had empty bookshelves in the garage, some of which I’ve given away, too.
  • I do want to continue surrounding myself with shelves of books…so I just have to decide when I have too many.
  • I’ve never been good at deciding the difference between collecting my books…and hoarding them.  I tell myself that, as long as they look nice on the shelves, I’m okay.  LOL.

***

So…things to think about.  What are you reading, pondering, or enjoying this week?

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BOOKISH FRIDAY: “WATCH ME DISAPPEAR”

Welcome to another Bookish Friday, in which I  share excerpts from books…and connect with other bloggers, who do the same.

Let’s begin the celebration by sharing Book Beginnings, hosted by Rose City Reader; and let’s showcase The Friday 56 with Freda’s Voice.

To join in, just grab a book and share the opening lines…along with any thoughts you wish to give us; then turn to page 56 and excerpt anything on the page.

Then give us the title of the book, so others can add it to their lists!

What a great way to spend a Friday!

Today’s feature is a new download:  Watch Me Disappear, by Janelle Brown. “Watch Me Disappear is a surprising and compelling read. Like the best novels, it takes the reader somewhere she wouldn’t otherwise allow herself to go. . . . It’s strongest in the places that matter most: in the believability of its characters and the irresistibility of its plot.”—Chicago Tribune

 

Beginning:  (Prologue)

It’s a good day, or maybe even a great one, although it will be impossible to know for sure later.  By that point they’ll already have burnished their memories of this afternoon, polished them to a jewel-like gleam.  One of the last days they spent together as a family before Billie died:  Of course Jonathan and Olive are going to feel sentimental about it.  Of course they will see only what they want to see.

***

56:  Natalie wrinkles her nose.  “But—if she’s alive, where is she?”

“Yeah,” Olive says.  “That’s what I need to figure out.  Also why we haven’t heard from her in the last year.”

***

Synopsis:  Who you want people to be makes you blind to who they really are.

It’s been a year since Billie Flanagan—a Berkeley mom with an enviable life—went on a solo hike in Desolation Wilderness and vanished from the trail. Her body was never found, just a shattered cellphone and a solitary hiking boot. Her husband and teenage daughter have been coping with Billie’s death the best they can: Jonathan drinks as he works on a loving memoir about his marriage; Olive grows remote, from both her father and her friends at the all-girls school she attends.

But then Olive starts having strange visions of her mother, still alive. Jonathan worries about Olive’s emotional stability, until he starts unearthing secrets from Billie’s past that bring into question everything he thought he understood about his wife. Who was the woman he knew as Billie Flanagan?

Together, Olive and Jonathan embark on a quest for the truth—about Billie, but also about themselves, learning, in the process, about all the ways that love can distort what we choose to see. Janelle Brown’s insights into the dynamics of intimate relationships will make you question the stories you tell yourself about the people you love, while her nervy storytelling will keep you guessing until the very last page.

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Do the excerpts grab you?  Would you keep reading?

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