This isn’t a Peggy letter. I know that. Still, I’ve been composing parts of it since Bret called to tell me that Peggy had left us. Because while no two experiences are the same, you’re now a member of a club that no one really wants to belong to, one with a very shitty but non-negotiable membership requirement, and I know a few things about this sisterhood. Your walk will not be the same as mine, but I can tell you some things I know to be true regardless of the path you take to reach them. Like I said, this isn’t a Peggy letter. But I thought you might need a letter right about now, so here it is.
I promise you this: It will get better. The day will come when it sneaks up on you that you feel a little better than you did the day/week/month before. And sometime after that, hopefully sooner rather than later, you’ll be able to think or talk about Peggy without your voice cracking and you worrying that you’re going to ugly cry at a completely inappropriate time, like someone saying, “Have a nice day” as you’re checking out at Target. It will get better.
And sometime later still, you will go a few days without thinking about her. And that’s OK. Then you’ll speak of her in a matter of fact way and be at peace, and you’ll think “I’ve made it through this. I’m going to be OK.” And that is true.
Sometime after that, maybe nearly two years later, you’ll be feeling like everything is as normal as it is now. Maybe you’ll be doing something really mundane, like folding socks, and it will hit you like it happened yesterday. Slice you in the heart, kick you in the gut, and you’ll be harshly, horrifically reminded again that she’s gone. You’ll shed a few tears, and then you’ll go on. It will never be as bad again as it is right now.
You are at that point right now where well meaning people are telling you, maybe in clumsy ways, that they love you. It comes in the form of what you should/should not be doing. It comes in the form of platitudes of “at least she isn’t suffering any more,” and “at least you had…” and you smile and say “Thank you” out loud, while screaming “Fuck you!” in your head, because you know this is just one of those times when people don’t know what to say. If they haven’t already, most of the calls and texts and emails will stop. And people will wonder why you haven’t snapped back into your former self, and you’ll want to strangle them and ask “how can you not understand that nothing will be the same again?!” You are not crazy.
If you’re lucky, you’ll have people to drag you out when you don’t want to go, for coffee/a walk/a drink/a pedicure because sometimes, people not so close to the situation know you need to get out of your head a little bit. You’ll wake up at hours when you should be sleeping, and you’ll google inane things, and you’ll watch the Real Housewives of (Insert City Here), and you won’t be able to concentrate on anything, not even Us Weekly. Your brain will run a thousand miles an hour and you’ll wonder how you’re at all competent at work and with Bret and with your children and your siblings and your dad and your clients, but You’ll do it.
You’ll realize that most of the time, when people ask “How can I help?” they mean it. And you’ll appreciate the texts and FB posts about Britney and the ones where people say “just checking in on you.” You’ll forgive most of the people who don’t handle this like you need them to. You’ll be angry, maybe irrationally so, at random people. But some will deserve it. You may tell them. You may write a letter to them that you never send. You may rage against them in your mind. You may decide to let it go because it’s just not that important in the big scheme of things. Whatever you choose is fine.
You may laugh a little harder, hug a little longer, love a little more passionately, live a little more fully, because you realize how precious and short and tenuous it all is. This will make your life richer.
You may start to say “No,” without explanation, to things that just don’t matter to you, or require your energy. This will make your life better.
You are starting a year of firsts. The first birthday/Christmas/Anniversary/Mother’s Day, when Peggy isn’t here. You may want to throw something at your television because every other commercial is about how special Mom is, or you may want to stay away from Facebook on Mother’s Day. Don’t throw something at your TV. Watch something on Hulu or Netflix instead. Maybe stay off FB on Mother’s Day. These days suck and the world doesn’t know it, and you are happy for your friends celebrating, and upset that you aren’t, and upset at how unfair it all is, and you should just pour a glass of wine and be with it all for a bit.
My point, Ashby, with this letter, is that you are in a really weird and discombobulated place right now. But you’re lucky because so many people love you, and loved your mama, and love your daddy, and love your siblings. We have your back while you navigate this path you didn’t ask to be on, that has no clear direction. And no matter how bleak it seems right now, how alone you feel, whatever you feel, this is not the rest of your life. I promise you this: None of what you feel is wrong, and you will be OK.
From the Publisher’s Summary:
Destiny Jones is doing just fine on her own, thanks. From her thriving one-woman carpentry business to the loving support of her small-town community, Destiny has constructed a life as sturdy and polished as her best cabinets. Twenty years ago, Destiny’s world collapsed when her mother died and her father, Albert, abandoned his daughter to pursue acting in New York. His devastating exit taught Destiny a lesson in self-reliance that has kept her safe—and alone—ever since.
Now Albert Jones is back, begging for a second chance. Destiny suspects he’s simply staging another performance, starring himself as the prodigal father. Should she act on her misgivings? Or listen to her inner child, who still yearns for a family? When Albert divulges a shocking secret, Destiny’s life will again be turned upside down.
