Alice Sullivan feels like she’s finally found her groove in middle age, but it only takes one moment for her perfectly curated life to unravel. On the same day she learns her daughter is struggling in second grade, a call from her son’s school accusing him of bullying throws Alice into a tailspin.
When it comes to light that the incident is part of a new behavior pattern for her son, one complete with fake social media profiles with a lot of questionable content, Alice’s social standing is quickly eroded to one of “those moms” who can’t control her kids. Soon she’s facing the very judgement she was all too happy to dole out when she thought no one was looking (or when she thought her house wasn’t made of glass).

Then her mother unloads a family secret she’s kept for more than thirty years, and Alice’s entire perception of herself is shattered.

As her son’s new reputation polarizes her friendships and her family buzzes with the ramification of her mother’s choices, Alice realizes that she’s been too focused on measuring her success and happiness by everyone else’s standards. Now, with all her shortcomings laid bare, she’ll have to figure out to whom to turn for help and decide who she really wants to be.

Alice and some of her friends alternately narrate the story in Are We There Yet?, revealing the issues that are turning their lives upside down because of their children and social networking.

I felt a special connection to Alice, whose interior design career, along with her need to be a good parent, changes dramatically because of the actions of her twelve-year-old son. Other mothers react differently, and some look in judgment on Alice, even when their own children make similar mistakes. Dealing with the injustice of it kept me rooting for Alice.

Meanwhile, a secret from Alice’s mother’s past changes up the family as well.

Watching these characters navigate the turmoil of the tween years and the challenges of family life kept me turning the pages, eager for more. 4.5 stars for this delightful read.




Twenty years ago, she was found bludgeoned in a rowboat at the MacAllister family’s Camp Macaw. No one was ever charged with the crime.

Now, after their parents’ sudden deaths, the MacAllister siblings return to camp to read the will and decide what to do with the prime real estate the camp occupies. Ryan needs to sell. Margaux hasn’t made up her mind. Mary believes in leaving well enough alone. Kate and Liddie—the twins—have opposing views. And Sean Booth, the groundskeeper, just hopes he still has a home when all is said and done.

But it’s more complicated than a simple vote. The will stipulates that until they unravel the mystery of what happened to Amanda, they can’t settle the estate. Any one of them could have done it, and each one is holding a piece of the puzzle. Will they work together to finally discover the truth, or will their secrets finally tear the family apart?

My Thoughts: As we wend our way through the events of one summer, we are shown Amanda’s thoughts on that crucial night, and offered bits and pieces of what happened to her.The MacAllisters are a big dysfunctional family, with dark secrets held by each of them, so it is no surprise that, in the pages of I’ll Never Tell, we begin to sort through a lot of history in order to put the pieces together. But even as I picked out my “favorite culprit,” as time went by, there were clues pointing elsewhere. The stunning reveal in the final pages changed everything for the family, but because of their family motto to keep secrets, the answers were not made public.

In the end, it was clear how the family ties kept them all competitive and secretive, locked away in the darkness of their guilt and fear. 5 stars.




Jen and Hugh Maddox have just survived every parent’s worst nightmare.

Relieved, but still terrified, they sit by the hospital bedside of their fifteen-year-old daughter, Lana, who was found bloodied, bruised, and disoriented after going missing for four days during a mother-daughter vacation in the country. As Lana lies mute in the bed, unwilling or unable to articulate what happened to her during that period, the national media speculates wildly and Jen and Hugh try to answer many questions.

Where was Lana? How did she get hurt? Was the teenage boy who befriended her involved? How did she survive outside for all those days? Even when she returns to the family home and her school routine, Lana only provides the same frustrating answer over and over: “I can’t remember.”

For years, Jen had tried to soothe the depressive demons plaguing her younger child, and had always dreaded the worst. Now she has hope—the family has gone through hell and come out the other side. But Jen cannot let go of her need to find the truth. Without telling Hugh or their pregnant older daughter Meg, Jen sets off to retrace Lana’s steps, a journey that will lead her to a deeper understanding of her youngest daughter, her family, and herself.


