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In the vein of Alice Hoffman, Luanne Rice proves herself a masterful writer of women's fiction with this brilliant tale of torn loyalties. Cass's passionate marriage to Billy has suddenly become stormy, and now, finding her loyalties tested, she must struggle to hold their love together in the face of tragic crisis.
"Eloquent. . .A moving and complete tale of the complicated phenomenon we call family."—People.
"Rice has an elegant style, a sharp eye and a real warmth. In her hands families—and their values—seem worth cherishing."—San Francisco Chronicle.
From May until September, on certain October weekends for the foliage, and on two consecutive December Saturdays for the Christmas Strolls, Mount Hope would fill with tourists. Deluxe motorcoaches from New Jersey and Ohio brought folks hoping to breathe New England salt air, to walk the tawny dunes of Spray Cove at sunset, to gaze at sleek white yachts longer than their tour buses, to drive past the belle époque palaces of robber barons while over the loudspeaker the tour guide delivered salacious gossip about the barons' fortunes and depravities--and to eat Shore Dinners.
Shore Dinners were hefty meals of clear-brothed Rhode Island clam chowder, bring steamer clams, chunks of milky-white codfish dipped in succulent beer batter and deep-fried until crackling and golden, butter-broiled sea scallops, sweet corn on the cob, and lobster. Tradition had it that Shore Dinners must be eaten within sight of salt water. For the best Shore Dinners in Mount Hope, people went to Lobsterville.
With four big picture windows facing the harbor, Lobsterville had the nicest view of any restaurant in town. No one minded the hour or longer wait for a table, because the bar served the biggest drinks on the waterfront. Drinking their whiskey sours, diners loved to drift along the wharf, listening for bell buoys, halyards clanking in the wind, and the strains of the Dixieland band playing two docks away at Brick's.
The breeze turned chilly after sunset, and people put on sweaters. They watched the harbor launch chuff from mooring to mooring, ferrying the sailors from their boats into town. Sea gulls cruised the air. Fishing boats stopped at the end of the dock, past the sign declaring the area off-limit to tourists, to unload their catches. It was exciting to know that the fish you were about to eat was that fresh. Women in bright cotton dresses leaned into the arms of their husbands, for warmth. Waiting to hear their names called over the Lobsterville loudspeaker, men never felt stronger.
The Keating family had owned this spot on the Mount Hope waterfront for three generations. Battered by a century of northeasters, and worse, it was a working-fisherman's wharf, glistening with fish scales, reeking of cod. The family owned a fleet of boats; tethered to the wharf, they were painted the bright primary colors of children's building blocks. Most of their daily catch went to the Boston fish auction. But the most prized fish went to Lobsterville, the family restaurant, which occupied the same wharf as the boats that caught it.
People joked that the clamming rakes crossed over the bar were the Keatings' coat of arms. Regulars knew the story of how Eddie and Sheila Keating had started the business with a bushel of clams and a case of whiskey. Lobsterville's red leather menus contained a page listing historical facts about Mount Hope, the fishing fleet, shipbuilding, Mount Hope's gilded era, the Bensons, and the Perrys. Right at the top, in old-fashioned script, as if handwritten, were the words: "Some say Mount Hope was founded on love, and some say it was founded on war."
The Keatings considered Mount Hope's love-and-war business romantic hooey, fodder for the tour-bus drivers. The Keatings said Mount Hope was founded on cod, pollack, haddock, hake, ice to keep them fresh, and lobster. Especially lobster. The Keatings said Mount Hope was founded on fish, plain and simple.
Cass Keating Medieros, Eddie and Sheila Keating's youngest granddaughter, was keeper of the flame, guardian of the freezers. Eddie was dead. Her parents no longer spent every day tending the business. Her eldest sister, Nora, ran Lobsterville, and their middle sister, Bonnie Kenneally, filled in occasionally. At thirty-seven, Cass was still considered the baby of the family, but if you owned a fish joint and you wanted fresh sole, you talked to Cass.
Cass sat in her office on the second floor of Keating & Daughters, the fish warehouse down the dock from the restaurant, trying to concentrate on the week's accounts while listening for the sound of her husband Billy's fishing boat. Josie, their four-year-old, lay on the splintery wide-board floor, making her Barbie drive clamshells as if they were cars.
Josie made sounds. Her words. She rattled along, telling a story her mother couldn't understand. She crashed the clamshells, catching her finger, cried out.
