Friday, April 26, 2013

When Light Breaks by Patti Callahan Henry

Description from the author's site:
Now, as two women from opposite sides of the same sea meet, a tale unfolds that will draw readers into the heart's remembrances-and the tender awakenings of first love.

Though bogged down in the stress of planning her elaborate wedding to a professional golfer, twenty-seven-year-old Kara Larson still makes time to visit ninety-six-year-old Maeve Mahoney at her nursing home. And as Maeve recounts the rambling story of her first love back in Ireland, Kara is driven to remember her own first love: childhood neighbor Jack Sullivan.

I liked this book.  If you like Dorothea Benton Frank, Patricia Gaffney or Elizabeth Berg, you will like this one.  Kara works for the PGA and is engaged to a golfer.  She needs to do community service for the Junior League.   She starts visiting Maeve. Maeve tells Kara a story of love a bit at a time and convinces her to find her first love, Jack.  Kara does find Jack and everything changes.

Chapter One

I was surrounded by water just as I was surrounded by memories. I was born here in the South Carolina Lowcountry, raised first by both my parents, then just my daddy. My hometown, Palmetto Pointe, was a place encircled by river, estuary, marsh and ocean all at once; bodies of water cushioning us like the earth’s pillow.

One silver dawn in early March, I stood on the dock overlooking the river shrouded in early morning mist; the hummocks and spartina blended together in the gray-silver dawn. The oyster shell mounds glowed in the rising sun like pearlized and ragged pieces of earth outlining the river. I’d come earlier than usual for my morning run. The sound of my older sister Deirdre’s crying had come through the bedroom wall of our family home to join my own spinning and twisting thoughts, and sleep was as elusive as the no’seeums—the almost invisible biting bugs—I swatted at during a summer day.

I’d been able to hear Deirdre cry through the walls since I was nine years old, since Mama died. I don’t think she ever understood I could hear her; not even now that she was grown and had come home to escape another too lonely night apart from her husband, Bill, from whom she’d separated. Our family, the Larson’s, had learned to hide such emotional displays—they were not for public show like the family portraits or the Waterford Lismore collection. Our feelings were as well hidden as the family silver during the war of “Northern Aggression”.

I extended my arms over my head, leaned down stretching my hamstrings in anticipation of running my usual three miles. A school of menhaden fluttered below the surface of the water like butterflies under silk fabric. The tide was low, yet rushing in from the ocean to cover the mud banks, to give shelter to the crabs scurrying in the morning dawn. The ebb and flow of my memories weren’t nearly as reliable as these tides. On some days I was flooded with remembering and on others, I was as empty as the marsh at extreme low tide. But that morning, like the flotsam that rises to the top of the waves and is flung onto the beach after a storm as strong as my sister’s grief, a very particular day returned to me as the sun broke free from behind a low, flat cloud. My heart opened to an old memory.

I was thirteen years old.

It had been almost four years since Mama—the angelic Margarite Larson—had died. She’d willingly stopped treatment for her cancer and she’d left our family. She’d chosen death over family.

So I’d run away from home. I’d packed my purple suitcase, walked across the front lawn to the Sullivan’s house next door, then stood on the front porch. I set my bag down, knocked on the door with all the assurance a thirteen year old could muster on a blistering August afternoon when sweat was dripping down her forehead. Mrs. Sullivan answered the door, smiled at me. “Hey there, Ms. Kara. How are you this summer day?” Her smile lit up the entire front porch like a million fireflies.

I patted my suitcase, lifted my chin. “You’re my new family,” I said, nodded for an exclamation point.

Mrs. Sullivan took me in her arms, wrapped me tight and allowed me to believe my proclamation with her pure acceptance. The sharp scent of paint-thinner filled my nose and I knew she’d been working on her oil paintings. She led me into the house, put up her paintbrushes, and cooked me a grilled cheese sandwich dripping in butter. Then she brushed my hair and sang me a song about a bridge over troubled waters.

“Now, honey, tell Mrs. Sullivan why you would want to run away from your beautiful home.”

I turned to her and shook my head. “It’s just terrible. Daddy has changed too much. His face is always hard and stern.” I scrunched my face up. “Like this.”

Mrs. Sullivan laughed, squeezed my cheeks.  Read more here.

Pages: 278

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