Angels All over Town

( 9 )


New York Times bestselling author Luanne Rice made her triumphant debut with this delicately drawn but emotionally powerful portrait of a woman’s extraordinary journey of the heart and soul–a timeless story of love, sisterhood, and the hope that emerges even out of heartbreak....

Una Cavan doesn’t believe in ghosts. But ghosts seem to believe in her. At least, her father’s ghost does, walking into and out of her life as casually as if he were entering and exiting a room. Una has...

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New York Times bestselling author Luanne Rice made her triumphant debut with this delicately drawn but emotionally powerful portrait of a woman’s extraordinary journey of the heart and soul–a timeless story of love, sisterhood, and the hope that emerges even out of heartbreak....

Una Cavan doesn’t believe in ghosts. But ghosts seem to believe in her. At least, her father’s ghost does, walking into and out of her life as casually as if he were entering and exiting a room. Una has always believed the Cavan women had the power of witches, and from the beaches of Connecticut to the bustle of New York City they’ve shared the special unbreakable bond of sisters. No man has been able to come between them…until Lily marries the “perfect” man and begins to drift away and Margo gets engaged. With another failed relationship behind her, and a thriving career as an actress ahead of her, Una wonders if she’s destined to be alone–or if there isn’t something more, something magical that life has in store for her. Then an unexpected encounter gives her the answer she’s been seeking….

From the Trade Paperback edition.

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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
This appealing first novel explores the emotional growth of three sisters as they fall in love, marry, and struggle with changing loyalties. Una, the eldest, narrates the story. She is an actress in a popular daytime soap; the others are art history students. The youngest sister is first to marry. Her husband is a wealthy and possessive doctor, jealous of her affection for her sisters. The middle sister finds a mate also, and Una first experiences an unsatisfactory romance, then truly believes she has fallen in love. Her new love is tested by a promotional tour to Europe and a starring role in a movie. Occasional visits from their father's ghost provide a sort of moral commentary. This is a thoroughly modern romance, humorous and well written. Recommended for public libraries. Margaret B. Allen, M.L.S., formerly with Bennington Free Lib., Vt.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780553568264
  • Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 1/30/2007
  • Format: Mass Market Paperback
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 416
  • Sales rank: 1,434,004
  • Product dimensions: 4.15 (w) x 6.85 (h) x 1.10 (d)

Meet the Author

Luanne Rice
Luanne Rice is the author of twenty-five novels, most recently Last Kiss, Light of the Moon, What Matters Most, The Edge of Winter, Sandcastles, Summer of Roses, Summer’s Child, Beach Girls, and her soon-to-be-released new hardcover, The Letters, written with Joseph Monninger. She lives in New York City and Old Lyme, Connecticut.

From the Trade Paperback edition.


Luanne Rice is the New York Times- bestselling author who has inspired the devotion of readers everywhere with her moving novels of love and family. She has been hailed by critics for her unique gifts, which have been described as "a beautiful blend of love and humor, with a little magic thrown in."

Rice began her writing career in 1985 with her debut novel Angels All Over Town. Since then, she has gone on to pen a string of heartwarming bestsellers. Several of her books have been adapted for television, including Crazy in Love, Blue Moon, Follow the Stars Home, and Beach Girls.

Rice was born in New Britain, Connecticut, where her father sold typewriters and her mother, a writer and artist, taught English. Throughout her childhood, Rice spent winters in New Britain and summers by Long Island Sound in Old Lyme, where her mother would hold writing workshops for local children. Rice's talent emerged at a very young age, and her first short story was published in American Girl Magazinewhen she was 15.

Rice later attended Connecticut College, but dropped out when her father became very ill. At this point, she knew she wanted to be a writer. Instead of returning to college, Rice took on many odd jobs, including working as a cook and maid for an exalted Rhode Island family, as well as fishing on a scallop boat during winter storms. These life experiences not only cultivated the author's love and talent for writing, but shaped the common backdrops in her novels of family and relationships on the Eastern seaboard. A true storyteller with a unique ability to combine realism and romance, Rice continues to enthrall readers with her luminous stories of life's triumphs and challenges.

Good To Know

Some interesting outtakes from our interview with Luanne:

"I take guitar lessons."

