The Brambles

The Brambles

3.9 20
by Eliza Minot

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This is the story of the Bramble family—Margaret, Max, and Edie—three adult siblings careening through wildly different byways of adult life. Margaret, mother of three, is about to take her ailing father into the tumult and chaos of her already overcrowded home. Edie is young and single, but struggling mightily to anchor her solitary life. Max, newly married…  See more details below


This is the story of the Bramble family—Margaret, Max, and Edie—three adult siblings careening through wildly different byways of adult life. Margaret, mother of three, is about to take her ailing father into the tumult and chaos of her already overcrowded home. Edie is young and single, but struggling mightily to anchor her solitary life. Max, newly married, newly a father, is buckling under the weight of new responsibilities. Over the course of one critical season, a long hidden secret will be revealed, remaking each of them, and all they thought they knew about themselves.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“Consistently perceptive, even stunning. . . . [The Brambles] leaves you marveling . . . and looking forward to the author’s next move.” —The New York Times Book Review“Minot has the uncanny gift for rendering life in all of its messy glory.” —The Washington Post“Minot’s prose has the brilliant quality of sharpened detail you experience when you finally get eyeglasses, and that blurred green of the trees turns out to be composed of countless distinct leaves—when the ordinary turns out to be fully extraordinary.”
Newsday“Pitch-perfect. . . . In remarkable prose, Minot manages what few writers can pull off: She combines a rich complex story with the voice and sensibility of a poet.” —St. Louis Post Dispatch
The New Yorker
Minot’s elegant second novel follows three siblings as they cope with their father’s impending death from cancer, not long after their mother was killed in an airplane accident. The siblings’ main preoccupations, though, are more individual. Margaret, a harried mother of three, has difficulty accepting that her children are growing up. Max can’t bring himself to tell his wife that he quit his job in a moment of frustration, and he resents the burden that she and their baby son represent. The youngest, Edie, has fewer responsibilities, but is the most adrift, deeply lonely and plagued by an eating disorder. These quotidian problems sometimes seem overwrought, and the book’s end brings an unnecessary plot twist, but the precision of Minot’s descriptions succeeds in making her characters seem real and sympathetic.
Meghan Daum
… [Minot] delivers such consistently perceptive, even stunning sentences that it’s easy to overlook the less than cohesive story and just recline inside the characters’ minds and listen to them think. This novel is imperfect in a way that leaves you marveling at the many things it does right and looking forward to the author’s next move.
— The New York Times
Publishers Weekly
Minot's graceful, candid novel about the meaning of adulthood and the depth of family attachment follows the three siblings of the titular clan as they face the consequences of their life choices. Margaret is an ambivalent mother of three who relinquished her autonomy and former identity as a hip New Yorker for a suburban life of carpools; Max, a new father, quit his job as an independent film producer but hides the truth from his wife by pretending to go to work every day; depressed, lonely 20-something Edie struggles with singlehood and a newly acquired eating disorder. Now, they must cope with their widowed father, Arthur, who moves into Margaret's home to suffer through the final stages of cancer. There is also the matter of a long-held family secret, revealed, of course, when they least expect it. Minot (Susan's sister and author of The Tiny One) has a refreshing, contemporary voice, and even the most mundane moments-Edie talking to herself in the car, Margaret's daughter dancing on the lawn-contain surprising swells of emotion. As it turns out, the revealed secret is melodramatic and far-fetched, but this novel excels all the same, buoyed up by its quiet conflicts and small, gorgeous glimpses at truth. 40,000 announced first printing; author tour. (July 21) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
With its warm portrayal of families and relationships and its unexpected plot twists, Minot's new novel (after The Tiny One) will appeal to a range of fiction audiences. The three adult children of Arthur and Florence Bramble are struggling with their lives in the wake of their mother's death in a plane crash and their father's imminent death from cancer. Margaret, the oldest, at once wallowing in and relishing her life as wife and mother of three demanding children, has agreed to care for her father in her suburban New Jersey home. Sister Edie has a trendy television job in the city but is single, depressed, and bulimic. Their brother, Max, who looks amazingly like a certain B-list movie star, is hiding his unemployment from his fashion model wife, herself preoccupied with their new son. They sound self-absorbed (and they are), but Minot lures us along as these characters grow and share their insights on the frustration and shining moments of family life and come to terms with their parents' deaths. Yet Minot doesn't leave it at that: in a remarkable turn of events, the Bramble siblings learn a secret that shakes their assumptions about who they really are. A strong candidate for most collections. [See Prepub Alert, LJ 3/1/06.]-Reba Leiding, James Madison Univ. Libs., Harrisonburg, VA Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
A family gathers around a dying patriarch who reveals a transforming secret. In advance of their widowed father's arrival from California, each of the three successful, adult Bramble children-Margaret, Edie and Max-experience private internal crises: Margaret, a take-charge wife and mother of three in suburban New Jersey, worries that she is not up to the task of caring for her father. At the same time, she tries to talk herself out of an irrational yearning to have a fourth child. Edie, the youngest of the three, on the surface seems to be thriving-she lives in Manhattan and works hard at a rewarding job in television. But her hidden, life-long battle with an eating disorder is finally taking its toll. And Max, a producer of infomercials and corporate videos who wonders where his artistic aspirations went, quits his job in a fit of pique, even though he is the sole breadwinner for his family. That was three weeks ago and he still hasn't told his wife, who believes his changed behavior signals he is having an affair. Neither the ease with which their father settles in at Margaret's, nor his articulate stoicism about his incurable illness, assuages his children's panic. The family members most at ease with the situation are Margaret's three young children, whose sweet frankness about death could teach all the adults a lesson, and Arthur himself, who, in deciding to reveal a lifelong secret he and his wife kept from their children, has made peace with himself and his imminent death. Minot (The Tiny One, 1999) moves nimbly from one character's consciousness to the next, illustrating the power of family to hurt and to heal. She is especially adept at conveying the heckle-jeckle confusion thatrules a household full of children and the clarion moments of truth that occasionally sound above the din. A moving portrait of the ties that bind. First printing of 40,000

