“I come from a family forged by tragedies and bound by a remarkable, unbreakable love,” Hunter Biden writes in this deeply moving memoir of addiction, loss, and survival.
When he was two years old, Hunter Biden was badly injured in a car accident that killed his mother and baby sister. In 2015, he suffered the devastating loss of his beloved big brother, Beau, who died of brain cancer at the age of forty-six. These hardships were compounded by the collapse of his marriage and a years-long battle with drug and alcohol addiction.
In Beautiful Things, Hunter recounts his descent into substance abuse and his tortuous path to sobriety. The story ends with where Hunter is today—a sober married man with a new baby, finally able to appreciate the beautiful things in life.
From its first pages I knew Hunter Biden’s memoir Beautiful Things would be a beautiful book, not because of its subject matter for that is extremely ugly, but because of the writing, and the way he presents his story with raw honesty. I doubt he held much back because the tale he tells of his spiral into alcohol and crack addiction following the death of his beloved brother Beau is harrowing, and I can’t imagine much worse. The Biden family’s story is well-known by anyone paying attention to recent events in America: A wife and mother, a baby daughter and sister killed in a tragic car accident. Two brothers left motherless and injured in a hospital, forging a lifelong bond that remains strong even through death. A father who becomes President of the United States at one of the worst times in our nation’s history. In spite of the tragedy and politics they are a simple family at their core, loving one another deeply and persevering in spite of their pain, building lives of service, using their own experience to comfort others. Hunter’s story is the dark side of all of that love and altruism. His story leaves us with a glimpse into a world that most of us never encounter, except perhaps in the movies, or on TV, or in novels. Here are some of his observations I will carry with me forever:
“The most insidious thing about addiction, the hardest thing to overcome, is waking up unable to see the best in yourself.”
“Sobriety is easy. All you have to do is change everything.”
“Even when the ghosts of addiction have been banished, they still exist.”
As a nurse who encounters people with addictions often and a woman who once cared for a man plagued with similar demons these words help me to empathize and better understand those who fall into the belly of this beast. Recommended for lovers of memoir, addictions specialists, and readers who enjoy entering new (though ugly) worlds.
About the Author
Hunter Biden is a lawyer and an artist. A graduate of Georgetown University and Yale Law School, Hunter has worked as an advocate on behalf of Jesuit universities, and served on numerous corporate and nonprofit boards, including as vice chairman of Amtrak and chairman of the board of World Food Program USA. The son of Joe and Jill Biden, Hunter is the father of three daughters: Naomi, Finnegan, and Maisy. He lives with his wife, Melissa Cohen Biden, and their son, Beau, in California.
If I can’t get my body to Nantucket this summer I can go there in a book. This would make a great beach read, Nantucket sand or not.
Secrets and lies….at Nantucket’s most exclusive and glamorous, family-owned hotel.A new, dramatic family saga series from the Wall Street Journal and USA Today bestselling author of The Nantucket Inn and The Restaurant.
The Whitley was Nantucket’s most exclusive hotel. It was a sprawling collection of pristine white cottages and an elegant main building on a long stretch of private, white sandy beach. The list of famous celebrity guests that had visited over the years was top secret and a matter of pride to the Whitley family. If you worked in the hospitality industry, landing a job at The Whitley was the ultimate goal. Many of the staff had lived and worked there for years. There were strict rules about the staff keeping their distance from both the guests and the family. But sometimes, rules were broken.
No one is more surprised than Paula Whitley when her grandfather, Wynn Whitley, the founder of the hotel and many other business holdings, makes two big announcements. He is promoting Paula from her quiet behind the scenes role handling the accounting, to being in charge of everything. The rest of the family, siblings, cousins, aunts, uncles and parents, are stunned and not everyone is happy about it.
And the second big announcement–she’s expected to work closely with a newly-hired consultant, a turnaround expert in luxury hotels. Paula dislikes David Connolly immediately. He’s arrogant and bossy and annoyingly right most of the time. She’d be loving her new role, if it wasn’t for him. And everyone, family and staff are wondering–what is grandfather’s goal? Is he looking to sell The Whitley?