  • "I was queen of the junior prom. Voted in, according to one high school friend I saw recently, as a joke because my date and I were so shy, everyone thought it would be hilarious to see us onstage with crowns on our heads. It was 1972, and the theme of the prom was Color My World. For some reason I told my guitar teacher that story, and he said Yeah, color my world with goat's blood."

  • "I shared a room with both sisters when we were little, and I felt sorry for kids who had their own rooms."

  • "To support myself while writing in the early days, I worked as a maid and cook in one of the mansions in Newport, Rhode Island. I'd learned to love to cook in high school, by taking French cooking from Sister Denise at the convent next door to the school. The family I worked for didn't like French cooking and preferred broiled meat, well done, and frozen vegetables. They were particular about the brand—they liked the kind with the enclosed sauce packet. My grandmother Mim, who'd always lived with us, had taken the ferry from Providence to Newport every weekend during her years working at the hosiery factory, so being in that city made me feel connected to her."

  • "I lived in Paris. The apartment was in the Eighth Arrondissement. Every morning I'd take my dog for a walk to buy the International Herald Tribune and have coffee at a café around the corner. Then I'd go upstairs to the top floor, where I'd converted one of the old servant's rooms into a writing room, and write. For breaks I'd walk along the Seine and study my French lesson. Days of museums, salons du thé, and wandering the city. Living in another country gave me a different perspective on the world. I'm glad I realized there's not just one way to see things.

    While living there, I found out my mother had a brain tumor. She came to Paris to stay with me and have chemotherapy at the American Hospital. She'd never been on a plane before that trip. In spite of her illness, she loved seeing Paris. I took her to London for a week, and as a teacher of English and a lover of Dickens, that was her high point.

    After she died, I returned to France and made a pilgrimage to the Camargue, in the South. It is a mystical landscape of marsh grass, wild bulls, and white horses. It is home to one of the largest nature sanctuaries in the world, and I saw countless species of birds. The town of Stes. Maries de la Mer is inspiring beyond words. Different cultures visit the mysterious Saint Sarah, and the presence of the faithful at the edge of the sea made me feel part of something huge and eternal. And all of it inspired my novel Light of the Moon."

  • "I dedicated a book to Bruce Springsteen. It's The Secret Hour, which at first glance isn't a novel you'd connect with him—the novel is about a woman whose sister might or might not have been taken by a serial killer. I wrote it during a time when I felt under siege, and I used those deeply personal feelings for my fiction. Bruce was touring and I was attending his shows with a good friend. The music and band and Bruce and my friend made me feel somehow accompanied and lightened as I went through that time and reached into those dark places.

    During that period I also wrote two linked books—Summer's Childand Summer of Roses. They deal with the harsh reality of domestic violence and follow The Secret Hour and The Perfect Summer When I look back at those books, that time of my life, I see myself as a brave person. Instead of hiding from painful truths, I tried to explore and bring them to the light through my fiction. During that period, I met amazing women and became involved with trying to help families affected by abuse—in particular, a group near my small town in Connecticut, and Deborah Epstein's domestic violence clinic at Georgetown University Law Center. I learned that emotional abuse leaves no overt outward scars, but wounds deeply, in ways that take a long time to heal. A counselor recommended The Verbally Abusive Relationshipby Patricia Evans. It is life-changing, and I have given it to many women over the years."

  • "I became a vegetarian. I decided that, having been affected by brutality, I wanted only gentleness and peace in my life. Having experienced fear, I knew I could never willingly inflict harm or fear on another creature. All is related. A friend reminds me of a great quote in the Zen tradition: "How you do anything is how you do everything."
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      1. Date of Birth:
        September 25, 1955
      2. Place of Birth:
        New Britain, CT

    Read an Excerpt

    Chapter One

    The problem was not that I believed in ghosts. I did not believe in ghosts, but I was visited by one. I could not deny it. When I least expected to, I would see my father, solid of body, curly of hair, in true corporeal splendor, even though he had died months earlier. Once I saw him across the floor at the Rose Room in the Algonquin Hotel. I spotted him from behind. He was dining with two other men, and his graying golden-brown hair looked as springy as ever. I made no attempt to speak to him. I sat in my seat, not eating my chef's salad, watching his familiar movements: the way he drank his martini, smoked his cigarette, gestured expansively. I guessed that he was trying to sell some land to his table companions. I had no doubt that he would pick up the tab.