My Thoughts: I loved Elizabeth Is Missing, so I was eager to plunge into this newest book. The situations are very different, however, and it took me a while to warm up to the characters, all of whom I found unlikable at first. I am intrigued by dysfunctional mother/daughter stories, however, and Whistle in the Dark reeled me into those aspects of the book.

Lana was one of those teens that is annoying, yet troubled. You feel yourself wanting to roll your eyes and leave her alone, but her obvious distress keeps you engaged. But Jen, the mother, is a bit too pushy, and I can see how her way of trying to help Lana would make the girl close down even more, hiding in plain sight.

I liked the addition of Meg, the pregnant older daughter, who lightened the mood a little, but her issues also make a play for attention. When both girls seemingly grab for attention constantly, you have to wonder where the mother’s focus has been. On the sidelines is Lily, the grandmother, the only sensible presence.

As she struggles, Jen asks herself these questions: “Why did she have to drag this love around everywhere when, sometimes, she’d like to leave it behind for a few hours? Without that love, she could float away, let her daughter’s mood improve, let her put her frown and her sharp tongue back in their still-shiny packaging.”

Exhausted emotionally and physically, and at the end of her rope, Jen takes her own surprisingly cyclical journey that leads her toward all the answers she needs. 4.5 stars.




In an excerpt from Chapter One, of Web of Tyranny, Margaret Elaine Graham thinks back to some defining moments in her childhood.


Later in her life, Margaret would remember the summer of 1956 as that time when she’d still had illusions about what life could be.


Even with the backbreaking, seemingly endless chores, there was still that camaraderie amongst the workers.  Even Lucy helped keep things light, chattering away about her plans for the evening.  Margaret listened and pretended she had Lucy’s life with Lucy’s parents.  Uncle Joe and Aunt Noreen laughed a lot.  They even had a television set and when Margaret had the good fortune to visit at their house, hanging out with Lucy’s younger sister Nanette, the whole family sat around on the couch eating their dinner on TV trays and laughing along with the I Love Lucy show.  Sometimes Margaret thought that Aunt Noreen, who was Father’s sister, must have grown up in a different family.  They were total opposites.  Father was all stern and uptight, while Aunt Noreen laughed and joked and seemed to enjoy being with her kids.  Just like Father’s other sister Molly, who had all those stories to tell.  Even Uncle Victor and Aunt Janice seemed so different from Father.


Margaret couldn’t figure any of it out back then.  Later she would come to believe that it all had something to do with Father being the eldest child in his family.  The one who had to drop out of school to work the farm.  The one who had to give up his own fun and lightheartedness to help bring in the crops.


But in her tenth year of life, Margaret Elaine Graham only knew that the father who had once loved her had turned on her.  And her life had somehow shaped itself into Before and After.  First there had been love and acceptance.  Then there was coldness and disapproval.   And fleeting moments of secret fun and freedom meted out in small portions, to be grasped and cherished.  As rare and unexpected as a stash of jewels.  And just as precious.






Bookish World & Coffee - 516

Good morning!  It’s Monday, so let’s grab some coffee and chat about the weekend, our plans for the upcoming week…etc.  I’m not mimicking Sheila’s Coffee with Bloggers, as I’m just doing my own thing here, reflecting, sipping, and planning.

I watched the complete Season II of Bloodline this weekend (there were only 10 episodes, but still…).  Wow, that ending!  Okay, no spoilers here, but I didn’t see that coming.  But then again, those Rayburns are unpredictable.





First of all, let me just say that I was feeling the darkness that hovered over them all, as they tried so hard to bury their secrets, but things kept popping up.  Unexpected things.

I realized, too, that I don’t like any of the Rayburn offspring any more.  Not a one of them, and I didn’t feel that way in Season I, or they have deteriorated.  Secret-keeping can do that, of course.

But I will definitely be back for Season III.  There has to be a third season, of course.


Have you seen the show?  What are your thoughts?