Pamela M. Kelley is a USA Today and Wall Street Journal bestselling author of women’s fiction, family sagas, and suspense. Readers often describe her books as feel-good reads with people you’d want as friends.
She lives in a historic seaside town near Cape Cod and just south of Boston. She has always been an avid reader of women’s fiction, romance, mysteries, thrillers and cook books. There’s also a good chance you might get hungry when you read her books as she is a foodie, and occasionally shares a recipe or two.
Feel free to sign up for her list to hear about new releases as soon as they are available as well as extras like early bird discounts. Sign up here.
Thirteen-year-old Eli likes baggy clothes, baseball caps, and one girl in particular. Her seventeen-year-old sister Anna is more traditionally feminine; she loves boys and staying out late. They are sisters, and they are also the only family each can count on. Their dad has long been out of the picture, and their mom lives at the mercy of her next drink. When their mom lands herself in enforced rehab, Anna and Eli are left to fend for themselves. With no legal guardian to keep them out of foster care, they take matters into their own hands: Anna masquerades as Aunt Lisa, and together she and Eli hoard whatever money they can find. But their plans begin to unravel as quickly as they were made, and they are always way too close to getting caught.
Eli and Anna have each gotten used to telling lies as a means of survival, but as they navigate a world without their mother, they must learn how to accept help, and let other people in.
This audiobook had me from the start with its story of two teenage sisters coming to grips with their mother’s alcoholism. Eli (13) and Anna (17), aka Peanut Butter and Banana, are determined to stay together when their mom ends up in a 90-day rehab and will go to several extremes to make this happen. At the same time they’re dealing with a few other angsty issues such as Eli’s crush on her best girlfriend and the bully at school who makes each morning miserable, and Anna’s chasing after a boy known as “The Jacket,” while conflicted about taking on the mom role for her sister. This story has a full slate of social issues in addition to alcoholism and coming out: sexual abuse, abandonment, poverty, and more, but the story doesn’t get bogged down with it. Instead, the author uses tight dialogue, snappy little comebacks, relatable characters and a fast pace to keep it all moving. The narrator did a terrific job keeping all of the characters straight and bringing the appropriate emotion to each role. Recommended for YA readers of all ages.
About the Author
Sarah Moon is a teacher and writer. She lives and works in Brooklyn, New York, with her wife, Jasmine, and their daughter, Zora. She is the coeditor of THE LETTER Q, a young adult anthology. Her first YA novel was the critically acclaimed SPARROW; the second is MIDDLETOWN, publishing in 2021 with Levine Querido.
It’s Clean Up Week in my town, a period of more than seven days when residents are permitted to put any unwanted, discarded, broken-down items out on the curb for pickup by the Department of Public Works.
What happens next is anybody’s guess.
As you may imagine this is very popular with my neighbors, who begin piling up their junk days before the trucks arrive, making me dodge dilapidated furniture, unsightly mattresses, demolished children’s toys, and whatever else they see fit to dispose of as I power walk through the neighborhood. Some people, like me, have a tidy little pile in front of the house. Others stack mountains of useless items in front of theirs. I wonder, how long have they been holding on to this crap?
Humans are, by nature, pack rats, hoarders, holding on to things long after their usefulness and beyond their attraction. You never know when you might need that empty ricotta cheese carton. That Chinese food container would make a good cookie tray, if I were ever to bake cookies and bring them somewhere. That new wireless keyboard I bought is terrific, but I better hold on to the old one, just in case. Everyone’s house is full of objects we can’t bring ourselves to throw out because one day we might need them, and what a shame if we have to go out and buy them again.
Never is this more apparent then when you’re tasked with the job to clean out, once and for all, someone’s home after they have passed away. I have done this three times.
Treasure, Trash, Trophies?
The first time I was involved with cleaning out a deceased family member’s home was in 2002. I was just on the periphery, brought in to help out at the tail end of things and after all the “good stuff” had been claimed by others. No bother. I picked up a metal colander and a pretty green bowl I use to this day, and a yellow ceramic flower pot I gave to my daughter. A few other tchotchkes we couldn’t bear to part with take up space on shelves in the garage. At these times we may tend to go for more functional items but often are moved to latch on to the sentimental, those things that bring on memories of the person we’ve lost, which explains the variety of decades old music boxes we continue to cling to although we haven’t started one up in ages.