    The next time I saw him was at the apartment I shared with my sisters in Newport. It was a small, dingy, second-floor walkup, made cool by a breeze off the harbor. One close August morning Lily and Margaret had left for the boatyard where they worked, and I had just finished another cup of coffee. I grabbed an old Redbook and headed for the bathroom. There I found my father, seated on the toilet, reading the New York Daily News.

    "Oh, I'm sorry," I said, backing out and slamming the door behind me.

    "Hang on a sec, I'm almost through," he called. My heart was racing, but from embarrassment, not shock. I did not ask myself how my father, a man who had died wearing two colostomy bags, could be taking a normal shit. Nor did I wonder why he was reading the Daily News, a tabloid he had considered vulgar in life, and which, besides, was not readily available in Newport. I just sat at the kitchen table and waited.

    Presently he flushed the toilet and opened the door. He wore a white dress shirt with the sleeves rolled up and a pair of faded madras shorts. Now that detail shocked me: he had pale, bony, freckled legs covered with curly reddish hair, and I had never seen him wear shorts.

    "Sweetheart," he said, opening his arms to embrace me.

    I raced toward him and gave him a huge hug. "Dad, are you real?" I asked, feeling queer for asking: he felt solid and sweaty.

    "Yes, sweetheart, I am. Unfortunately, I can't stay long." He checked his watch, a cheap Bulova, the one he had worn ever since I could remember.

    "Tell me everything. What has it been like?"

    We sat opposite each other at the kitchen table. Lily's plastic birth-control Pilpac was open beside the pepper shaker, and I tried to surreptitiously glide it under a napkin. My father waved his hand.

    "Don't bother doing that," he said. "I've seen it already. That's the sheer hell of it. I can see everything, the good along with the bad, and I can't tell you a damn thing about what to do."

    Instantly my mind was flooded with images of things, the good along with the bad, that I had done since he had died. Alastair "Boom-Boom" Brady's face kept swimming to the forefront, and I kept blinking my eyes to push it away.

    "That puke you're thinking of now, for instance. What is he, Australian?"

    "Yes, he's a sailor. He's the bowman on a famous racer."

    "I don't give a goddamn if he won the America's Cup, for godsakes. He's no good. You're a fine actress, even if it is for a soap opera. If you aren't going to have respect for yourself . . ." He patted his breast pocket and removed a pack of L&Ms. He glanced around, and I handed him a matchbox from the Candy Store. Examining the logo, one gilded mermaid with two graceful tails, he lit his cigarette and handed the matchbox back to me. "And you should stay away from that place. The Candy Store. A bunch of guys with their hands in the cookie jar."

    I fought to keep my mind blank. "Mom's good," I said.

    "I know. I like the way she finished the living room. Tell her the beam's sagging, though. She'd better get a brace. In fact, have her call Creighton Albemarle--he owes me money. He'll do a good job."

    "What do you mean, the beam's sagging? Is there any danger?" Just before my father died, he and my mother began renovating our summer cottage on Long Island Sound, converting the old screen porch into part of the living room, replacing the screens with huge Thermopane windows, removing the wall that had separated the porch from the living room, leaving one beam to bear the weight of the house. My mother lived alone there, year-round now, painting watercolors. My father's words frightened me; I thought I had noticed a slight bow myself.

    "Nothing immediate, my angel. But have her take care of it before winter. I don't like the thought of snow on the roof."

    "Dad, can I tell her I've seen you?"

    He grinned then, a wide, easy grin that lifted his hazel eyes and made creases in his pale cheeks. He had a lean face and a long, straight nose. The Cavan nose. I had it myself. When I was young I once looked in a mirror and called my nose long. "Aristocratic," my father had corrected, only partly pretending to be angry.

    "Telling people could be a problem, couldn't it?" he said now. "They'll wonder why I don't stay."
    "Why don't you stay?" I asked.

    His face went sad. My father's expression could run through emotions the way a flutist plays scales. "I just can't, Una," he said.