Meanwhile, I finished reading The Girls in the Garden (click for my review), by Lisa Jewell.  Loved it!    Picture an idyllic setting, with a communal garden, and then imagine creepy characters and weird teenagers.

Imagine my weekend, moving back and forth between my book and Netflix.





Today I’m reading Ink and Bone, by Lisa Unger (all those Lisas!), and I know that I will be immersed in it before the morning is over.






Eerie setting (The Hollows), filled with interesting characters and lots of psychic events.

So…my morning will be full, and by afternoon, I plan to take my book “off site,” perhaps to the bookstore…or back to one of my favorite restaurants, like where I had this soup and margarita on Saturday (California Pizza Kitchen).



soup, bread, margarita


What are your plans?  Have you had your coffee?  Planned your day?






When Cassie Danvers’ grandmother June died, she left her the huge old house, Two Oaks, in St. Jude, Ohio, built in 1895.

Cassie left New York and the loft she’d shared with her ex-boyfriend, but once she took possession of the house, she seemed to be sleeping her life away. There was much that needed to be done to the home and the surrounding gardens, but she couldn’t seem to manage it all. Nor could she find the energy to pursue her photography.

At night, Cassie dreamed of colorful people and events occurring in the house, but her days were troubled by the encroaching weeds in the garden and the mail piling up in the foyer.

Until one day when there was a knock on the door, and a young man named Nick Emmons had come to share some news. Cassie had inherited $37 million from Jack Montgomery, a Hollywood star who had just died. Apparently in the summer of 1955, he and an entourage of actors had taken up residence in St. Jude to film a movie called Erie Canal. And during that time, June and Jack might have had a romantic liaison. Cassie’s father Adelbert could have been Jack’s son.

But…in order to inherit, Cassie has to fulfill a request made by one of Jack’s daughters, Tate Montgomery, also a Hollywood celebrity, and a suspicious one at that. They must take a DNA test. Soon Tate and her assistant, along with Nick, are living with Cassie while she decides how it is going to play out. She wants more information before agreeing, so they start going through letters and interviewing townspeople who might have known something.

How might June and Jack have connected? What was the significance of the friendship between June and her next-door neighbor Lindie in 1950s Ohio? How would several betrayals and secrets thwart the lives of the characters back then? And what tragic event would change the trajectory of all their lives? In the present, does Cassie finally find answers and a kind of peace?

June was a richly layered family saga that swept back and forth through time, showing us the characters who populated the town and Two Oaks back in 1955…and then fast forwarded to the present. As the story finally unfolded, and as more and more secrets were revealed, I could not stop wondering what would happen next. The story had many beautiful as well as some sad moments, but in the end, a rich tapestry of characters, from the present and from the past, encircled Cassie and wrapped themselves around her and kept her company in her beautiful old mansion. 5 stars.


bookish moments in childhood

Looking back on childhood moments, Margaret (Meg) Graham recalls some clues to what happens to her later in life.  Excerpted from Web of Tyranny.



Later in her life, Margaret would remember the summer of 1956 as that time when she’d still had illusions about what life could be.


Even with the backbreaking, seemingly endless chores, there was still that camaraderie amongst the workers.  Even Lucy helped keep things light, chattering away about her plans for the evening.  Margaret listened and pretended she had Lucy’s life with Lucy’s parents.  Uncle Joe and Aunt Noreen laughed a lot.  They even had a television set and when Margaret had the good fortune to visit at their house, hanging out with Lucy’s younger sister Nanette, the whole family sat around on the couch eating their dinner on TV trays and laughing along with the I Love Lucy show.  Sometimes Margaret thought that Aunt Noreen, who was Father’s sister, must have grown up in a different family.  They were total opposites.  Father was all stern and uptight, while Aunt Noreen laughed and joked and seemed to enjoy being with her kids.  Just like Father’s other sister Molly, who had all those stories to tell.  Even Uncle Victor and Aunt Janice seemed so different from Father.