This particular clean out occurred at my husband’s Aunt Rosie’s house. Aside from the colander, bowl, flower pot, music boxes, and the tchotchkes I acquired I took away from that experience an eye opening lesson I think about to this day, almost 20 years later. You see, Aunt Rose had been a champion bowler for most of her life. She was a legend in town, so much so that when I met people and mentioned my last name they immediately asked if I was related to her. In her attic were hundreds, hundreds, of bowling trophies she’d won over the decades, all sizes, some just a few inches tall, others three or four feet in height and heavy. They gathered dust under the beams of her roof, had languished there for years, forgotten perhaps, but now they needed to be moved because a new buyer was coming in.
The last thing we wanted to do was trash them. After all, they represented a lifetime of hard work, dedication, grit, and determination. A huge accomplishment for a woman of her time, unmarried, childless, working full-time at a good government job. The trash heap would not do. So I made some calls to see if perhaps they could be recycled, melted down, reused, awarded to new champions. No one was interested. The bowling alley where she’d played most of her games didn’t want them. The trophy shop in town said no thanks. We had no place to keep them. And so they ended up out at the curb with the rest of the junk no one could use. Making dozens of trips, we carried them down from the attic and stacked them amid discarded household items, garbage, the last remaining remnants of a home, a life. I felt a bit despondent as I realized that what one might prize most in life can actually mean nothing to others and is easily discarded. She herself had relegated them to the attic, unseen and perhaps unthought of for years. We kept a few for old time’s sake but the rest were taken away with Monday’s trash pick up. Treasure became trash.
Mom’s Home Sweet Home
Years later, in 2018, I was tasked with cleaning out my mother’s home after she passed away. Like with Aunt Rose’s house, a buyer was at the door, this time literally as he actually took part in the clean out! We needed money to pay for her care, and as she was no longer living at home it seemed best to sell her mobile home. We had a buyer just days after we listed it. Unfortunately, Mom passed before the closing. As my brothers and I were all in town for the services we decided to move up the closing and prep the home for immediate takeover, that weekend. My brother Vic called some friends and 15 of us descended upon her home of 20-odd years and had it move-in ready in SIX hours. And there was a LOT of stuff in that home. The cupboards and closets were full. Each person took a room and sorted trash from treasure, making three piles: stuff to keep, stuff to throw out, stuff to donate. Throughout the day people claimed various items and marked them with their names or moved them to their cars. We made several trips to the Salvation Army. The new owner took some of the larger pieces of furniture we couldn’t move.
Mom loved her home. It was in a peaceful little trailer park on the cusp of Cape Cod, her own little slice of heaven where she lived worry-free as it was very affordable for a couple living on Social Security and a pension. In the end, though, a home is just an asset, the greatest asset when circumstances change and paid caregivers are required. And the remainder of its contents became useless once they’d been picked over by family and friends wanting just a little piece of Mom to keep her memory alive: a sugar bowl, a plaque on the wall, a bible, any old thing. And there was tons of it.
As the hours wore on we worked tirelessly, sorting the piles. The one in the rented dumpster grew taller and wider as we moved through her possessions. All the cars were packed door to door. We finished while there was still daylight left. I was the last to leave, locking the door behind me. I brought home more dishes, kitchenware and tchotchkes than I’ll never need or use that now clutter my garage, a clean out job for some other day.
Cleaning Out Vic’s Dream House
Lastly, I inherited the job of cleaning out my brother Vic’s house last fall. Like the others, it too had a buyer at the door. He had just bought it months before and hadn’t fully moved in at the time of his unexpected, inexplicable death. We found boxes of stuff stacked all over the basement, a lifetime of memorabilia, items picked up along the way, some I assume forgotten, some useless. Every box had to be sifted through, every item catalogued and considered: is it trash or treasure? It took weeks, long hours, and sore muscles. It was devastating.
