Be Mine

Be Mine

1.5 4
by Laura Kasischke
     
 

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On Valentine’s Day, Sherry finds an anonymous note in her mailbox: be mine. As the notes continue, Sherry becomes more and more charged by the idea that she can inspire such feelings. Her twenty-year marriage is routine and she feels old, aimless, and empty now that her son is in college. When she discovers who her admirer is, she begins a wildly passionate

Overview

On Valentine’s Day, Sherry finds an anonymous note in her mailbox: be mine. As the notes continue, Sherry becomes more and more charged by the idea that she can inspire such feelings. Her twenty-year marriage is routine and she feels old, aimless, and empty now that her son is in college. When she discovers who her admirer is, she begins a wildly passionate affair with him. But her son’s childhood friend is witness to the affair, her best friend is strangely silent, and her husband is playing a disturbing game of titil­lation and encouragement. Soon events spiral out of Sherry’s control, threatening not only her marriage but also her son and her home. This deeply erotic thriller explores how little we know ourselves and those we live with and what we risk when we step away from our social personas and allow passion to control our lives.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
It all starts with an anonymous Valentine's Day love note that Sherry Seymour, a Michigan community college English teacher and recent empty-nester, finds in her school mailbox. Mystified and flattered, Sherry lets her husband, Jon, in on the notes as they accumulate, resulting in a dramatic uptick in their sex life that advances in kinkiness after Sherry's son's friend tips off Sherry about the alleged identity of the note writer. An affair ensues, aided by Sherry's rental of an apartment near school (to avoid the commute between campus and the Seymour home in the country) and Jon's encouragement (her trysts excite him). But Sherry's life begins to spin out of control as she becomes more entangled with her possessive lover and learns who really wrote the notes. However, the tension Kasischke (The Life Before Her Eyes) cleverly builds throughout the narrative collapses at the book's climax, when Sherry and Jon are drawn into the aftermath of an accidental death. Save for the far-fetched ending, Kasischke has proven herself again to be a bold chronicler of dark obsession. (Jan.) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
"Kasichke (The Life Before Her Eyes, 2001, etc.) aims towards tragedy, using delicate, elegant prose to expose the psychological and moral rot that can lie beneath the most normal facade.  She gets rights to the core...emotionally wrenching."
Library Journal
Twenty years after Fatal Attraction, a dead rabbit on the first page is still a red flag for a seemingly monogamous marriage. Middle-aged community college professor Sherry Seymour and her husband, Jon, are adjusting to life as empty nesters when an anonymous valentine appears in Sherry's campus mailbox. After receiving increasingly suggestive notes, Sherry begins buying new clothes and viewing each man she sees as a potential paramour. Her husband, meanwhile, becomes increasingly passionate as he fantasizes about his wife with another man. Make-believe makes way for betrayal when Sherry takes her husband's suggestions to heart and starts an affair with a colleague. Novelist and poet Kasischke (White Bird in a Blizzard) does a good job of building the domestic tension, and while an explosion is imminent, the way in which it is finally ignited comes as a surprise. Dead animals (rabbits, squirrels, a deer) litter Sherry's life, each decaying body a reminder of the passing of time and the consequences of carelessness. Recommended for larger public libraries. [See Prepub Alert, LJ 9/1/06.]-Karen Kleckner, Deerfield P.L., IL Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Booklist
"What makes this erotic thriller disturbing and, therefore, successful is how convincingly Kasischke renders Sherry's life and feelings so eerily normal and familiar, ensuring the unsettling portents are all but unnoticed until it is too late."

Star Tribune
"The first two-thirds of Be Mine are the most effective, as Kasischke makes the reader feel Sherry's aging female awkwardness acutely enough to identify with her descent into wanton lust. When Sherry's stand-up husband, Jon, unveils a kinky side that goads his wife into the arms of another man, Kasischke's careful set-up makes this outrageous turn of events seem entirely plausible."

Detroit Free Press
"If there is any justice in the world, Laura Kasischke will soon be as big as Alice Sebold, she of The Lovely Bones, that haunting book that burned through smart women's book clubs. Kasischke's novels are as beautifully written and as daring in their subjects."
USA Today
"In the sadly poetic Be Mine, love leads to sex, mystery, betrayal, intrigue and violence, all wrapped up in the disturbing world of a middle-aged woman's deepest desires."