    "But you'll come back?"

    "If I can."

    I stared at him, thinking that he needed another haircut. The day before he died, I had given him a bad haircut. He was lying in his hospital bed, weak and shrunken from cancer, and his thick, curly hair made his head itch. "They won't get me a barber," he had said. So I had picked up a pair of scissors, the crooked kind used by nurses to cut bandages, and chopped off all his hair. The remaining tufts sticking out on his skull, combined with his wide, darting eyes, had made him look like an owl.

    "Whooo!" he said to me now. Then he rose, hugged me hard, and left through the front door.

    I ran down Brewer Street to The Yard. Lily was making fast a long white ketch to a floating dock. Boom-Boom stood at the bow, a line in his heavy hands. He called my name, making it sound like "Ina" in his Australian accent, but I ignored him. "You have got to come with me," I said to Lily. "Where's Margo?"

    She looked at me as if I were crazy. "I'm in the middle of something here."

    "You've got to come now."

    Lily gauged the situation. She knew I didn't often make demands unless they were urgent. Throwing the remaining untied line to Boom-Boom, she walked along the dock with me. We found Margaret driving the Travelift, a huge apparatus used for moving huge boats. "Margo!" Lily called. "Come on down."

    Lily was our middle sister, two years younger than I, but she had seniority over Margaret at the boatyard as well as in our family. Margaret hurried across the hot asphalt parking lot, and we went into a ramshackle shed at the far end of The Yard.

    "Una has big business," Lily explained.

    "You won't believe this," I said. I remember twisting my hands, trying to find a clear way to tell them what had happened. I settled on directness. "I saw Dad."

    "When?" Lily asked, her voice giving nothing away.

    "Today--ten minutes ago. He looks great. He misses us all." I looked into both my sisters' faces. Lily's eyebrows were arched, her mouth thin and set. Margo ducked her head, patting the pockets of her khaki shorts for cigarettes. They both had wild yellow hair, unlike mine, which was reddish. The sun shined through the open windows behind them, lighting their heads like halos. I tried to breathe more steadily. "He was in the bathroom, reading the paper. I didn't buy the Daily News, and I know you two didn't, so how else would it be there? It's right on the floor, soaking wet because he dropped it on the bathmat." I gave Margo a dirty look because she was notorious for forgetting to hang up her wet bath things.

    "Dad hates scandal sheets," Margo said.

    "He used to, but apparently he likes them now."

    "What did he say?" Lily asked.

    "Okay. He said--" I laughed. "Typical. Guess what he said about Boom-Boom?"

    " 'Stay away from that no-good punk,' " Lily said.

    " 'Puke.' He said 'no-good puke.' "

    "That is typical," Margo agreed.

    "He also said that the Candy Store is bad, and also that Mom should get the beam fixed."

    "No kidding. The house is ready to collapse," Lily said.

    "What else?" Margo asked.

    "That's about it. We just sat and talked."

    I noticed, of course, the looks my sisters exchanged. I couldn't blame them for not truly believing me, no matter how badly I wanted them to; I hadn't told them about the time at the Algonquin for that precise reason. But this time seemed more compelling. Our father had appeared to me in their apartment.

    "Listen," Lily said. "We'd better get back to work. You can finish telling us about it later."

    I walked back up Brewer Street's small hill, disappointed that they hadn't felt more inclined to keep open minds. My day stretched emptily ahead, until five that evening, when they would come home.

    All three of us were on leaves of sorts. They from Brown University, where they were both graduate students in the Art History Department, and I from my role as Delilah Grant on Beyond the Bridge, a soap opera that filmed five days a week, with occasional weeks off during which we were supposed to make public appearances at shopping malls and guest spots on game shows. But my character had disappeared for the summer. In September she would reappear, fleeing to Lake Huron, to an isolated cabin where she could forget a painful episode with her long-term lover, and where a psychopathic fur trapper would eventually corner her.

    It had seemed like a perfect time to reunite with Lily and Margo. Our father had died in January; except for the two weeks surrounding his death when we had converged on our mother's house in Connecticut, we hadn't lived together for eight years. Presence is everything.