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Product Details

Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
Publication date:
Vintage Contemporaries Series
Edition description:
Product dimensions:
5.18(w) x 7.96(h) x 0.74(d)

Read an Excerpt

Let's keep him," said Florence. They were about to sign the lease. "He looks like he likes it here."

In the flowerbed, a small cement statue, two feet tall, robed, bearded, in mid-step looks down at the rounded rim of the swimming pool. In one hand he holds a spade, in the other a plume of kale or chard. The house's previous occupants had left him. Or maybe the occupants before them. A frost of green moss along an eyebrow. Part of a finger fallen off. Coin-sized circles, charcoal gray, of lichen.

"Saint Fiacre," said Arthur. He'd recently seen an article on him in one of the gardening magazines. "Also known as Fiacrius, I believe. Fiachra."

"Mmm," said Florence. She was already tearing up some weeds in the raised bed next to her hip.

"The patron saint of gardeners," said Arthur.

"And women who can't conceive," said Florence, bent over, uprooting tall grasses. "And taxi drivers."

Arthur laughed. "Nonsense."

"And potters, tile makers . . . hemorrhoids."

"Hemorrhoids get to have a saint?"

"That's what one of your magazines told me," she said. "I read it on the john." She stood up straight. "Do you think we could bring out a part of that rambler rose? Plant it right here?" She shimmied her arm up, a move from one of her dance numbers a long time ago, to demonstrate where. "A trellis?"

Arthur stood at the pool's edge, watching the water's surface get spackled with light. "I don't see why not," he said.

Florence surveyed the place, massaged her chin with her thumb and forefinger, playing the part of someone surveying, considering, left behind a soul patch of dirt underneath her bottom lip. "Can't we put bulbs in the freezer to pretend winter's happening?"

"Certainly," said Arthur.

"Those other roses," continued Florence, "the sweet midget ones, could be over there."

"Dwarf. Of course," he said.

Florence looked up to see him standing at the edge of the pool as if he might upend it. "Look at you," she said. "You'll never step foot in that pool."

"It's remarkably clean."

"It better be clean."

"I'm not looking forward to keeping it clean."