Margaret couldn’t figure any of it out back then.  Later she would come to believe that it all had something to do with Father being the eldest child in his family.  The one who had to drop out of school to work the farm.  The one who had to give up his own fun and lightheartedness to help bring in the crops.


But in her tenth year of life, Margaret Elaine Graham only knew that the father who had once loved her had turned on her.  And her life had somehow shaped itself into Before and After.  First there had been love and acceptance.  Then there was coldness and disapproval.   And fleeting moments of secret fun and freedom meted out in small portions, to be grasped and cherished.  As rare and unexpected as a stash of jewels.  And just as precious.
*     *     *
The summer before Margaret turned twelve, she decided she would become Meg.  Her parents still called her Margaret, but her school chums and even her cousins went along with her new nickname.  She’d decided on the name after reading Little Women, even though she knew she was nothing like the character Meg in the book.  Actually, she saw herself more as the Jo character.  But her cousin Elizabeth, who was actually a first-cousin-once-removed, insisted that Meg fit the eldest of the March sisters to a tee.  And Elizabeth decided that she would be Jo.  Secretly, Margaret-who-now-was-Meg believed that she would someday grow up to be a writer, and that meant she had to be Jo.


She was spending a lot of time with Elizabeth during that summer of 1958, because Father was building a house for Elizabeth’s family.  For some reason, the adults had decided that Meg could tag along and hang out with Elizabeth, who now called herself Liz.

Normally, Liz stayed alone during the days while her mother worked as a housekeeper.  Liz’s father Alvin had died when Liz was only four, leaving her mother Elsie to somehow manage on her own.  Every month Elsie received a small payment from Social Security…The adults called it her “widow’s pension”…But she had to work outside the home, too, in order to make ends meet, something not too many women did in those days.


Elsie, her daughter Liz, and her son, Alvin, Jr., had been moving around from one grim rental to another until the church decided to donate time and materials to build a small house for the family.  The church congregation, made up primarily of near and distant relatives, had done the charitable thing and pulled together to help the young widow and her family.  Because Vincent Graham had built many houses over the years, he had been called into service.

This kind and charitable side of Vincent Graham was one that felt strange and unfamiliar to Meg.  Not one to question her unexpected good fortune, though, she was happy to spend time with Liz, and because of the arduous labor involved in building the house, Father was too distracted to notice Meg.


Liz directed their activities that summer.  When they weren’t reading and talking about the books they were reading, they hung out in town, peering into shop windows and catching the glances of cute guys.


To Meg, the sudden, unexpected freedom felt like a reprieve.  She couldn’t figure out how sometimes she came under close scrutiny from her parents, while other times she had moments of relative peace.


But that summer, Meg had two whole months with nothing to do but hang out with Liz, read books, and dream about the life she would have some day.  Of course, she knew that by August, she would be up to her elbows in peach fuzz again.  But for now, she and Liz could hang out in town or in Liz’s room at their current rental.  Even though Liz and her family lived in one-half of an old house that had been converted into apartments, the place felt wonderfully exciting to Meg.  For one thing, Liz had free rein in the house while her mother worked.


One day Meg and Liz baked cookies.  They kept mixing the ingredients, plopping the dough on the cookie sheets, and shoving the finished product into the oven, and before they knew it, every counter in the tiny kitchen was filled with cookies.  Then, looking at what they had created, they burst into hysterical laughter.  They sank down on the floor, still chortling over the mess they had made while tears coursed through the dough, splattering on their faces.


And Meg thought she’d never been happier, not in her whole life.


They’d cleaned the kitchen up then, grabbing a handful of cookies.  Plopping down on the old sofa, they felt content.  But just when they had started playing Monopoly, Father appeared and it was time to go home again.  In the doorway Vincent Graham loomed like a storm cloud, chasing away the feelings of freedom and lightness.


Meg compliantly followed her father to the car and rode silently beside him out to their farm.


She played this little game with herself whenever she wanted to escape notice, like now.  Closing her eyes tightly, she pretended that her whole body could curl up into a tiny ball.  And if she were really quiet, she would become invisible.  She would escape the searing eyes of Father.