I had not yet had a chance to visit him in his new home (thanks to COVID) and had only seen pictures. It was his dream house. For years he’d wanted to quit his job and move out of the city to the mountains where he could live in peace amid nature, no neighbors. Each time I went there I searched for his presence but it wasn’t there. I had no memories of him in this house.
As I sorted through his things I felt like I was betraying him. “I’m sorry,” I whispered many times through tears as I discarded something or sold something else at a fraction of its cost to whoever was willing to buy it. It was one of the worst tasks I’ve ever faced. Among his possessions were many items he treasured, loved, adored, but in the end they were of little value to anyone else. It sickens me to think of those who walked away with a little piece of Vic for just a few dollars, while at the same time I’m grateful they did so because we had to get rid of all this stuff. We had a deadline, and as the days ticked off and fewer of them remained I was getting nervous, worried that the day of the closing would arrive and the house would still be full of clutter. Thanks to the help of a very committed real estate agent we met our deadline. The sale went through as planned. And I hold on to some treasures I claimed during the cleanout.
It’s Just Stuff
Months later my brother Kenn and I talked about those frenetic, frantic days, marveling at how we got it all done, just four of us and a real estate agent. He too claimed truckloads of belongings in a desperate attempt to hang on to part of our brother. He now realizes, as he can’t get around his basement, that in the end it’s all just “stuff.” Vic is just as gone as he was when we learned of his death, when we buried his ashes, no matter what items we hold onto. In fact, that’s what Vic always said: “It’s just stuff.” He had a practical approach to possessions, even those he treasured most. They’re here to serve us for as long as we want, and when we are no longer here to use them or they become unwanted they’re just “stuff” to move along, trash or treasure, to give or sell to someone else, known or unknown, anyone who has a need, a want, a use.
Minimalism is the new “thing” these days. After being shut up in the house for the past 14 months due to the pandemic it’s time for a deep spring cleaning. Out with the old. Then of course there’s always new clutter to buy to replace the old clutter. In with the new. Reflecting on these experiences I vow to not leave a mess for my daughter to clean out when I’m gone. I’ve begun paring things down. I’m having a yard sale or two this summer to dispense with as much as I can. The rest will go to the Salvation Army. Some of these items will have come from Aunt Rosie’s house, my mom’s, or Vic’s. It’s a cycle. And it’s just stuff.
Please take this journey with me. We can communicate with one another in the comments, perhaps find healing together. Subscribe to this blog to receive email notifications of new posts. Thank you.
Oh, the joys of a bookshop by the sea! I’ve known a few, particularly the Provincetown Bookshop, in Provincetown, Massachusetts, which featured Blue Hydrangeas on its shelves the year it was published, Nantucket Bookworks and the famous Mitchell’s Book Corner on Nantucket Island, also in Massachusetts, and Sundial Books on Chincoteague Island, Virginia. Beachy bookstores are perfect for rainy days or for browsing during an after dinner stroll through town. If you’re lucky, you may catch an author event. Sadly, my family never cared to while away the hours in a bookshop by the sea so my visits were brief, but I never failed to stop in at least once, and each time walked out with something new to read while I reclined in my beach chair, toes in the sand, the waves rolling in for background music. A perfect beach day. 💕
Sophie Lawson should be enjoying her sister’s wedding day. But nothing could have prepared her to see the best man again.
After her mother became bedridden and her father bailed on the family, Sophie found herself serving as a second mother to her twin brother, Seth, and younger sister, Jenna. Sophie supported her siblings through their college years, putting aside her own dream of opening a bookshop in Piper’s Cove—the quaint North Carolina beach town they frequented as children.
Now it’s finally time for Sophie to follow her own pursuits. Seth has a new job, and Jenna is set to marry her college beau in Piper’s Cove. But the destination wedding reunites Sophie with best man Aiden Maddox, her high school sweetheart who left her without a backward glance.
When an advancing hurricane strands Aiden in Piper’s Cove after the wedding, he finds the hotels booked to capacity and has to ask Sophie to put him up until the storm passes. As the two ride out the weather, old feelings rise to the surface. The delay also leaves Sophie with mere days to get her bookshop up and running. Can she trust Aiden to stick around? And will he find the courage to risk his heart?