"Be careful," Cass said, knowing Josie couldn't hear her. Josie didn't hear right.
"Ow," Josie said. She had panic in her eyes until she caught sight of Cass: it didn't matter that Cass had been sitting there all along. Josie held out her finger for Cass to kiss, which she did, still calculating on the adding machine.
Comforted, Josie went back to playing. She made a rumbling sound like cars on the highway. Cass wondered what instinct or memory made that possible; Josie's speech teacher said she couldn't hear anything too high or too low in frequency: jet planes, the vacuum cleaner, birds, cars.
Josie was born to the fish life, just as Cass and her sisters and all their children had been. She already knew the difference between sole and flounder; she wasn't afraid to pick up crabs; she could swim like a fish herself. Sometimes Cass let herself dream about what Josie's future would hold.
For fifteen-year-old T.J., Cass and Billy's only son, Cass wanted Harvard or Yale, maybe law school, more likely an oceanography program, eventually governor of Rhode Island, elected on an environmental platform. Right now he was having a little trouble concentrating on his schoolwork, but if there was one thing Cass remembered it was teenage hormones, and T.J. was right on the cutting edge.
Belinda, aged thirteen, wrote poetry and the previous year had won a statewide essay contest for seventh graders. She could already steer a boat by the stars. She'd grow up to be an expert boat handler, falling in love with every handsome sailor who passed by, dating guys who drove cars with disgusting bumper stickers, like "If it smells like fish, eat it." Cass imagined Belinda, after making it through adolescence, becoming a writer.
Cass's dreams for Josie were on hold. For Josie, for now, all Cass wanted was placement in normal kindergarten. To keep her out of "special" school.
One night when she was two, Josie had wakened with a fever, crying and flushed with a dewy glow in the lamplight. Cass and Billy had already paced many nights trying to comfort feverish babies, so they weren't really worried. By dawn, however, the glow had turned into a fiery red rash.
Just as Cass was dialing Dr. Malone's number, Josie let forth a shriek from her father's arms that made Cass think of the witch in the Wizard of Oz crying, "Melting! I'm melting!"
It was the kind of thing she could tell Billy. Cass believed it was what set them apart from other long-married couples with kids, the way they could sweat through each of their children's crises while hanging on to their humor, to their old selves, when they were just Cass and Billy in Love, not Cass and Billy Still in Love--with Kids. Turning to tell Billy about her silly witch image, she saw something that made her drop the phone in terror: Billy fighting a wild animal, a tiger in a sack clawing to get free, snarling and writhing with such force it seemed about to fly out of his arms.
Only it was Josie in her baby blanket, having a seizure.
Roseola, Dr. Malone told them at the emergency room, instantly reassuring them it was a fairly common childhood disease. He wasn't worried; he expected her to make a full recovery, with the possibility of "some mild hearing loss."
Mild hearing loss at ninety, the age of Cass's grandmother, was one thing. But for a two-year-old child, just learning to talk, it meant a whole new world. Cass imagined it like this: Josie familiar with the sounds of her mother's and father's voices, Belinda's laughter, T.J.'s rude stereo; Josie saying new words out loud, putting those words together, beginning to make her family understand her; then suddenly having her ears stuffed with cotton so that vowels and consonants sounded the same, without edges, like mush.
Josie cried a lot.
Cass and Billy, madly in love since eighth grade and proud of it, ready for love action at any time, anywhere, hardly talked anymore. They "talked," but they stayed off the subject of Josie. And Josie affected nearly every aspect of their lives. It was as if her speech problems were contagious.
Cass, who until recently had craved hot sex with Billy the way she had twenty years ago, found herself using excuses in bed. They didn't make love as frequently as before. She no longer let him hold her all night. His arms around her felt too tight, and she had to pull away, roll over, take deep breaths.
Now she pressed her cheek against the window and watched for his boat. Wind licked the wave tops white. Summer yachts were racing the storm in from sea. The fishermen of Mount Hope wouldn't think twice about this weather; she'd been surprised to hear on the ship-to-ship radio that Billy was coming in. Any minute now she'd see him. Wind rattled the window glass, spooking her. But she didn't step back.
Mysterious to Cass was the lust she felt for Billy away from their house. Like now, at the office, she imagined them doing the wild thing the second he hit dry land, downstairs off the lobster-tank room in a dark nook furnished with two cots for exhausted fishermen who had too far to drive.
"Bob?" Josie said.