She always feared that somehow Father would know that she and Liz had wandered around town, flirting with boys.  Someone from church might have seen them and tattled, and Father would have to punish her.  Because flirting with boys was a really big sin, according to Father.  He made scathing remarks about boy crazy girls, who would surely grow up to shame their families.


Sitting on the upholstered seat of their car, hardly daring to breathe, Meg caught a glimpse of his face as he drove.  He seemed lost in a world of his own, and she began to exhale slowly.  They were almost home now, and her mind flew ahead to her room, imagining how she would rush there as soon as the car stopped.  She had almost convinced herself that she had once again escaped the wrath of Vincent Graham, when he suddenly turned, his eyes hard and cold, and flatly spoke:  “Tomorrow, you’ll be staying home.  Your mother needs you to watch your little brother.”  Just like that.  And she didn’t even know if she’d done something wrong, or if her father, unpredictable and arbitrary, had just decided that she’d had way too much freedom.


Of course, it could have been worse.  At least she’d be with Mother, who, while often distant and moody, was at least not cruel and punitive.  And babysitting her two-year-old brother Gordon wasn’t the worst thing that could happen.


But that’s how Father was in those years.   Harsh and cold.  Or hot-tempered, like a flash of fire that could sear right through her skin.  For any infraction, she could earn the blistering heat of the peach limbs across her legs.  She could almost feel the sting of her father’s favorite weapon as she slid out of the car, making her escape.


When little Gordon had been born in the fall, two years before, Meg had suffered still another in what felt like a series of betrayals.  It was bad enough that most of the time she couldn’t figure out what was expected of her.  But at least she’d thought she knew her place in the family.  Youngest child, for one thing.   But Gordon’s birth had changed all that, and because it was such a total surprise, Meg felt completely stupid, as if someone had played a prank that everyone else understood except her.  She had noticed the bulge in Mother’s belly months before the birth, but when she’d asked about it, Mother had dismissed her with a short little remark that she was just gaining weight.  And like the fool, Meg had bought it.  So when Father came home that October day, handing out ice cream bars, like some kind of celebration, and made the announcement that they had a new baby brother, she had glanced in shock over at Vernon, who had just stood there, avoiding her eyes.  She was obviously the last to know, and now Father was acting like she should be happy about it.


And the worst of it was that he’d been born just days after Meg’s own birthday.


When they’d first brought the wrinkled little guy home from the hospital, Meg’s eyes had fastened on that tiny little head and the way Mother was cuddling him so lovingly and felt the piercing pang of jealousy.  She’d mumbled something like “he’s cute”, while secretly thinking he looked like a spider monkey.  Mother had retorted:  “Of course, he’s cute!”


Everything had changed then.  Meg had more responsibilities, watching after her baby brother as he got older.  Sometimes she watched him all day while her mother and father worked out in the fields.  But she didn’t even mind watching him as much as she hated that the little bit of love and warmth she’d once gotten from Mother now belonged to Gordon.


That was another reason she’d felt so blissfully happy hanging out with Liz.  Like a caged bird flapping against the confines of her prison, she’d been set free, allowed to spend hours a day in Liz’s company.  Like the bird released from confinement, Meg had enjoyed the sensation of the wind under her wings as she soared magically, hoping that the feeling might go on forever, while knowing deep down that it would be short-lived.  So now she knew.  Her time with Liz had ended.


Even as her bitter thoughts lingered on all the things left undone, all the plans she and Liz had still had for their summer days, she secretly tucked the memories of what they had done away into a place in her head.  She knew that she could take out the recollections and reexamine them whenever she wanted, reliving the experiences.  She often did just that even in the midst of chores.  Her mind flitted about, selecting one memory or another, and for a few moments, she felt the magic of each experience all over again.


She would later look back on that summer as the final days of an all-too-short childhood.






Rain & Heather - Oct. 1976


This morning, I was searching through boxes of photos, and then discovered the one above right on my computer…already.  I had scanned it a while ago.  I loved that room, with the bay windows, and the French doors, which you can’t see, but which lead to the side steps you see below in the faded picture.