    I used to say texture is everything, while Lily and Margo would say color is everything. We would have fantastic debates. Driving past the marsh at Black Hall, I would say the texture of the cattails and grasses, spiky and tubular, was the most beautiful. Margo and Lily would argue for the color: the shades of blue, green, and gold. (Although they preferred wilder colors with evocative names: apricot, persimmon, tea rose, vermilion, emerald, azure.) We invented names for our preferences.

    The color school was Karsky (named for a boy Margo had known in high school) and the texture school was Schlumberger (pronounced shlum-bear-zhay, an extremely textural name).

    Then we invented Vuarnet. Once when I went to Providence to visit them, we walked down Angell Street to the Rhode Island School of Design. The students there dressed like anarchists in black leather, skinny cotton shifts over black tights, white oxford-cloth shirts worn as dresses with studded leather belts, tight pedal pushers worn over plastic flip-flops. They had razor haircuts. They wanted to keep their skin pure white, so they wore sunscreen and walked on the shady side of the street. Margo and Lily told me the sunglasses they favored were Vuarnets and Ray-Bans, so we started calling that cool, new look "Vuarnet."

    I remembered that day perfectly. They took me to the graduate student show at the RISD Museum. There were mammoth geometric paintings that resembled daggers on one wall; narrow, meticulously drawn architectural-type renderings which, when carefully regarded, showed men in lewd positions with each other; a video segment in which a TV screen was set into a doghouse and, when the viewer pressed the button, an image of feet pacing a room would appear on the screen and a whiny voice berating its father for neglect and mistreatment would blare out. One student had hired a crane to hoist a brand-new white Lincoln Continental into an interior courtyard, and that was his project. There were ceramic vases, enameled jewelry, furniture including a teak bed suspended from the ceiling in the midst of matching dining room table and chairs. Its title: Dining with the Invalid.

    One student was walking through the show with his parents. Margo whispered to Lily and me that the father reminded her of a coal miner from West Virginia: he was brown and wizened, as if he spent much time underground, and he wore a thin, short-sleeved, green nylon shirt with a pack of Camels showing through the pocket. His posture was stooped. He walked around the gallery scowling while his wife, a proud fat woman, walked ahead with her son. "How do you like it, Willard?" she asked the man, and he said, "Too many doodads."

    That cracked Margo up. She wanted to think of a school we could call "Doodad." We tried to connect it with Dada, but nothing sprang to mind. It seemed to overlap Vuarnet too much. On the way to their apartment, I stepped on a wad of gum. By the time I noticed it, it had stones, hair, and grass pressed into it. "My RISD thesis," I said. "Very Doodad."

    "Vuarnet," Lily and Margo said at once.

    Crossing the Brown Green, students recognized me from Beyond the Bridge. "Hey, Delilah," some of them called. Some of them just stared, but many asked whether I was planning to marry Beck Vandeweghe, my star-crossed lover and editor of the Mooreland Tribune. One girl asked for my autograph and said she had planned her entire spring semester around the show. I was used to such attention. I signed the autograph, secretly pleased that my sisters should see me adulated, but one thought nagged at my mind.

    As Delilah, I had another family: my father, Paul Grant, and his scheming new wife Selena, my sisters Nicola, Stephanie, and Bianca, my half-brother Scott, and my illegitimate baby, Jennifer. But walking across the green that day, listening to people ask me about the Grants, I thought of my own father who had died two months earlier, and whose ghost I had seen the week before at the Algonquin. I was walking between my two real sisters, but that meant nothing to my fans.

    At five-thirty, Lily and Margo came quietly into the apartment. They looked tired from working on the docks all day for the wages they stretched to cover their summer expenses. The sun, an orange ball over Newport Harbor, blazed through our west-facing windows. I was lying on the couch, with a smooth cotton sheet between me and the upholstery. Itchy wool upholstery.

    From the Trade Paperback edition.

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    Reading Group Guide

    1. What was the effect of the author's note? What did you discover about the development of Luanne Rice's writing career?

    2. Why might Una be the only Cavan sister to report having visions of her father? How would you characterize her memories of him? What did he teach her about life and love?

    3. What did you discover about Una, Margo, and Lily during the August summer that opens the novel? What does that precious period of freedom reveal about their true selves?