About the Author
Denise Hunter is the internationally published bestselling author of more than 20 books, including Dancing with Fireflies and The Convenient Groom. She has won The Holt Medallion Award, The Reader’s Choice Award, The Foreword Book of the Year Award, and is a RITA finalist. When Denise isn’t orchestrating love lives on the written page, she enjoys traveling with her family, drinking green tea, and playing drums. Denise makes her home in Indiana where she and her husband are raising three boys. You can learn more about Denise through her website DeniseHunterBooks.com or by visiting her on Facebook.
This was not the typical woman joins DNA registry, woman finds lost relatives, and they all lived happily ever after (except they seemed pretty happy at the end.)
Paige, 43 (a little older than I expected for this story, but hey) starts an account with FamilyTree.com, does the swab, submits it, and moves on. She wasn’t really interested in learning about her genetic makeup or discovering relatives she doesn’t know. The account was a perk for her job at an advertising firm, research, nothing serious.
So Paige is dumbfounded when she receives an email from FamilyTree.com alerting her that someone new to their database is her father. Which completely throws her because her father has died, and she is still in mourning.
Yet all of her life she has felt as though she doesn’t belong to her family. She looks different. Her mother is strangely aloof. Some things don’t add up. She has to know: Has her mother been lying to her all of her life? Was her dad not her dad? If not who is? And what happened between him and her mother?
As Paige explores these possibilities with the help of her friends Maks and Margaux, and her fiancé, Jeff, we’re entertained with their antics, banter, and dedication to Paige (these are some great friends.)
This is a fun, funny read.
Recommended for readers who like quick reads, a little mystery, and an emotional conundrum.
About the Author
Founder of Every Damn Day Writers, Alison Hammer has been spinning words to tell stories since she learned how to talk. A graduate of the University of Florida and the Creative Circus in Atlanta, she lived in 9 cities before settling down in Chicago. During the day, Alison is a VP Creative Director at FCB Chicago, but on nights and weekends you can find her writing upmarket women’s fiction.
Pull out the beach chairs! Mary Alice Monroe has given us a new beach read. I’m a sucker for southern women authors so I’m kicking off my summer reading frenzy with this one!
The New York Times bestselling Beach House series returns with this tender and compassionate novel following the Rutledge family as they face a summer of upheaval and change with perseverance, unity, and a dose of humor, discovering unexpected joys and lessons that will endure long past the season.
The coming of Spring usually means renewal, but for Linnea Rutledge, Spring 2020 threatens stagnation. Linnea faces another layoff, this time from the aquarium she adores. For her—and her family—finances, emotions, and health teeter at the brink. To complicate matters, her new love interest, Gordon, struggles to return to the Isle of Palms from England. Meanwhile, her old flame, John, turns up from California and is quarantining next door. She tries to ignore him, but when he sends her plaintive notes in the form of paper airplanes, old sparks ignite. When Gordon at last reaches the island, Linnea wonders—is it possible to love two men at the same time?
Love in the time of the coronavirus proves challenging, at times humorous, and ever changing. Relationships are redefined, friendships made and broken, and marriages tested. As the weeks turn to months, and another sea turtle season comes to a close, Linnea learns there are more meaningful lessons learned during this summer than opportunities lost, that summer is a time of wonder, and that the exotic lives in our own backyards. In The Summer of Lost and Found, Linnea and the Rutledge family continue to face their challenges with the strength, faith, and commitment that has inspired fans for decades.
Mary Alice Monroe once again delves into the complexities of family relationships and brings her signature “sensitive and true” (Dorothea Benton Frank, New York Times bestselling author) storytelling to this poignant and timely novel of love, courage, and resilience.
New York Times bestselling author Mary Alice Monroe found her true calling in environmental fiction when she moved to coastal South Carolina. Already a successful author, she was captivated by the beauty and fragility of her new home. Her experiences living in the midst of a habitat that was quickly changing gave her a strong and important focus for her novels. She writes richly textured books that delve into the complexities of interpersonal relationships and the parallels between the land and life. Her novels are published worldwide. With the same heart of conservation, Monroe has written two children’s picture books as well. She lives with her family on a barrier island outside Charleston, South Carolina and is an active conservationist, serving on the South Carolina Aquarium Board Emeritis, The Leatherback Trust, The Pat Conroy Literary Center Honorary Board, and Casting Carolinas Advisory Board. For additional information on the environmental topics in Mary Alice’s novels, visit her Conservation page.