This one I found of me with Heather (below), taken right after she was born (six weeks old) is now rather dark and faded.  It was taken on the day of her Christening.  Despite photo editing, I couldn’t “erase” the ravages of time and fading.  But I loved that day, and the old English stucco house where we lived at the time.


Baby Heather - Oct 1976


I also found this photo of Heather and her cousin Amy, taken around 1989, when they were teenagers…thirteen or fourteen (Heather), and sixteen, Amy.


Heather and Amy in 1990s


Fast forward to the late 1990s (1998), and here are my two granddaughters, Fiona and Aubrey, exploring the play gate in my guest house in the foothills.


Fiona and Aubrey 1998

That guest house was really crowded back then…later, we added another bedroom.  There were two adults and four children living in it.


And here was a surprising and punkish photo of me taken in…2010, I think.  Don’t laugh!


lrs in 2010


Now…how about what’s happening in my present day “interior world.”  Pippa has opened her arms to lots of new books this week!  I went a little crazy.




After reading and loving Garden Spells (click for my review), I had to get:  First Frost, Book 2, by Sarah Addison Hall.  Don’t you love that cover?






Then I got a free e-book, due to Amazon Prime, from an author I’ve been wanting to read...Blood Defense, by Marcia Clark.  It’s the first in a new series, Samantha Brinkman.





I bought two others, which I will tell you more about on Saturday…and I have three books coming from Amazon Vine.  I received the first one yesterday:  Mother Knows Best, by Karen MacInerney.





Yesterday I finished reading and reviewing The Nest, which I LOVED.  (Click the title for my review).  I have seen some dysfunctional families over the years, and this one is even worse than most of those, because these folks are privileged and entitled folks…I am thinking they should stop whining already…LOL.

I now have read and reviewed 24 books for my Read the Books You Buy Challenge.  Moving along!





Remember a previous post on another blog, a week ago, in fact, when I shared some tidbits about some tasks in my office?

Well, I haven’t made a lot of progress, but happily, I emptied the shredder, and now just have to shred this stack…Easy-peasy.


office changes


As for review books, I have five more NetGalley books to read and review, but the next one will not be released until May 12, so we’re all good.  The others are nicely spaced out, too, from May to July.

Of course, there are the three Vine books coming.  Yikes!  What have I bitten off here?

Do you ever let your eyes and your book greed dictate the books you buy and request?


I went a little crazy with changing up the header here, too.



Shared on West Metro Mommy Reads, for Saturday Snapshots.



more bookish things

Margaret Graham woke up dreaming of ice cream and her grandmother’s house; she loved listening to magical stories told by her relatives; and she especially enjoyed visiting the library.   A portion of Chapter One is excerpted from Web of Tyranny.  Free today from Kindle Unlimited.



For the first few seconds of every day, before reality hit, she felt her body floating in a cloudy tangle as she came up from her dreams.  Beautiful dreams of sunny days filled with music, ice cream and lots of laughter.  She could still remember a time when her days had been like that; she’d been much younger then, granted the indulgences of early childhood.  Those moments usually happened in the warm, cozy rooms at Grandma’s house, when she’d had a feeling that everything would work out somehow.



But she was not at Grandma’s today, and as she tossed aside the heavy tangle of sheets and blankets, she knew she wouldn’t be going to Grandma’s again any time soon.  Father had other plans for her.   Her summer days would be full of farm chores, beginning in the early hours of the day and ending only when the last box of fruit had been emptied and the last peach had been cut and placed on the trays.  In the shed, with its overhang that shielded from the hot summer sun, the smell of ripening fruit made her gag, but she had to stifle the urge.  Otherwise, she could end up with a far worse punishment than cutting fruit all day.



Margaret shuddered as she recalled some of those punishments.
At least when she worked in the shed, she was surrounded by the friendly faces of aunts and cousins.  Living within five miles of each other, the Graham relatives, especially the women, rallied around one another during harvest season.   As she worked, she pretended to be a fly on the wall, listening to the adult’s conversations; they hardly noticed her and when they talked in those hushed tones, her ears perked up.