    4. What accounts for Lily's attraction to Henk? What choices would you have made if you had been in her shoes? How would you react if a close friend or sibling married someone so controlling?

    5. Una frequently worries that she should have taken her father's advice and stayed at Julliard. What are the benefits and limitations of her life as a soap star? How does she view the notion of being an artist, and cultivating the passion for art shared by the women in her family?

    6. Una tells Joe that family, scholarship, and chastity were drummed into her as she was growing up. What are the defining cultural traits of Joe's family? What did Una hope for in a relationship with him?

    7. What is the dynamic among Una and her siblings? Do they share an equal balance of influence?

    8. How does your level of trust compare to Una's? Is she too cautious about men, and too protective of her family, or is she not careful enough?

    9. Discuss Una's friendship with Jason. How do his experiences with love compare to Una's? Does their soap storyline mirror their lives at all, or does it simply provide them with an income (and sometimes with comic relief)?

    10. Flying overseas on the Concorde, Una has mixed feelings about her European tour. What turning points occur during the trip? What enables her to navigate such an extravagant world without becoming superficial?

    11. Discuss the narrative style of the novel. What techniques does Luanne Rice use to create vivid scenery, realistic dialogue, and memorable characters? What advantages might there have been in the first-person narration? How would you describe Una's voice, and her outlook on life?

    12. What qualities make Sam such an ideal guy? Was he right to object to Emile's presence at Thanksgiving? Do he and Una have a healthy approach to conflict?

    13. How does Una's mother compare to yours? Do you believe that most daughters perpetuate the personalities and ideals of their mothers?

    14. How did the time period affect Angels All Over Town? What aspects of family and relationships haven't changed at all since the book was first published? What details, such as the role of handwritten letters rather than transatlantic e-mails, mark a change in eras? Would this chapter of Una's life have played out any differently in the twenty-first century?

    15. Discuss the book's title. Who are Una's angels? For whom does she serve as an angel?

    16. What themes were begun in this novel and portrayed in other ways throughout Luanne Rice's later work? What hopes and transformations are captured in her fiction?

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    Customer Reviews

    Average Rating 2.5
    ( 9 )
    Rating Distribution

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    Sort by: Showing all of 9 Customer Reviews
    • Anonymous

      Posted June 30, 2006

      Long and Dreary

      I have always been impressed with Luanne Rice novels, until this one. As another reviewer said, the only reason I kept reading was to learn how it ended. Very disappointing!

      3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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    • Posted June 13, 2009

      more from this reviewer

      I Also Recommend:

      A bit of fluff

      This book was OK. The charecters were believable at mmost times and the story made sense it just was slow and hard to get thru at times It was like sitting in church as a child in itchy clothes, but I finished it because it was Luanne'. Her newest book the Geometry of Sisters is 100% better.

      1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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    • Anonymous

      Posted April 21, 2007

      Not a big fan

      This was the first and most likely the last book I read from Luanne Rice. I bought the book because I thought it would be more interesting than it was. Unfortunately I was stuck on a plane for 8 hours and it was the only thing I had to read. I really was not impressed at all. I started to read Beach Girls because someone had given me that book as well. I got through the first two chapters and couldn't take it anymore. I feel that she is too 'wordy' there is too much explaination about the surrondings and not enough about the story.

      1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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    • Anonymous

      Posted May 18, 2006

      A Difficult Read

      I didn't like this book, and I've read almost all of Luanne Rice's books. Wanting to know how it ended was the only thing that kept me reading this book. It seemed disorganized and vague.

      1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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    • Anonymous

      Posted February 26, 2006

      Wonderful read!

      The emotions in this, Luanne Rice's first novel, draw you deeply into her characters. Anyone could identify with these people as they go through major life-altering decisions as they attempt to decide what is best for each of them.

      1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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    • Anonymous

      Posted June 14, 2003

      not the best

      I love Luanne Rice books but this isn't too good. If you read this book still read on of the others. It is rather apparent that this was her first. The quality of the writing in the later books is much better.

      1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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    • Anonymous

      Posted March 6, 2014


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    • Anonymous

      Posted May 28, 2011

      No text was provided for this review.

    • Anonymous

      Posted June 4, 2009

      No text was provided for this review.

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