"Roy told me a young man does it for practically nothing," said Florence, ambling toward the garage. "The kids will love it."

"Sure they will," said Arthur, without irony, with true warmth, thinking of his daughters, Edie diving in, her body coated in a shaft of glass. Margaret with her new baby when it finally comes, bobbing it up and down in the water the way mothers do. He could place his son, Max, lazing in the chaise with a baseball hat on top of his face. Arthur had a hard time believing any of them would ever make the trip across the country to visit.

Florence answered him, reading his mind. "They'll be thrilled to come visit us. Who doesn't like sunlight? Who doesn't like California?"

Arthur raised his hand. "Me," he said, pointing down to himself from above. "Me."

"Too bad about you," Florence smiled.

Arthur watched his wife busying herself, familiarizing herself with this new place, how to make it hers, placing her scent everywhere. He watched her circle trees and look under plants, gently gathering tall stalks like a ponytail to inspect their roots. He watched her poke around in the garage, kicking at boxes, and peer over fences on tiptoe, imagining things to be done, things she would do. She looked the same as she always had, spry and young to him, trim and hearty as she moved gracefully about her new garden. Her white hair, her sea-glass eyes with the elfin squint lines around them.

An infomercial personality from Baltimore had bought the house they'd lived in for the last thirty years in Merrick, New York. They learned, after closing, that he was planning to subdivide it, build a Tudor thing on top of the rock garden, put a tennis court and sauna arrangement where the old lilac bushes had been. "It's just as well," Florence had said in the living room, sitting back in the old chair covered in Indian fabric with elephants all over it. She tossed a handful of peanuts into her mouth. "The house as we know it is finito."

California. A one-story house they could practically leap over. Dry green hills in the distance, spines of ridges lumpy like the backs of stegosauruses, sets for Westerns, sets for M*A*S*H, scratchy-grassed meadows that made you wonder where Reagan's ranch was, where was Neverland. A plush gray cat looking at Arthur from underneath their white rental car. The smell of menthol from the eucalyptus trees. Florence with the hills behind her, a small mountain her belled-out cape. The dusty colors flattering her tawny skin, leaping from the page of a catalog with names like ecru, stone, sand, olive, pumice, leaf, bone. The sunlight crackling on the pool's puckering surface with every breeze. Arthur watching a fuzzy seedling, a starry orb, sail from one shore to the other. Florence looking aimlessly for a garbage can, her hands full of weeds.

Arthur smiled. "Taxi drivers, eh?"

"Do you see a trash can?"

"Does that include limousine drivers? Shuttle vans?"

"You'll have to ask the pope," she said.

"By the door, my dear. Over there."

Florence spotted it, veered with renewed purpose in its direction, a replica of their garbage cans back home, dark green plastic with flip-top lids from Sears.

"Margaret will be in San Francisco next week," said Florence. "Did I tell you?"

"No, you did not."

"If we lived here, she'd come visit. See?"

"I'm concerned that she's too pregnant to be traveling."

"Not yet."

Arthur squinted, perplexed at why Margaret's job would bring her out of New York. "I don't understand her job."

"You don't need to, sweetheart."

"Has Edie gotten a job?"



"Let her finish school."


"She has a fine job waiting tables."


"And she's tutoring those children."


"Max might start working on a movie in Los Angeles."

"You told me. Yes."

"It would be nice if he's there and we're here."

"Now there's a job I thoroughly don't understand."

"That's because you've never wondered about how a movie gets made," said Florence.

"They get made, is all. A person films other people who act."

"I'm sure plenty of producers and directors never wondered about your job either."

For most of his life, until his recent retirement, Arthur had been the lead lawyer for a watchdog company that managed the recalling of consumer goods.

"I'm hungry," said Florence. "Let's go to that Mexican place by the beach again."

"Wonderful," said Arthur. He looked at the statue of the saint, its small hooded head looking delicately away.

Now a green garden hose winds like a snake on the lawn, uncoiled, dead, the last thing Arthur was doing when he went to sit down on the wrought-iron chair at the glass-topped table. He sat there for some time, wondering if he was having a heart attack, on top of everything else, as he stared at the rear neighbor's avocado tree on the other side of the tall stockade fence, trying to ignore the pain in his chest and abdomen.