Kathleen Long’s warm, wise novel reveals the armor that has protected us in the past is often the very thing we must shed to fully live and love.
The things I love about Long’s novels- the heart, the slightly quirky (or not necessarily mainstream) heroines, the emotion, the authenticity, are all present in Broken Pieces.
I was a little surprised at how quickly Destiny accepted Albert’s secret, but it is in no way detrimental to the story. Some people can just roll with things a bit easier than others.
But y’all, I bawled through the end of the book. No melodrama, but, as I said earlier, pure heart. Reality. Facing the things we don’t want to face. Authenticity.
This was a quick read for me, and if you have read any of Long’s other books you’ll like this on. If you haven’t read Long before, but you like Liane Moriarty or Emily Giffin, you should take a look at Kathleen Long. By the way, I checked this morning and Broken Pieces is available at no additional charge for Kindle Unlimited subscribers, and available in Paperback and a part of Audible.
Once in a while, I have the unique privilege of being the first person- outside of editors and publisher folks- to read a galley, and the first to review it. This is one of those times. I’m excited to provide the first review of Frank Reddy’s debut novel, Eyes on The Island.
From the book summary:
NOT LONG AGO, Will Fordham was a charismatic young preacher on the rise. But a family trip to the beach cost him everything. Will was struck by an unexpected seizure while wading in the ocean, drowning his young son. In the aftermath of the child’s death, Will lost his marriage, his sobriety, and his faith. Once the pastor of his own church, Will is now little more than a groundskeeper. But when Will is offered a new assignment at a small church on one of Georgia’s barrier islands, he reluctantly accepts the opportunity to put his life back together. Owned by a wealthy heiress and accessible only by ferry, this unspoiled island is home to an artists’ colony and only a handful of permanent residents. But once on the island, Will befriends a young boy who tells him unsettling stories about the other islanders. Are they merely products of the boy’s overactive imagination, or does something sinister lie beneath the island’s peaceful facade?
Eyes on the Island is a fast, entertaining read. I had a vague sense of discomfort and creepiness reading it – the good kind, like when you’re watching a thriller and tension is taut and you know something is about to happen, but what?
There’s a cast of characters, few of them who they appear to be. That, combined with Will’s visions, keep the reader wondering if what they are reading is what’s really going on, or some figment of Will’s broken mind. It’s like everything is slightly off kilter, but you can’t put your finger on what is bothering you.
Reddy’s writing is straightforward and authentic. He is not one bent towards melodramatic speech. He captures the atmosphere of Savannah and the Georgia barrier islands, with their mysterious and otherworldly histories, in a way that anyone familiar with the area will recognize.
I confess, the plot didn’t go quite the way I was expecting, but I liked the direction it did take better than what I thought might happen. The ending is a bit fantastical, but that’s OK. This is a work of fiction, and the ending fits with the rest of the story. I hope Reddy is at work on his next novel. I’m looking forward to reading more from him.
Eyes on the Island will be released in two weeks. You can find it here.
And now, here’s a little about the author:
A veteran journalist, FRANK REDDY has written for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Curbed Atlanta, Creative Loafing, Atlanta Magazine, Gainesville Times, and Gwinnett Daily Post. He has won multiple awards from The Associated Press and Georgia Press Association for feature writing, business writing, and hard news coverage. He lives in Atlanta, Georgia with his wife, Joy, and daughter, Stella. Eyes on the Island is his first novel.
Finding and fortifying our voices is so powerful. It awakens what once was sleeping. It strengthens what once was weak. And it inspires all of us into action.”
Tyler Williams has known success. He has performed in Atlanta’s famed Fox Theatre, raced down Victory Lane as a NASCAR driver, worked on hit film and TV shows, and sang for thousands in packed arenas. But Tyler has also known failure, devastating setbacks, and the pain of lost love. He knows how it feels to be lost, disconnected from himself and his passion.
Tyler tells his story of losing his “voice,” navigating life for many years without it, then finding it again–and finding himself in the process. “I Have a Voice” is full of life lessons that people both young and old will recognize. This is a book of hope, challenges and breakthrough moments. Tyler recounts his personal journey and uses his experience to help guide readers back to their own voices without dictating the steps to get there. Those who have lost their purpose, passion and “voice” will find renewal in his words.
I read I Have A Voice during my recent travels. The thing that all of these books about living your dream miss is telling you the specific steps to do it. But that is kind of the point. The path is different for everyone. The point of these types of books is to inspire.
Tyler Williams does that pretty well. Tyler’s point is to listen to yourself. To find you voice. Although not necessarily literally. He doesn’t mean he was silenced. But he did lose focus of what mattered to him, and like many of us, floated through life for a while. He let himself be defined by other people and not things that are authentic to him.