From the Publisher

PRAISE FOR LAURA KASISCHKE

"We are both shocked and transported by the author’s potent and poetic storytelling."--Elle

"[Kasischke] takes on deep matters of life and death; conscience and consciousness; family, love and friendship."--Los Angeles Times

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780547906843
Publisher:
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Publication date:
12/03/2007
Sold by:
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
320
Sales rank:
659,231
File size:
361 KB

Read an Excerpt

 I stepped out the door this morning to a scarf of blood in the snowy driveway.
 Like a bad omen, or a threat, or a gruesome valentine—a tire track, and the flattened fur of a small brown rabbit.
 
 The florist must have run it over, delivering the roses, running late already by nine o’clock in the morning. When she handed me the long white box at the door she never mentioned having killed anything in my driveway. Maybe she never noticed. “It’s our busiest day of the year,” she said, breathless, “of course.”
 I was running late myself when I saw it. What could I do? The damage had already been done—utterly crushed, completely beyond hope—and cleaning it up seemed pointless. It was already snowing again. Soon, the evidence would be buried.
 
 But I also felt such a pang of grief, seeing that bit of brown fur in the blood, that I had to steady myself at the door.
 
 Was it one of the baby bunnies I’d startled from their hole in the garden last spring while planting morning-glory seeds?
 
 I’d screamed when they scurried out of the soft dirt, and didn’t go near that edge of the flower bed again all spring, into summer.
 
 The mother rabbit abandons them, doesn’t she, if she smells a human on them?
 
 It would have been impossible to know if this dead one was one of those, but I felt sick with it. Guilt. My valentine roses had brought this sad end to something that had only been, moments before, making its way back to its little den under the snow. If I were a better woman, I thought, in less of a hurry, I’d get Jon’s shovel out of the garage and dig a grave—a proper burial, maybe a cross made of Popsicle sticks, the kind Chad, when he was seven, made for Trixie’s grave.
 
 But it was such a bitter cold morning—a harsh wind out of the east, and so cold that the snow, even in that wind, lingered before it fell, as if the air were heavier than the flakes. And I’d lost my gloves again. (Left them in the supermarket cart on Saturday?) Out there with my car keys and no gloves, I thought it would have been impossible to dig a grave, anyway, in the frozen ground. Already, a couple of crows were sitting in the branches of the oak, waiting for me to leave.
 
VALENTINES:
 From Jon, the dozen roses, delivered half an hour after he’d left for work, timed to surprise me as I walked out the door, and a little card on which the florist had written for him in her girly cursive, “To my dear wife, the only valentine I’ll ever need. I love you, and will always love you, Jon.”
 
 And from Chad, the first valentine ever to arrive from him by mail. From college. A strange sad moment at the mailbox as I recognized, slowly, the handwriting on the red envelope with a postmark from California:
 
 Ma, you know I love you. Tell Dad I love him too—too weird to send him a valentine. But I miss you both. Am having a great time here. Love, Chad.
 
 I couldn’t help but think, then—predictably, sentimentally—of those crude cutout construction-paper hearts. His crayon scrawl. I still have one of them pinned to the bulletin board above my desk at work, although the pink has begun to yellow and the edges have curled: I VEOL YU, CHAD.
 
 And the year he licked away half of a heart-shaped lollipop before wrapping it in a tissue and giving it to me.
 
 This year, even Brenda sent me a card (my nest empty now that Chad’s off to college, a way of reminding me about it while pretending to try to make me feel better)—a black-and-white photograph of two little girls in fancy hats and To my sister-in-law with love.
 
 Sue brought me some heart-shaped cookies the twins had made, and one of my students, a charming Korean girl, gave me a little box of chocolates, which I left for the secretaries in the English department. And even some secret admirer (or prankster?) left me a piece of paper, torn from a legal pad, folded into fourths, stuffed into a campus envelope, and put in my mailbox at school—red pen in an unfamiliar hand:
 
 Be Mine.
 
ANOTHER accident on the freeway this morning. I keep telling Jon we need to get out of the suburbs now that Chad’s gone, move closer to our jobs, quit this commute. But he just says, “Never.”
 
 To him, it’s not the suburbs, it’s the country, where, as a boy in an apartment in the city, he’d always dreamed of living. To him, it’s not ten acres of scrubbrush, it’s a farm, the “family farm,” and he’s never leaving his garage full of gadgets, his shooting range set up out back—target nailed to a pile of sandbags—his bird feeders, his riding mower. It’s the little boy’s dream left over from the days when he would watch Lassie on the black-and-white television in the cramped apartment he shared with two brothers, a sister, and his overworked mother. Someday, he thought then, he’d have an old farmhouse in the country, a .22, a dog.
 
