Last evening I was just about ready to hit publish on my next book review and it froze up and kicked me out. And of course I lost everything. I hate when that happens. Sorry, next book review will be coming a little later.
Wow! Is all I can say about this book. Again another book that I would not normally pick up on my own. But this may be the best book I have read so far in 2020. Really left an impression.
Hope (the main character) is in need of a safe place and some love. Peg, Hope’s Aunt, has let the past rule her life and she too is in need of some love. Tink, Hope’s daughter needs extra love and to get her childhood back. Three generations of woman and one cherry season maybe just what is needed to move forward from the past and find love and happiness.
This book was the perfect mix of seriousness and entertainment. For me it was a real eye opener. I may have to try a few more books by the author. Great find if 2020.
THE BITTER AND SWEET OF CHERRY SEASON
Author: Molly Fader
Publication Date: June 6, 2020
Publisher: Graydon House Books
Molly Fader is the author of The McAvoy Sisters Book of Secrets. She is also the award-winning author of more than forty romance novels under the pennames Molly O’Keefe and M. O’Keefe. She grew up outside of Chicago and now lives in Toronto. Follow her on Twitter, @mollyokwrites.
For fans of Robyn Carr, commercial women’s fiction about three generations of women who come together at the family orchard to face secrets from the past and learn to believe in the power of hope and forgiveness.
In cherry season, anything is possible…
Everything Hope knows about the Orchard House is from her late-mother’s stories. So when she arrives at the Northern Michigan family estate late one night with a terrible secret and her ten-year-old daughter in tow, she’s not sure if she’ll be welcomed or turned away with a shotgun by the aunt she has never met.
Hope’s aunt, Peg, has lived in the Orchard House all her life, though the property has seen better days. She agrees to take Hope in if, in exchange, Hope helps with the cherry harvest—not exactly Hope’s specialty, but she’s out of options. As Hope works the orchard alongside her aunt, daughter, and a kind man she finds increasingly difficult to ignore, a new life begins to blossom. But the mistakes of the past are never far behind, and soon the women will find themselves fighting harder than ever for their family roots and for each other.
Author Website: http://mollyfader.com/
Night up in Northern Michigan was no joke.
Hope had never seen a dark so dark. It had heft and dimension, like she was driving right into an abyss. She thought about waking up Tink in the back to show her, but the girl had finally fallen asleep and she needed the rest.
And Hope needed a break.
Who knew traveling with a completely silent, angry and traumatized ten-year-old could be so exhausting?
Hope’s phone had died when she got off the highway about twenty minutes ago. In those last few minutes of battery she hadtried to memorize the directions:
Left on Murray Street.
Slight right onto County Road 72.
Your destination is five miles on the right.
But County Road 72 wasn’t well marked and now she feared she was lost. Well, for sure she was lost; in the grand scheme of things she was totally off the map.
But she was clinging to the one ratty thread of hope she had left in her hand.
And then just as that tiny bit of thread started to slip out of her fingers, from the murk emerged a blue sign.
County Road 72.
The road took a long arcing right into the dark, and she unrolled her window, trying to keep herself awake. Adrenaline and gas station coffee could only do so much against two sleepless nights.
Her yawn was so wide it split her lip. Again. Copper-tasting blood pooled in her mouth.
“Shit,” she breathed and pressed the last of the napkins against her mouth. She was even out of napkins.
In the back, Tink woke up. Hope heard the change in her breathing. The sudden gasp like she was waking up from a nightmare.
Or into one. Hard to say.
“Hey,” Hope said, looking over her shoulder into the shadows of the back seat. Her daughter’s pale face like a moon slid into the space between the driver and passenger seats. “We’re almost there.” Hope sounded like they were about to drive up to the gates of Disney World.
Tink rubbed her eyes.
“Did you see the stars?” Hope’s voice climbed into that range she’d recently developed. Dementedly cheerful. Stepford Mom on helium. She winced at the sound of it. That wasn’t her. It wasn’t how she talked to Tink. And yet she couldn’t tune her voice back to normal. “There are so many of them. I don’t think I’ve ever seen so many stars.”
Tink ducked her head to look out the windshield and then turned to cock her head at an angle so she could look out the passenger windows.
They’d gone to an exhibit about the constellations at the Science Center a year ago and Tink still talked about it. Pointing up at Sirius like she’d discovered it herself.