That was how she learned about Aunt Noreen’s heart condition and Aunt Molly’s foster child, the one who was expecting…When Aunt Molly’s voice fell into that whispery tone, Margaret knew that secrets were being revealed.   Lola’s pregnancy and the dilemma about what would become of Lola’s baby after the birth.



Of all the aunts, Aunt Molly could tell a simple story and make it fascinating.  Every day of her life sounded like melodrama.  Even her physical ailments seemed like something out of a storybook.  No matter what else was happening with her though, Aunt Molly always had a friendly word for the younger members of the family.  She and Uncle Chester had only one child of their own; Charles was an oddly quiet boy who seemed misplaced in that family.



Before Aunt Molly had started taking in foster children, Margaret recalled summer nights when she had been allowed a sleepover at her house.  In the tiny little cottage next to the meandering canal, Aunt Molly made up a bed for Margaret in the sleeping porch.  While she lay there, Margaret would study the walls of the tiny room, her eyes following the pattern of the knotty pine; wide awake, she reflected on Aunt Molly’s warning words as she tucked her in.  She’d spoken of the evils in the world and how Margaret had to be very careful to stay away from the field workers who roamed their farms during the summer.  Because the men who worked the fields had evil intentions where young girls were concerned.



Aunt Molly’s warnings introduced fear into her life, like opening a door onto a dark netherworld.  But in the mornings, all the blackness disappeared as Aunt Molly cheerfully served breakfast in the tiny little nook that looked just like a booth in a diner.



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.



In the background were the blurry images of her mother Mary.   The mother who did nothing to soften Father’s tone, but who did allow Margaret to tag along to town on shopping day, and even let her go to the library to check out books.  Books she warned Margaret to keep out of sight.



Margaret loved the smell of the library.  In the little village, the library shared quarters with the post office.  From the main door, the post office portion veered off to the left.  But to the right, the wonderful library beckoned with its shelves and shelves of unread books.    Margaret felt immediately drawn to the shelves containing her favorites.  Sometimes she just wandered up and down the aisles, taking books down and examining them.  Feeling the spines of the books and inhaling the scent of the ancient pages.
And then she would sigh with the sheer ecstasy of being a part of something so magical.










Nicki Daniels, a single mother to 16-year-old Cody, has her life together in some major ways. Except for her relationships with men. Her current boyfriend, Jake, is eleven years younger, and even she knows that it won’t be long until it’s over. Because she keeps picking the wrong kind of guy.

Could her “daddy issues” have something to do with those choices? Her father, Ronnie, has been in and out of prison most of her life, with his last stint being seventeen years. Abandonment is definitely one of her emotional issues.

But life is about to change for them all: Ronnie is being paroled, and is on his way to Nicki’s house.

Before everything can get better, though, there will be a lot to sort through.

Multiple Listings is not what I expected. Yes, there is the real estate angle, since Nicki has a business as an appraiser. Plus, she loves going to Open Houses, and is in escrow for a big, beautiful dream house. But our story is mostly about making changes, learning how to deal with issues and relationships, and starting over. Our alternate narrators, Nicki and Ronnie, show us what is going on in their interior lives, and just when I think I am very annoyed with one of them, the other takes over, and we get to see another view of things.

Peaches is Nicki’s best friend, and she is another very annoying character who is blunt, abrasive, and makes a lot of mistakes. But instead of being remorseful, she acts judgmental with Nicki, as if she has all the answers. What will happen to change her attitude and behavior?

Then there is Melissa, the parole officer, who is totally unfit for her job, crossing all kinds of boundaries, but not accepting responsibility for her part in anything that happens. Until something brings her up short.

A novel full of realistic characters, set in the gorgeous Portland area, I felt myself completely immersed in this story until the very last page. Not predictable, although there were familiar moments that reminded me of life itself. 4.5 stars.

*** My e-ARC came to me from the publisher via NetGalley.