Arthur sat still, puzzled and uncomfortable, while he mustered his strength to get up and turn off the running water that was piling into puddles on the drought-ridden grass. Then he made his way, sidestepping soft-shoe, keeping his balance, through the open back door on his way to the bedroom, not bothering or, rather, unable to wipe his feet on the doormat on the way in, thereby tracking mulch and wet dirt onto the cream-colored carpet. Florence would've shrieked at him laughing—Ack! Take off those shoes! But now, alone without her, he is concentrating pointedly on simply making it to the bed, feeling like he'll vomit or soil his pants or pass out or all three, where he lies crush down on the firm mattress, belly-flopped, head askance, the cotton against his cheek a sure and familiar comfort.

Then, dusk. All about him, circling the house, things carry on. Cars bleat along the small streets surrounding him, heading to the Shop and Save, heading home from the beach. Silver beads of airplanes Etch A Sketch across the sky. Kids on bikes shout to one another, disappear down the hill. Miniature treeless mountains stand like upthrust chests, slope-slicing into the ocean along Route 1 where traffic has stopped to watch a pair of whales in the channel spout like steamships.

The sun slips, coloring the ocean with an oily orange film. It is dusk, not day anymore, not night yet, the way life has become for Arthur Bramble these last couple of weeks, right in between, perched at the wait, one way or the other, which way to turn, until, finally, there comes the simple settling—this is the way it will be now—toward an elegant purgatory. Each day is more animal than the next, more pared down, more unmistakably stripped of future. Each day—but are they days? They blur like nights of heavy drinking or the mind's eye of a child—has taken on the mysteriousness of Africa, a velvet darkness at every periphery, what comes after we stop living, the honor of the inevitable—here he is, grown old and dying—what lies ahead? Out of the air it is coming to him. It blazes in the afterglow that glimmers wildly through the trees. It whispers through the swipes of clouds that are plastered still and scarlet against the massive sky up above. It calls to him, yoo-hoooo, in a voice he hasn't heard in a long, long time.

In the morning from his bed he hears his nurse's car come sputtering up the skinny driveway alongside the flattened house. He hears her—Alice—on the other side of the window. The thwack suction slam of a door. Through the closed muslin curtains, the shadow of her shape is elongated, distorted, Gumby-like, an alien coming to take him to space. He hears the back hatch squeak open, the girlish rustle of plastic grocery bags being collected together.

Arthur thinks of the stroll Alice must have just taken through Von's Market, entering and leaving effortlessly, pain-free and regular, passing through the automatic doors that hum open as though for royalty, framed by cheerleader pyramids of flowers, each pot wrapped in purple foil. He thinks fleetingly of how probably he will never go alone through a market again.

He hears Alice struggle with the back-door key, first locking it since it was never locked, then unlocking it, then opening the door, letting in the airy hum of the world outside.

Arthur calls to her when the door opens. "Alice?" He clears his throat. "I've been in bed since yesterday," he announces.

After a moment, a stripe of sunlight falling across her chest like a Miss America banner, Alice appears in his doorway, the weight of the groceries pulling on her arms like a prairie girl's buckets of milk. She looks at Arthur frankly, eyes him slowly with a half turn of her head. Alice hardly ever smiles, let alone laughs, which gives her an air of constant comedy since she has a fine sense of humor. Alice sighs. "Oh, Mr. Bramble," she says.

"You'll be pleased to note that I've put my pajamas on appropriately," Arthur points out, though he barely remembers when he managed to do that.

Alice looks Arthur over. He's not lying down all the way and he's not sitting up all the way. He's slouched in between, one pillow pinched under his head and another one rolled into the twirled shape of a strudel pinned between his elbow and chest like a football. "How do you feel now?" Alice asks him. She scans the room. Everything seems to be intact. A glass of water, still full, sits on the bedside table.


"You should've called me," she tells him, moving about the room. She puts the groceries down on the cedar chest at the foot of the bed and flings a fallen bedspread back into place. She opens the curtains and cracks the window to let in some fresh air.

"Well, but here you are," says Arthur, straightening himself up.