 Well, the dog is dead. And the old farmhouse is surrounded now by subdivisions with names like Willow Creek Estates and Country Meadows—McMansions erected overnight with billboards at the edge of the road proudly stating STARTING AT $499,000. (Are we supposed to be impressed by the expense, or seduced by the bargain?) And so much traffic now that hardly a day goes by that the freeway isn’t closed down for an hour or two while the debris of some accident is cleared away. Twice in the last year we’ve been contacted by developers offering to buy our house, knock it down, and build four nicer, newer houses on our property.
 
 And I’d do it, myself, sell it, pack up, move into a condo—good-bye to all that—but Jon’s not yet done living his boyhood dream.
 
 “I don’t think the neighbors in our condo in the city would appreciate hearing me shooting my .22,” he says.
 
 He doesn’t care that he puts five hundred miles on his Explorer every week, and that the price of gas is going up every day, and that the earth has nearly been drained of its fossil fuels.
 
 No one seems to care.
 
 We’re all driving wildly, blindly, out of our suburbs and into the future without giving it a second thought.
 
 “Fine,” I told Jon, “but if they keep building subdivisions, and the traffic gets even worse, I’m going to start staying in a motel in the city on the nights I have to teach.”
 
 He shrugged.
 
 Poor, beautiful, blue-eyed Jon. I can still see, in those eyes, the child who never had the tire swing he wanted or the high grass to wade through with a Mason jar for catching crickets—and the true absence he will never get over—a father.
 
 Oh, Jon, I’ll live here forever for you if I have to.
 
 But when I passed the flashing lights and the crumpled cars at the side of the road again this morning, I thought, Jesus Christ.
 
When I finally got to the college, I found MayBell in hysterics outside my office.
 
She’d lost her verb-tense transparencies, and could she borrow mine?
 
 Well, I’d been planning to use mine, too, but gave them to her anyway. I am, I believe, a whole lot better at winging it than MayBell is. And, indeed, my class went well. Habib read a whole paragraph of As I Lay Dying out loud in a southern drawl, and we all laughed so hard that a few of us ended up crying.
 
 After work, Jon and I met in the city for our Valentine’s dinner. I thanked him for the roses and told him about the anonymous note, the valentine left in my mailbox at school:
 
 Be Mine.
 
 “Wow,” he said. He raised his eyebrows and looked at me as if seeing me for the first time in a long time.
 
 His wife. A woman with a secret admirer.
 
 He’d ordered his steak rare, and there was a doily of blood all over his white plate.
 
 “Who do you think it is?” he asked.
 
 Truly, I told him, I had no idea.
 
 There’s Robert Z, our department’s poet, who complimented me this morning on my clothes (a white blouse and olive suede skirt) with what seemed like true exuberance. (“Wow, Sherry. Very sharp!”)
 
 He liked another outfit, too, last week—  black skirt and a crocheted black sweater—and even touched the sweater’s sleeve, feeling the texture of the wool.
 
 “I like your style,” he said. “Like a classy country-western star.”
 
 But, surely, Robert Z is gay. He’s never told anyone he’s gay, but we’ve all assumed it since he first got hired. Thirty-five, no wife, no kids, no ex-wife, no girlfriend—and those green eyes, the great fashion sense, the gym-hard body.
 
We’ve all—the women in the department, which is nearly all women—examined the poetry for evidence (two books, university presses, Gray Thoughts and The Distance Between Here and There). But it’s so fragmented, elusive—hard little riddlish poems—if there’s any reference to romance, or sexual preference, who could tell?

Copyright © 2007 by Laura Kasischke
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical,
including photocopy, recording, or any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publisher.
Requests for permission to make copies of any part of the work should be submitted online at harcourt.com/ contact or mailed to the following address: Permissions Department, Harcourt, Inc.,
6277 Sea Harbor Drive, Orlando, Florida 32887-6777.

Meet the Author

Laura Kasischke is the author of two novels and three collections of poetry. Her numerous awards include the Alice Fay DiCastagnola Award from the Poetry Society of America and the Bobst Award for Emerging Writers. She lives in Chelsea, Michigan.

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