“Aren’t those the pieties?” Hope got the name wrong on purpose, hoping for a snotty-toned correction from her miniature astronomer. Or at least a throat-clearing scoff.
“Sooner or later you’re going to talk to me,” she said. “You’re going to open that mouth and all the words you haven’t said all day are gonna come pouring out.”
“Do you want to ask me questions about where we’re going?” They were, after all, heading deep into Northern Michigan to a place she and Tink had never been, and Hope had never told her about until today.
Tink rubbed her eyes again.
“Or maybe what happened…tonight?” Her gaze bounced between Tink and the road.
When you’re older, you’ll understand. When you’re a mom, you’ll understand. She wanted to say that to her daughter, but she herself barely understood any of what had happened the last two days.
Hope tried a different angle. “I’m telling you, Tink. I know you and you can’t keep this up much longer. I’ll bet you ten bucks you say something to me in five…four…three…two…” She pulled in a breath that tasted like tears and blood.
Please, honey. Please.
“One.” She sighed. “Fine. You win.”
Her beat-up hatchback bounced over the uneven asphaltand Tink crawled from the backseat into the front, her elbow digging into Hope’s shoulder, her flip-flopped foot kicking her in the thigh.
The degree of parenting it would take to stop Tink from doing that, or to discuss the potential dangers and legality of it,was completely beyond her. She was beyond pick your battles, into some new kind of wild west motherhood. Pretend there were no battles.
They drove another five minutes until finally, ahead, there was a golden halo of light over the trees along the side of the road, and Hope slowed down. A gravel driveway snaked through the darkness and she took it on faith that it had been five miles.
“This is it.”
Please let this be it.
The driveway opened up and there was a yellow-brick, two-story house.
The Orchard House. That was what Mom called it in the few stories she’d told about growing up here. Actually, the words she used were The Goddamn Orchard House.
It was a grand old-fashioned place with second-story windows like empty eyes staring down at them. White gingerbread nestled up in the corners of the roof, and there was a big wide porch with requisite rocking chairs.
Seriously, it was so charming, it could have been fake.
The car rolled to a stop and Hope put it in park. Her maniacal new voice failed her, and she just sat there. Silent.
Suddenly the front door opened and a dog – a big one, with big teeth – came bounding out. Cujo stopped at the top of the steps and started barking. Behind the dog came a woman in a blue robe carrying a shotgun.
Tink made a high panicked sound in her voice, climbing up in her seat.
Hope’s impulse was to turn the car around and get out of there. The problem was there was nowhere to turn around to. They had no place left to go.
“It’s okay, honey,” Hope lied. She went as far as to put her hand over Tink’s bony knee, the knob of it fitting her palm like a baseball. “Everything’s going to be all right.”
More desperate than brave, Hope popped open the door. The dog’s bark, unmuffled by steel and glass, was honest-to-god blood curdling. “Hi!” she yelled, trying to be both cheerful and loud enough to be heard over the barking.
“Get your hands up,” the woman on the porch shouted.
Hope shoved her hands up through the crack between the door and the car and did a kind of jazz hands with her fingers.
“What do you want?” the woman asked.
“Are you Peg—”
“I can’t hear you.”
She stood up, her head reaching up over the door. “Are you Peg?”
“Never mind, me. Who the hell are you?” She pointed the business end of the gun toward them.
Hope quickly side-stepped away from the car door, and Tink reached across the driver’s seat and slammed it shut.
The heavy thud of the engaged lock was unmistakeable.
“You don’t know me—”
“My name is Hope,” she said.
The gun lowered and the woman’s face changed. From anger to something more careful. “Hope?”
“Yeah. I’m Denise’s girl. I’m…well, you’re my aunt?”
Excerpted from The Bitter and Sweet of Cherry Seasonby Molly Fader, Copyright © 2020 by Molly Fader. Published by Graydon House Books.
It took me a while to get into this book but once I did I couldn’t wait to see what was going to happen next. (Personal Note: I think it was just me and not the book that was the hold up.). This book was a nice breath of fresh air during all things COVID.
The backdrop of this book is College Graduation weekend. And how a blended family copes with everyone coming together for the twin graduates. This book I’m sure is a great example of what a college graduation is like for a blended family (but personally I have no experience with that).
For me it’s almost 15 years since my college graduation so this book took me back a little. With graduations taking a new look this year because of COVID it was nice to have this book as a reminder of what they used to look like. I say this a lot but it is true a lot, this was a book I would not normally have picked up on my own but I am so glad I read it.