"You call me, Mr. Bramble," she says loudly. "That's what I'm here for."

"Certainly," he says.

"Have you eaten anything?" she asks. She picks up his glass of water, dumps its remainder into the potted amaryllis on the dresser, and then holds the glass daintily in front of her belly button like a ballerina.

"Yes," says Arthur. "Your marvelous pot pie."

Alice frowns at him. "I didn't leave you any pot pie," she says.

"Your marvelous pot pie," he says again with a nod.

"I left quiche. A frittata, really."

"Precisely. Your marvelous frittata."

Alice cracks one of her tiny smiles. "I'll fix you some soup. Or bacon and eggs?"

"Bacon and eggs, please."

Alice props him up better on some pillows and brings him some fresh water. She moves about him efficiently, smacking at some pillows so the dust flies up, swarming in the sunlight like sea monkeys. She wipes at the bedside table, shines it up with her bare hand, and then shakes out a blanket with a military crack.

"The most competent woman in the world," Arthur told his daughter Margaret on the phone, referring to Alice, pronouncing the word wurld, swirled up into a wet whirlpool, his ancient Boston accent sprouted like a crocus from England centuries ago, now at the end of its line like his family's money, an accent practically extinct. ("I didn't know your father was British," his children's friends would say. He's not! Arthur was always the oldest father. "Is that guy your grandfather?" his children's friends would ask. He's my dad!) "A wonderful gurl," Arthur said to Margaret about Alice. Can't get much better than that, thought Margaret, unable to recall such a compliment out of her father's mouth about anyone, including herself.

Alice brings him the newspaper. "Thank you," says Arthur, but he barely gives it a try. Reading's become a sort of carnival game. The typed words pinwheel and make him seasick.

Alice heads into the bathroom to see what needs tending to in there. She refolds a clean towel that's slipped to the floor. Some of the framed pictures on the wall are askew, tilted at cockeyed angles—what went on in here? she wonders, imagining Arthur tipping about in the dark, pawing at the walls, mussing the pictures. Alice looks them over: His daughter Margaret in a pink bikini with her husband, smiling in a pool somewhere, two toddlers clasped onto their backs like barnacles. Max and Edie as teenagers, both of them smiling on a porch, puffs of breath beside their pale faces, evergreen garlands twined around a column near their heads. In a big silver frame, Arthur's wife, Florence, young but not too young, glamorous in black and white, laughing up into the air, perfect teeth, her mouth open as though waiting for a tossed grape, in a photograph taken for a magazine.

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Meet the Author

Eliza Minot is the author of The Tiny One. She was born in Beverly, Massachusetts and now lives in New Jersey with her family.