"Yes?" Cass replied instantly, facing her daughter, making sure Josie could see her lips. Josie didn't mispronounce everything, but she said "Bob" for "Mom" and "On" for "Aunt," and Cass wanted to make sure she enunciated properly when Josie was watching. "Yes?" she said again.
"I'm nnngry," Josie said darkly.
Josie could have meant either "angry" or "hungry" but, given the hour, Cass felt hopeful. "You're hungry?" Cass asked, rubbing her stomach.
"Yes," Josie said, nodding.
"Then we'll go home. We won't wait for Daddy." Cass spoke normally, the way she would with her other children, and she didn't stop to think which words Josie understood, because Dr. Parsons, Josie's ear doctor, had told them Josie was bright, that although she skipped words and missed certain sounds, she comprehended what people meant. Kindergarten would start in a year, and more and more often Dr. Parsons mentioned a special school. He talked about options such as sign language. He described the deaf community, people who used sign language as their primary means of communication. To Cass it seemed as foreign as a country in Asia.
Dr. Parsons had referred them to Mrs. Kaiser, a blue-haired speech therapist with a walk-in dollhouse in her office and a wall of shelves filled with children's books. Mrs. Kaiser worked with Josie on pronunciation and concentration, and she scoffed at sign language. In spite of the fact that Josie complained that Mrs. Kaiser smelled like a geranium, Cass like Mrs. Kaiser's approach better than Dr. Parson's.
Cass checked Josie's hearing aids, to make sure the volume levels were set right. Then she threw her purse, the clamshells, and Barbie into a battered old sail bag. She locked the office door behind her, and she and Josie fumbled down the dark inner stairway to the vast and smelly tank room. The generator hummed, circulating seawater through the lobster tanks and running the freezers.
"Stay right here," she said to Josie, patting the top of her head. Cass opened the big walk-in freezer and turned on the light. A blast of frosty air billowed into the damp tank room. Cass selected a particularly fine frozen pollack fillet, thick and stiff as a book, wrapped it in plastic, and dropped it into her bag. Josie stood right where Cass had left her, straight and still, her back against a green wooden lobster tank. The freezers terrified her.
Josie held Cass's fingers with one hand, sucked the thumb of the other. Cass could hear her sucking noisily, still gripped by the fear that her mother could have been consumed by the deep freezer. They hurried across the cobblestoned wharf, past Lobsterville. She and Josie waved at the window, out of habit, in case Nora or Bonnie was working at the front desk and happened to look out. Cass buckled Josie into the back of their green Volvo 240 wagon. They'd be home in ten minutes, and, with a jolt, Cass realized that she'd see the sign.
They drove through town, past the boutiques and restaurants, the yacht marina and the town fish pier. Condos were going up everywhere. Builders had ripped down the sheds and docks at Dexter's Boatworks and laid the foundation for four buildings of time-share units. They'd turned Mack's Lobster Pound into a stage-set village called Puritan's Crossing. Pretty soon developers would brick up the whole waterfront.
They cut across Marcellus Boulevard, past the robber barons' glitter palaces, to Alewives Park. Here the houses were cozy, ranches or Cape Cods. You could smell the salt air but couldn't see the water.
The Park, a development built in the fifties, contained dozens of dead-end streets. The developer had planned it that way to prevent drivers from speeding around, from using the Park roads as shortcuts to the waterfront or the navy base. Most of the streets were too short to work up any speed at all, but Coleridge Avenue, where the Medieroses lived, was the main thoroughfare. It was the only street that had a stoplight, and it had a posted speed limit of thirty-five miles per hour.
Last month, Dawn Sullivan, a high school senior, and a carload of friends came whipping down Coleridge just as Tally, a neighbor's dog, decided to cross the street. Josie ran after Tally.
Cass heard tires squeal. Instantly alert for Josie, she tore for the door. Brakes screamed.
There was T.J. lifting Josie off the sidewalk. Dawn ran around the front of her family's Blazer. Tally, oblivious, sniffed her way up the Camarras' driveway across the street. Time froze, and Cass's ears rang.
At first Cass thought Josie had been hit. Halfway out the door, she stopped dead and couldn't take the next step. There was Dawn crying, her round face nuzzled in Josie's neck, saying, "Why didn't you look both ways, don't you know this is a busy street?"
Then Josie lifted her head, caught sight of Cass, and let out a wail. Cass grabbed her from T.J. and held her tight, feeling for bumps or broken bones.