Inspired by an astonishing true story from World War II, a young woman with a talent for forgery helps hundreds of Jewish children flee the Nazis in this unforgettable historical novel from the New York Times bestselling author of the “epic and heart-wrenching World War II tale” (Alyson Noel, #1 New York Times bestselling author) The Winemaker’s Wife.
Eva Traube Abrams, a semi-retired librarian in Florida, is shelving books one morning when her eyes lock on a photograph in a magazine lying open nearby. She freezes; it’s an image of a book she hasn’t seen in sixty-five years—a book she recognizes as The Book of Lost Names.
The accompanying article discusses the looting of libraries by the Nazis across Europe during World War II—an experience Eva remembers well—and the search to reunite people with the texts taken from them so long ago. The book in the photograph, an eighteenth-century religious text thought to have been taken from France in the waning days of the war, is one of the most fascinating cases. Now housed in Berlin’s Zentral- und Landesbibliothek library, it appears to contain some sort of code, but researchers don’t know where it came from—or what the code means. Only Eva holds the answer—but will she have the strength to revisit old memories and help reunite those lost during the war?
As a graduate student in 1942, Eva was forced to flee Paris after the arrest of her father, a Polish Jew. Finding refuge in a small mountain town in the Free Zone, she begins forging identity documents for Jewish children fleeing to neutral Switzerland. But erasing people comes with a price, and along with a mysterious, handsome forger named Rémy, Eva decides she must find a way to preserve the real names of the children who are too young to remember who they really are. The records they keep in The Book of Lost Names will become even more vital when the resistance cell they work for is betrayed and Rémy disappears.
An engaging and evocative novel reminiscent of The Lost Girls of Paris and The Alice Network, The Book of Lost Names is a testament to the resilience of the human spirit and the power of bravery and love in the face of evil.
I am newly in love with this author, Kristin Harmel. The Book of Lost Names is a World War II novel told from the resistance movement in France that is engrossing and full of the “feels,” a love story, a war story, and so much more. Definitely swoonworthy.
Eva is a young college student interested in not much more than books, a good Jewish girl who strives to please her parents. But when the Nazis tear them apart she is thrust into a new world that puts her and her mother in danger for their lives and introduces her to a priest and a young forger, Remy, furiously working to save as many Jews as they can. Together they work at their own peril to create the “papers” that will allow these people – including children – to escape to Switzerland and safety.
The story is told in two parts: Eva looking back as an old woman and the story’s unfolding in real time during the war. We learn of Eva and Remy’s slow growing deep love for each other, and Eva’s mother’s refusal to accept what is really happening to them, and the fate of her husband, who was sent east to Auschwitz, and her bitterness at her daughter’s dedication to the resistance. Through it all we see Eva’s efforts to remain true to her Jewish faith and her parents’ expectations for her, resulting in her losing the love of her life.
This is a gripping read that I will remember for a long time. I’m especially thrilled that this author has an undiscovered backlist for me to enjoy this summer. Highly recommended for those who like World War II dramas based on actual circumstances and rich research.
About the Author
Kristin Harmel is the New York Times bestselling, USA Today bestselling, and #1 international bestselling author of The Book of Lost Names, The Winemaker’s Wife, The Room on Rue Amelie, and a dozen other novels that have been translated into 28 languages and sold all over the world.
A former reporter for PEOPLE magazine, Kristin has been writing professionally since the age of 16, when she began her career as a sportswriter, covering Major League Baseball and NHL hockey for a local magazine in Tampa Bay, Florida in the late 1990s. After stints covering health and lifestyle for American Baby, Men’s Health, and Woman’s Day, she became a reporter for PEOPLE magazine while still in college and spent more than a decade working for the publication, covering everything from the Super Bowl to high-profile murders to celebrity interviews. Her favorite stories at PEOPLE, however, were the “Heroes Among Us” features–tales of ordinary people doing extraordinary things.
