About your Book:
Grace’s well-ordered world shatters when she loses her unborn child and her mother within a few months. Summoned to her childhood home to sort through Penny’s belongings, the timing couldn’t be worse. Grieving over her losses and exhausted from a demanding teaching schedule, she worries that her marriage is collapsing under the pressure. While packing her mother’s closet, Grace discovers a box filled with mysterious keepsakes and old diaries written in Penny’s hand and takes them home. After reading pages filled with typical musings of a teenage girl from a generation ago, she stumbles upon a dark secret and is devastated to learn that what she believed her whole life about her family was based on lies.
Targeted Age Group: Adult Women
Genre: Women’s Fiction
The Book Excerpt:
Grace pulled into the driveway of her childhood home, pea gravel crushing beneath balding tires, and turned off the ignition with relief. The waistband of her shorts cut into soft flesh, and her right knee, locked into place for six hours as she pressed the gas pedal, ached to distraction. She twisted the rear view mirror toward her and groaned, wishing she’d kept that last hair appointment. Sweaty bangs clung to her forehead like little ropes, a result of the car’s air conditioner that shot out sporadic blasts of heat. She tried fluffing her honey blond curls but nothing helped. She turned her head one way and then the other, examining herself with a critical eye, yet the result was the same. Exhaustion pulled at her, especially around the mouth. At thirty-two, she was too young to look this drained, but mirrors don’t lie.
She glanced to the backseat at her sleeping daughter. The absence of the car’s movement roused Hannah, who looked around wide-eyed and pulled a thumb from her mouth, plump and red. Realizing where she was, she squirmed in her booster seat trying to unlatch the belt after the long road trip south.
As Grace set Hannah free, the sprawling ranch house’s front door flung open and her mom stepped onto its covered porch. She stood there, dressed to casual perfection as usual, hand at her throat, cheeks flushed with color, as if she couldn’t believe her good fortune. The cloudless sky was as blue as her mother’s eyes and the air fresh as her white pressed shorts. “You made it!” she said, bounding down the steps.
“It wasn’t easy,” Grace called out. “LA traffic is ridiculous. How do people live like that?”
“Gramma!” Hannah scurried around the car like an escaped duckling and flung herself into her grandmother’s arms. Penny caught her and held on tightly, smothering the child with kisses, a smile covering her face, crinkling the corners of her eyes. Grace watched her mom press her nose into Hannah’s curls, breathing in little girl smells.
Grace heaved a sigh, releasing a hint of envy for a woman who made everything she did appear effortless. Her mom remained youthful despite her fifty-four years, as if untouched by life’s misfortunes. She led a charmed life, this was true, and so Grace didn’t expect her to understand. Nothing bad had ever happened to her mother. Grace sucked in an unsteady breath and dismissed that resentful thought. Here she was about to indulge in five days of luxury and she planned to take advantage of every moment, hoping for a brief respite for her battered spirit. How long had it been since she’d allowed herself even the simplest of pleasures? Maybe this short break away from Joe would help them to . . . but no, she wasn’t ready to think about her husband just yet.
Warm air wavered from the ground. Its earthy scent, mingled with the fragrance of freshly cut grass, consoled her. This beloved California high desert house holding pleasant memories was exactly what she needed. A place of refuge. Where she could shield herself from the darkness, if only for a while.
Hannah hugged her grandmother as if clinging to a life preserver, burrowing into her neck, refusing to let go, and Grace braced herself for what she was sure to come. Penny soothed Hannah with whispered reassurances before looking up at her daughter, eyebrows raised, and the torment around Grace’s heart tightened.
Granting Grace a small reprieve, Penny turned her attention once more to her granddaughter. “My goodness, just look at you,” she said, holding the four-year-old at arm’s length. She flattened a hand atop Hannah’s head, pretending to measure her height. “You must’ve grown another foot since the last time I saw you!”
Hannah looked down, inspecting her sandals. “No Gramma,” she said. “Only two feet.”
The women’s mingled laughter thrilled Hannah and she beamed at their attention. Grace’s shoulders relaxed a little.
At that moment, Pigtail, her mom’s rescue pug, raced through the open front door and down the steps, barking a welcome. The dog distracted Hannah by prancing around and rubbing her muzzle against the child’s legs, the bell on her gold-stitched collar dinging away. Hannah shrieked with delight when Pigtail licked her toes and she squatted to touch the pug’s velvety ears.
Penny turned to Grace then, enfolding her in a long embrace. She drew back, studying her daughter’s face. “And how are you holding up, Gracie Leigh?”
“I’m . . .” Grace stared over the car’s hood to avoid her mother’s eyes. “. . . fine.” A worried line creased her mom’s forehead but Grace ignored it.
“Dad up there?” she asked, cocking a thumb towards his office over the detached garage.
“At a job site,” her mom said, narrowing her eyes at Grace. “They’re landscaping around a new apartment complex downtown. No doubt he’ll head home the second he can get away.” She smiled then, breaking the tension. “He can’t wait to see his girls.” Grace knew her dad would overindulge Hannah this week, but that was okay. Her daughter could use some pampering.
“Would you gals like to ride over to Pugs & Pals with me?” her mom asked. “I’ve left Mary alone with the dogs long enough.”
“Can I play with the puppies?” Without waiting for an answer, Hannah chased Pigtail in circles, releasing hours of pent-up energy.
Grace finally met her mom’s eyes. The tenderness she found there made the few months they’d been apart melt away. Her mother. Her rock. Her support since forever. This woman who hated to drive yet had braved jammed freeways for the seemingly endless trek north to sit by Grace’s bedside and read long passages from Middlemarch while she recovered from the stillbirth of her son. The lump in Grace’s chest eased as she drew her mom close like a comfy old sweater.
“It’s so good to be here,” she whispered.