Author: Wendy Francis
Publication Date: May 5, 2020
Publisher: Graydon House Books
Wendy Francis is a former book editor and the author of three novels: The Summer Sail, The Summer of Good Intentions, and Three Good Things. Her essays have appeared in Good Housekeeping, The Washington Post, Yahoo Parenting, The Huffington Post, and WBUR’s Cognoscenti. Born and raised in the Midwest, she now lives outside of Boston with her husband and son.
The drama is hot and the drinks are flying in Wendy Francis’s witty, warm, and quirky family drama, BEST BEHAVIOR (Graydon House; May 5, 2020; $17.99 USD). Heartfelt and relatable, Francis cleverly portrays the nuances of a less-than-perfect but more-than-loving blended family in all its messy glory.
Meredith Parker and her husband Joel have been dreading the weekend of their twins’ college graduation. Not only does it mean that Dawn and Cody are flying out of Meredith’s nest to live in Chicago and North Dakota, but it also means Meredith will have to deal with her insufferable ex-husband, Roger, his pompous parents and his new wife Lily, so young she could be the twins’ sister! But Meredith is willing to be the Jackie O. of college graduations. She can handle that for three days, can’t she?
Meanwhile, Dawn, who has spent a lifetime cleaning up after her ‘golden boy’ brother, discovers a mess even she may not be able to get Cody out of. He’s been acting weird last the few weeks of school; picking up smoking, breaking up with his girlfriend, but this… this is definitely a problem. She needs to figure out what’s going on with her twin before he really ruins his life.
On Thursday morning, the temperature outside is seventy-one degrees and climbing while Meredith Parker considers which of a thousand recommended places she would like to visit before she dies. Not that she’s anticipating dying anytime soon, but she needs a distraction. She figures she has already seen at least a handful—Yosemite (breathtaking, as advertised), Niagara Falls (overrated in her opinion ‒ and cold), and San Francisco (lovely, with a charming hippie vibe). It’s the exotic locales that have eluded her over the past forty-six years, places like Tahiti or Rome or the Swiss Alps. Although, come to think of it, Meredith doesn’t really care for skiing, so she can probably cross the Alps right off her list. But Rome would be nice—all that history and pasta—and wine! A cheap fare must be available on one of those best-deal websites, if she searches long enough. Yes, she’s fairly certain she can persuade her husband, Joel, that Rome should be their first-ever international destination, the new green pin on their Where Have You Been? map that hangs on the wall in the den. That is, of course, once the kids have settled into their new homes.
And with the thought of her children’s imminent departure, Meredith’s throat tightens. What’s the use? she thinks. No number of mental hijinks will make her forget the real purpose of today’s trip. She, Joel, and her mother, Carol, are tracing the familiar route up from New Haven to Boston, as they have dozens of times before, the trees beyond the window zipping by in a curtain of emerald green.
But this weekend will be different.
Because this weekend marks the twins’ college graduation, an event that seemed impossibly far away only a few years ago, even a few months ago. Tomorrow her babies, the ones she used to cradle in each arm, will accept their hard-earned diplomas and officially step out into the great wide beyond, otherwise known as Adult Life.
Last night, when she’d gone to her neighborhood book club, the room had been abuzz with excitement over the upcoming weekend. “You must be bursting with pride!” her friend Lauren exclaimed. “I can’t believe that Cody and Dawn are already graduating. It’s so exciting.” And Meredith had nodded, as if she, too, were in a state of shock over this improbable fact.
It’s true that she couldn’t be prouder of the twins, but the moment is bittersweet. Soon, Cody will be off to Bismarck, North Dakota, to teach high school history, and Dawn is headed to Chicago to work at an advertising firm. Her kids will be so far away, they might as well be moving to Bangkok. Even though she knows it’s irrational, Meredith is racked by the feeling that after this summer she might never see her children again.
Admittedly, she is at a corner, or more specifically, at a crossroads in her life. Images of a two-year-old, chubby Cody racing into her arms or of a young Dawn asking for “one more good-night tuck-in” swim through her mind. She can still feel those small arms wrapped tightly around her, the love so palpable she used to think her heart would leap from her chest to theirs. How is it possible that her babies are graduating from college this weekend?
With Lauren’s comment, Meredith had cast her gaze around the book group (who, truth be told, rarely ever discussed the book at hand) and realized with a start that the difference between her own life and that of her friends’ suddenly stretched before her like a giant yawning chasm: Meredith was about to say goodbye to her kids once and for all, while her neighbors still had years of child-raising ahead of them.