In addition to a long magazine writing career (which also included articles published in Travel + Leisure, Glamour, Ladies’ Home Journal, Every Day with Rachael Ray, and more), Kristin was also a frequent contributor to the national television morning show The Daily Buzz and has appeared on Good Morning America and numerous local television morning shows.
Kristin was born just outside Boston, Massachusetts and spent her childhood there, as well as in Columbus, Ohio, and St. Petersburg, Florida. After graduating with a degree in journalism (with a minor in Spanish) from the University of Florida, she spent time living in Paris and Los Angeles and now lives in Orlando, with her husband and young son. She is the co-founder and co-host of the popular web series and podcast FRIENDS & FICTION.
No mother deserved accolades for Mother’s Day more than mine. Widowed at 48 with four children aged 10 to 15, she worked as a key punch operator for a men’s clothing retailer, a job she would hold for 25 years. She managed to hang on to our house. We were never hungry and did not know how precarious our financial situation was from week to week. She raised all of us to adulthood with an iron fist, ensuring we’d escape the missteps many young people raised in the city often make: unintended pregnancy, dropping out of school, substance abuse, incarceration. This was due to her fierce discipline, unconditional love, and huge faith.
A Life Built on Faith
Mom was deeply religious – 12 years of Catholic school – and had a commitment to God and church that lasted all of her 91 years. As a girl and as a young woman she went to church daily, a habit she picked up again after her retirement. She’d be out the door before 8 am for morning mass well into her mid-80’s. She prayed constantly. “I don’t make a move without Jesus,” she said. She often prayed to win money on lottery tickets or at Bingo to cover unexpected expenses, and she won, big jackpots. A $500 win once or even twice a month was not a surprise. She was lucky, or, as she said, “blessed.”
One sunny morning, years ago, we sat at the kitchen table having coffee, plotting our next adventure. She suddenly became serious and grasped my hand tightly in hers. “Look at me,” she said, and I gave her my full attention. “When I die,” she continued, “don’t be sad, don’t cry, because I’ll be with Jesus, and I’ve been waiting for that all my life.”
I took her words to heart, even pronounced them at her funeral to let others know not to be sad she’s gone. And for the most part I’m not sad she’s no longer here. I think of her every day, several times, but most of the time tears do not sting my eyes. I remember her words and think of her with Jesus, with my dad, and her second husband, and her mom, and all the others who left this earth before she did, and now my brother Vic. They must be having a good time together in heaven. I hope there’s Bingo, and lots of lottery scratch tickets.
Remembering the Laughter, and the Fun
On this Mother’s Day I think of her and send kisses up to heaven, hoping she’ll catch them. I remember how funny she was, especially at the end of her life. I enjoyed her company so much during that time, in spite of her illness and debility and the difficulties they caused. We always made time to laugh.
Mom loved to be the center of attention and loved to have her picture taken. These shots were taken in the Memorial Garden at the nursing facility where she recovered from a fractured hip. I posed her with the blue hydrangeas and my daughter snapped the photos of her making funny faces, pure Marge. Then she added Snapchat filters and boy, did Mom laugh to see herself this way. She was a ham, and God, did I love her.
I miss her.
I know that Mother’s Day can be controversial. No one is guaranteed a good mother. Women who have been the best of mothers are still abandoned or neglected by their children. Women who yearn for children may never have them.The world is full of women with broken hearts, and hurting children too. Mother’s Day can open wounds, trigger old pain and hurt. On this day, let’s celebrate the women in our lives who have nurtured us, regardless of our relationship. Mothering can come in many ways.
A Mother’s Day Giveaway
In honor of mothers – birth moms, step moms, grandmothers, adoptive mothers, foster mothers, pregnant mothers, mothers of lost children – I have two free books to offer you. One is my novel, Blue Hydrangeas, an Alzheimer’s love story. All of my stories have strong women at their core, and Sara, in Blue Hydrangeas, who has lost a daughter and carried on, is one of them. The Kindle edition is free through May 10th. Get it here.