It was an odd place to be after his early life in entertainment, then his decision to to become a NASCAR driver. Tyler had to figure out his place in this new world. He had to train and race against drivers who had been in the circuit far longer than he had. But he did it anyway. When circumstances followed that showed Tyler he was not to be the next NASCAR phenom, he moved on.
The point I took from I Have A Voice is that it is easy to sit on the sidelines of life. We can get up and go to work and come home and watch Netflix and that is great if it is our dream. Or, we can get up and go to work and come home and watch Netflix and pretend it’s great but also feel like we are missing something. If we aren’t content with watching Netflix every night, then that’s where we need to find our voice- and do something to claim it. That’s the crux of I Have a Voice.
Williams is quick to point out that finding one’s voice does not have to mean fame and notoriety. In fact, for most of us, it won’t. But what Williams hopes to help people realize is that we have a choice in feeling as though we are living an authentic life, or just being a bit player in someone else’s script.
Fans of Martha Beck will likely enjoy I Have A Voice. If you’re bored with your own life, this may be just the book you need to jumpstart you into figuring out how to use your own voice.
I received a copy of I Have A Voice from the Publisher in exchange for an honest review.
I’ve been looking for a while for a certain type of book. One that plays out in my head as I read it, seeing the characters and their actions. One that is quirky and engaging and I want to just sit and read so I can finish it and know what happens. One that makes me think about the human condition. One that I can’t wait to recommend to people who appreciate a book that isn’t on the NYT best seller list, but is certainly more entertaining to me than some from that list. I’ve found it in Tiffany McDaniel’s The Summer that Melted Everything.
From the book summary:
Fielding Bliss has never forgotten the summer of 1984: the year a heat wave scorched Breathed, Ohio. The year he became friends with the devil.
Sal seems to appear out of nowhere – a bruised and tattered thirteen-year-old boy claiming to be the devil himself answering an invitation. Fielding Bliss, the son of a local prosecutor, brings him home where he’s welcomed into the Bliss family, assuming he’s a runaway from a nearby farm town.
When word spreads that the devil has come to Breathed, not everyone is happy to welcome this self-proclaimed fallen angel. Murmurs follow him and tensions rise, along with the temperatures as an unbearable heat wave rolls into town right along with him. As strange accidents start to occur, riled by the feverish heat, some in the town start to believe that Sal is exactly who he claims to be. While the Bliss family wrestles with their own personal demons, a fanatic drives the town to the brink of a catastrophe that will change this sleepy Ohio backwater forever.
Although set in 1984, I also pictured some earlier time. Breathed, Ohio is not unlike a number of small southern towns, especially in the early part of the 20th century.These boys were not inside watching Wrestlemania and playing Atari, like so many of the older kids I knew in that timeframe. But 1984 did fit well. When it mattered, the descriptions of the characters were spot on for the era. The fears and social mores fit as well. It was the height of the Moral Majority, and that mindset defined a number of people’s reactions to social issues, and intentional or not, you can see that influence in this book. I can’t say more without potentially spoiling part of the story, but if you were alive during that time, you’ll understand exactly what I mean.
What worked well in this story, and what drew me in, was the idea of a Devil in the midst. But this is not a devil of the bible. Certainly, there are nuances of it. Lucifer’s fall from grace is well documented, after all. But this devil is deeper, more human, more empathetic than one would imagine. And there is the crux of the story. If Sal is the devil, responsible for anything bad happening in Breathed, then how on earth can the townspeople explain their own actions in how they treat others and Sal? Is the idea of the devil a convenient scapegoat for those dark parts of ourselves that, if we are not careful, release our most base, evil behaviors? Is the devil really nothing more than a reflection of the parts of ourselves we like the least? And if we allow that mindset to take control of our actions and words, what horror may we bring in our lives and the lives of others?
Each chapter of the book begins with Fielding in the present, then bleeds back into the past. Sometimes the transitions are very subtle, and it took me a minute to adjust, but it also makes sense as we learn more about Fielding and who he is now.
I really liked this book. I liked that it made me think. I liked that it brought out emotion in me. I liked that I wanted to know what happens next and that I was a little sad that it was over. The readers I think will most appreciate this book are people who liked To Kill A Mockingbird, Catfish Alley, and The Testament. I wouldn’t pick this one for a light hearted beach read, but for literary fiction fans wanting something to sink their teeth in, this is a great one.
The Summer That Melted Everything was released on 26 July.
Here’s a little about the author, Tiffany McDaniel:
An Ohio native, Tiffany McDaniel’s writing is inspired by the rolling hills and buckeye woods of the land she knows. She is also a poet, playwright, screenwriter, and artist. The Summer that Melted Everything is her debut novel.
You can learn more Tiffany at her website:
Here’s the Goodreads link to the novel:
Stay tuned- Tiffany has agreed to an author Q and A, and that will be coming soon.
I received an ARC of the book to read in exchange for an honest review.