Lauren had offered her an affectionate pat on the shoulder, as if she could read Meredith’s thoughts, and handed over a generous pour of chardonnay, which Meredith accepted gratefully. Maybe, she allowed herself to consider, Lauren was right. Maybe the graduation weekend would be exciting, as pleasing as a perfectly folded fitted sheet. Tuck this person into that corner, that person over there, smooth it, smooth it, and everyone would get along swimmingly.
Given her patched-together, hybrid family, though, Meredith sincerely doubts it. Her ex-husband, Roger, will be bringing Lily, his new wife of six months. And as fine as Meredith is with the idea of Roger’s remarrying after all these years, his new marriage somehow feels forced, as if he has just purchased a new set of golf clubs that he’s eager to show off to the rest of the family.
“I know. It’s crazy, right?” Meredith had managed to get out after swallowing her wine. “The twins are officially all grown up.”
Lauren, a corporate attorney, has two young girls, six and eight, whom Meredith adores and dreams of kidnapping one day (she tells herself it wouldn’t really be kidnapping, though, since they’re all neighbors, and obviously she would do Lauren the courtesy of asking before moving the girls into her own home.). As it is, she helps out with the girls whenever she can, usually after school when Lauren works late and Meredith is already back from her shift in the NICU. The girls have her pegged for a softy and know full well that she will buy them ice cream, bake chocolate chip cookies on a whim, and watch every terrible mermaid movie that’s available for streaming. They call her “Auntie,” which makes her heart swell and break simultaneously.
Some days she wishes she and Joel had tried for their own children way back when, even though the timing was off—they didn’t meet till Meredith was in her late thirties—and there would have been a considerable age gap, more than a decade, between a new baby and the twins. But at least she would still hear young voices in the house, would have someone to ferry to ballet practice or help with a book report. As exhausting as it could be some days (that Taj Mahal built out of marshmallows for fifth grade nearly killed her), she misses the maternal responsibilities she was once counted on for, feels the lack like an unfamiliar brittleness settling into her bones.
Theoretically, she understands that the twins flew the coop four years ago when they left for college. But that was different. The kids continued to call every Sunday night, and she and Joel could drop by on the odd weekend. Luckily, both children had decided on the same college in Boston, making spur-of-the-moment visits ridiculously convenient. But traveling so far away for jobs where she might see them only once or twice a year for Thanksgiving and Christmas? She honestly doesn’t know how—or if—she can handle it.
Thankfully, no matter what faults she and her ex-husband, Roger, might have had as a couple, their kids have turned out all right—better than all right—and Meredith lets herself relax slightly with this thought now. Dawn, hands down her most difficult child during the teenage years, has blossomed into a bright young woman. Gone are the days when Meredith’s every comment would prompt an eye roll from her daughter. And despite an unfortunate hiccup with the Administrative Board last year, Dawn has managed to pull off graduating with honors. Meanwhile, Cody (Meredith’s lips part into a smile when she imagines him striding across the stage in his gown) is graduating Phi Beta Kappa. Not only that, but he set the school record for all-time rushing yards this fall, leading his football team to their best season in fifteen years. Cody has become a rock star on his small New England campus, and as his mother, Meredith can’t help but feel a bit smug. After all, she was the one who whipped up protein shake after protein shake and lugged him to hundreds of high school practices. She was the one who allowed her lovely den to be transformed into a weight room filled with smelly sneakers and barbells for four years.
If she knows one thing deep in her bones, it’s that she is a good mom, one who has raised hardworking, resilient children. She imagines holding her breath as they parade across Bolton’s commencement stage, much as she did when they took their first ungainly steps across the kitchen floor, Cody wheeling ahead in wide, determined strides and Dawn following a few paces behind, her tongue twisted into a tight coil of determination. Meredith is enormously proud of them, and, quite honestly, of herself. She didn’t abandon her kids like Roger did, when he’d seen fit to put his penis where it didn’t belong. But that was nearly ten years ago, water under the bridge—more of a tepid stream wandering through her mind these days than a charging river.
For the last month we have been busy working around the house so we can do some major maintenance. But working everyday and coming home to work around the house and spending the weekends working around the house not only has me exhausted by bed time but also way behind on my reading. “30 years of stuff” takes a while to go through. I can’t wait to be done and get some reading time back. I’ve really missed it.