"She's okay, Mom," T.J. said, sounding shaken instead of sullen for a change.
"I didn't hit her; she's just scared," Dawn said. "She couldn't hear me coming. She didn't look both ways. She must have her hearing aids turned off."
"They're on, Dawn," Cass said into Josie's shiny dark hair. "She heard you, that's why she stopped."
"She's not fucking deaf, you know," T.J. said.
"Hey, I used to babysit for her, and for you, too, so don't say 'fucking' to me, T.J.," Dawn said shrilly.
Neighbors came out to see what was happening, and someone called the police. Officer Bobrowski measured the black tire marks, still reeking of rubber, a parallel smoky trail the length of three lawns, and issued Dawn a summons. An hour passed before things went back to normal, and for days afterward people talked about the teenage speeding problem and the danger it posed to the little deaf girl.
Cass believed that Josie's hearing problem had nothing to do with it: Josie was just chasing a little dog, the way any child might. Cass blamed herself, for letting Josie out of her sight for that instant, and she blamed Dawn, who had babysat for all three Medieros kids and plenty of other Alewives Park families, for driving too fast.
In spite of Cass's and Billy's protestations, the property owners' association allotted money, previously earmarked for improvement of the basketball court, for two yellow signs to be posted on Coleridge Avenue, to be spaced one-eighth of a mile from the Medieroses' house in either direction.
The idea of them terrified Cass, just as the thought of a special school did. Driving home from work with her hungry daughter, knowing what she was about to see, she shouldn't have felt such shock. Shock and something else. Fear? Shame? There it was, half a block away:
"What's that, Bob?" asked Josie, pointing. As if to compensate for the cotton in her ears, Josie had eagle eyes.
"A new sign."
Turning into their driveway, Cass navigated the wagon around T.J.'s mountain bike, the lawnmower, and Josie's Big Wheel. "It says 'Drive Slowly, Children Playing,'" Cass said, making sure Josie could see her lips.
Posted February 15, 2013
Posted June 27, 2012
Posted July 7, 2011
I think this is a lovely story of two young people very much in love. They may express their love for each other by in what some may call "graphic" ways but I'd hardly call it "pornographic". I've really enjoyed all of Luanne's novels for their romance, scenery, and the characters' relationships to each other- good and not. I've re-read many of them and lend them to others, even some narrow-minded ones. I'm sure even they will recall their days of young love with fond memories and wish they could revisit those times. I know I do.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted April 5, 2008
Great story about family values and family love - but this is not a story to let your teenager read. Too descriptive of intimate scenes. I was dissapointed, other Fern Michael stories are much better.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted September 2, 2005
I really enjoyed this book. The love of family, tragedy striking their youngest, learning to accept she could function as a hearing child, but the interself being overprotective and not letting her accept responsibility for her actions. All of this intertwine made a very touching story. I did not like the extra martial affair situation and it could have been left out and the book would have been just as good. The gun added suspense and glad it did not take someone's life. This story could have easily been someones true story. It was a good book. Not too long, not to short.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted June 15, 2005
This book was not as good as Luanne Rice's other ones. The book was very boring in the beginning and hard to keep reading. The love scenes were a bit graphic but no worse than the normal love scene. I almost stopped reading it about half way through because it was so hard to keep track of the story. The last half or third was the best part of the book and the ending was great. My advice is to skip this one and read another Luanne Rice.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted February 1, 2005
The love scenes in the book were a bit graphic, however that appears in alot of books so not a major concern. The plot of this book was extremely lacking and it was too bad it didnt get really interesting until the end.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted September 26, 2003
Well this book took me a while to get through because it is a little slow, but I must say I made it through it and that is something from me. The last 3rd of the book was the best and the ending brought me to tears. I found wonderful things about this book.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted September 22, 2002
I have always enjoyed Luanne Rice's novels--mainly because of their uplifting nature. I found this one almost pornographic. In fact, I did not finish the book--I threw it in my garbage! Her later novels are MUCH better!Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted August 19, 2002
Well, this isn't my favorite of Ms. Rice's, but it was still a pretty good read. It was a little slow at first. And I wish there would have been more character development for certain people, but this still was a good story. After the story started to get going, it was an interesting read. She makes it very easy for you to read her books & then look around & feel like you are THERE. At the beach, on a boat, in the woods, etc. I guess this was one of her earlier works, she was still coming into her style. Worth the time I think though.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted September 20, 2009
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