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Brambles 3.9 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 20 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I personally enjoyed this book because I like reading about marriage, motherhood, and family relationships (esp. when there's some dysfunction). So, I got all of that out of this book. However, I felt that the climax, the revelation of the family secret that was supposed to change the characters forever, was revealed and then the book ended about five pages later! There was no reflection by the characters on what they had learned about their family and no explanation of how they felt or reacted. So that was disappointing. Therefore, if that is what entices you about this book, I would pass it by, I'm sure there are more exciting ones out there. However, if you like to read about a short time period in characters' lives with no real resolutions, just to learn about what's going on with them, then go for it. I would not read another book by this author I don't think.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Their mother Florence died in a plane crash off of New England just a few years ago and now their dying father septuagenarian Arthur is relocating from Santa Barbara, California to live with his oldest daughter thirtyish mother of three Margaret in Magnolias Heights, New Jersey. Arthur¿s two other children, a single Edie and married Max live nearby in New York City. Margaret, who already feels trapped as a supermom fears she is not up to the task of nurturing her dad, but also insanely covets having another child. Edie seems to thrive on her swinging singles lifestyle and her work in television, but her loneliness compounds her eating disorder. Middle child Max produces infomercials and corporate videos, but broods over the fact that his dreams vanished until in frustration he quits, but hides the truth from his worried spouse. --- As his three offspring panic, Arthur in the final stage of cancer and his grandchildren seem calm. He especially feels at peace after he reveals a family secret shared only by his late wife to his children while they welcome grandpa even for a short time. --- This is a terrific family drama in which the three generations of Brambles (and spouses) cope differently with the impending death of the patriarch. The key to this insightful story line is that each of the four lead characters and the five prime support players (children and spouses) seem different yet fully developed. This is especially true of Arthur and his three children. Though the revelation seems insignificant and unnecessary to the characters¿ reactions, it adds to the belief that dying is a solo act as grandpa felt the need to come clean while his loved ones are support players on his stage. --- Harriet Klausner
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Loved!!! &hearts
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Several cats sat on boulders. A shecat weaved her way through the cats and stood before a muscular strong tom. "Yes?" He mewed. The shecat sat beside him and put her paw on his own massive paw. "We are out of prey. You are the one that leads us. Here." From her jaws she dropped a tough old blackbird. "No. Give it to the kittens." He mewed. The shecat backed away. She padded toward a few mewling kittens. "Here you go." She mewed dropping it infront of them. The kittens tore it apart as she turned to the tom. "See? Even the kittens can't eat it." "We were not talking about that." Mewed the tom. "We have to seek help! Food and shelter!" Yowled the she. "But where will we get help?" Mewed the tom defensivly. "You're the leader! You figure it out!" Hissed the shecat. "I know exactly where we can find help." A tom padded out. He was old, and his grey and white pelt was dull. Scars lined his pelt. "We must look to the stars." He was silent for a moment, then he spoke. "I have recived a message. We can get help from-" But he was cut off as an eagle can swooping down. He tried to snatch one of the kits, but they scampered away. The shecat bolted infront of the kits and hissed. The eagle let out a caw and picked her up. *How?* She thought wildly. He tore at the eagle. They flew along time, and the she's back hurt. She hissed. Realizing that the she was too much weight and trouble, the eagle dropped her. The shecat plummeted a thousand feet, into the forest around the glittering blue lake.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Sits quietly, wondering if the revolution will let him join...
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I saw a evil within cat. Well a tiger. I knew him when we were kits. He moved out as an apprentice. His name id darkness. And he's the one that killed bramble. Brambles a good friend of mine. I tryed.. i tryed. But i wrenched my paw saving him. Poor old friend. Poor bramble. Snaketail.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Intresting! Your grammar isn't too bad. Intriguing! Keep at it!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
At mote first result.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Go to den first result, the kit is related to someone in this clan..
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is the new brambleclan!!! Brambleclan was overrun and shut down a long time ago and i will rebuild it!!! This is main camp. Second result is my den. Third result it the warriors den. Fourth result is the apprentice den. Fifth is the nursery. Sixth is the elders. And seventh is the medicine den! I have to leave this up so everyone can see so if you need to talk to me come to me den at result 2. And so everyone who joins ,ust put there names at bottom of posts!!! -bramblestar-
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Guest More than 1 year ago
The beginning of this book was pretty good, but I got bored quickly.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
First of all, you shouldn't be roleplaying on a book review, you people are obsessed and pathetic. Second, this is for reviews, not Warrior fantasy roleplay land. Third, people need to know if they are going to buy this book or not, they don't care about Forestclan or that other made up stuff. Fourth, all of you obsessive Warrior fans should roleplay in a chatroom online. These reviews are supposed to be for people who read the book and they want to say how the book was. Quit annoying other people and get a move on with life. There arevabout half of you that are 15 and still roleplaying these un-real characters. Your all disqusting, obsessive, abusers if these reviews. I look at most of these reviews that you dumb people write, its just plain dumb. Thats it, bye
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Im a young white tom with a black dspot shaped like a B on my chest ive been plauged by visions iof strange cats telling me to save this clan from a danger in the shadows bof night
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
She padded in. "I'm here to join." She meowed loudly and confiedently. With a flick of her tail and a snotty snort, she slunk into the warriors den, without even waiting for a response. ( hola!!!! I'm also lightningstrike!! (; )
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Redfang gets up. Oh my starclan! No one cares! Redfang thought. *redfang leaves forever* Redfang
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
blugoon- i would like you to meet goldentail. she has two kits grasskit and mistkit. please let her and her kits join or i will leave.