And I’m offering free copies of AlzAuthors first anthology Alzheimer’s and Dementia Caregiving Stories for free on Kindle as well. AlzAuthors, my non-profit, is the global community of authors writing about Alzheimer’s and dementia from personal experience to light the way for others. In this book, 58 authors tell their deeply personal stories about caring for a loved one, often a mother. The stories are short and make for good reading if you’re a caregiver or just interested in the disease. Get it here through May 10th.
Please share both free books with your moms, friends, family, and fellow readers or caregivers.
Please take this journey with me. We can communicate with one another in the comments, perhaps find healing together. Subscribe to this blog to receive email notifications of new posts. Thank you.
I can never wait for a new release by one of my favorite authors, Nancy Thayer, whom I had the privilege to meet a few years ago at a bookshop on Nantucket. She graciously accepted the gift of a copy of my newly published Blue Hydrangeas. I wonder if she ever read it? Here she is again with another one of her charming Nantucket stories sure to bring me back to The Faraway Land. You should go there, but if you can’t, read Nancy’s books.
A longtime Nantucket resident is trying to make the best of a lonely summer. Her spirited granddaughter is learning what she wants out of life. Unforgettable surprises await them both in this magical, multigenerational novel from New York Times bestselling author Nancy Thayer.
Eleanor Sunderland loves living on Nantucket, in a gorgeous cliffside home that has been in her family for decades. Yet this year she can’t help but feel a bit isolated, even as the island begins to come alive with summer tourists and travelers. Her best friend has skipped town on a last-minute cruise, leaving Eleanor feeling lonely and nostalgic about her family’s weekend trips to the island, made less frequently in the years since her husband’s passing. Now, her money-driven children contact her mostly to complain and to beg her to sell her beloved home for a steep payout. Hoping to kick the season off on a good note, Eleanor decides her seventieth birthday may be the perfect occasion for a much-needed reunion.
Fresh off the heels of her college graduation, Eleanor’s dear granddaughter, Ari, has just ended an engagement that felt less like true love and more like a chore. She longs for a change of scenery and to venture far from her parents’ snobbish expectations. Taking advantage of her newfound freedom, she heads to Nantucket to clear her head before graduate school, moving in with her grandmother and taking a job at the local beach camp. As she watches Eleanor begin to form a bond with an old acquaintance, Ari herself becomes completely smitten with a friend’s charming older brother. But just as grandmother and granddaughter fall into a carefree routine, a few shocking discoveries throw them off course, and their ideas of the future seem suddenly uncertain.
Eleanor and Ari make exciting connections, old and new, over the course of an unpredictable, life-changing few months, and learn to lean on each other through every new challenge they face in life and love, in this tale filled with Nancy Thayer’s signature Nantucket magic.
“Readers come to Nancy Thayer novels for the idyllic Nantucket beaches and lifestyle, but they stay for the characters.”—New York Times bestselling author Mary Alice Monroe
About the Author
I grew up in Kansas, surrounded by prairie, but thirty-five years ago I came to Nantucket to visit a friend who introduced me to the love of my life. Charley and I have now lived on Nantucket for 33 years–year-round, as we say, so I have a special feeling for this island and for the people who come here. I love the island most in the winter when the waves crash dramatically on the shore.
I have a bachelor’s and master’s degree in English literature from the University of Missouri at Kansas City, and I still go to KC often to visit my darling baby sister, who inspires many of the characters in my book. Yes, she is blond, and yes, she is 9 years younger than I am. I still love her.
For a few years, I taught freshman English in several states, and had short stories published in literary reviews. My first novel, Stepping, was published by Doubleday in 1980, and started me off on the career I’ve always wanted. I was a Fellow at the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference in 1980 and in 2015, I received the RT Career Achievement Award.
I’ve published 30 novels–all available on Amazon–including Secrets in Summer, The Island House, The Guest Cottage, Nantucket Sisters, and Island Girls. A Nantucket Wedding was my 30th. The upcoming Surfside Sisters will be out July, 2019! Champagne for everyone!
When I’m not writing novels–all 30 are available on Amazon–I’m walking the beach with my husband or entertaining our 4 grandchildren & their parents & our friends. All my novels are about family and friendships, which I believe are the foundation of a happy, if complicated, life.