Falling Home

Falling Home

4.2 150
by Karen White

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You know that saying about how sometimes you're the windshield and sometimes you're the bug?

It's true. Take me, for example. I shook the Georgia dust from my feet fifteen years ago,vowing never to leave Manhattan. I traded sweet tea for Chardonnay, fried chicken for nouvelle cuisine, lazy days on my aunt's front porch for ad campaigns and board meetings, and


You know that saying about how sometimes you're the windshield and sometimes you're the bug?

It's true. Take me, for example. I shook the Georgia dust from my feet fifteen years ago,vowing never to leave Manhattan. I traded sweet tea for Chardonnay, fried chicken for nouvelle cuisine, lazy days on my aunt's front porch for ad campaigns and board meetings, and the guy who broke my heart for my handsome boss, who soon became my fiance. Perfect, right?

Until my sister called. We haven't spoken since I left home--because she married the guy who broke my heart. What's more, she called to say my father is dying--but he refuses to finish until I show up. So I'm back in the hottest, dinkiest small town in Georgia, facing my sister and my old boyfriend over the heads of their--count them--five children. It couldn't get weirder, right? Unless you count Sam Parker--a long-forgotten classmate, now the town doctor--and how good he's beginning to look to me.

I'm falling apart, I think, wondering why resentment and wounded pride seem silly here in Walton, where forgiveness and acceptance go hand-in-hand with homecoming. And I'm beginning to suspect that I'm falling in love for real this time, with a man whose touch is so right, I feel like I'm... Falling Home.

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Center Point
Publication date:
Edition description:
Large Print Edition
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5.83(w) x 8.69(h) x 1.27(d)

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Chapter 1

Cassie was dreaming again. It was of her old summers; the summers of bare feet, skinned knees, and homemade peach ice cream that dripped down her chin and made her fingers sticky. Aunt Lucinda rang the supper bell, and Cassie and Harriet raced each other past the gazebo toward the back porch, their sun-kissed legs pumping under white sundresses. The jangling of the dream bell seemed so real, Cassie felt she could touch the cold brass and make it stop.

Her fingers touched Andrew's arm instead, his skin warm under her hand, and she jerked awake, the smells of summer grass and Aunt Lucinda's lavender perfume lingering somewhere in the back of her mind. But the jangling continued, filling Cassie with dread.

She held her breath, looking at the glowing numbers on her clock, and listened for the next ring of the telephone. Only bad news came at three in the morning. Births and engagements were always announced in the bright light of day. But bad news came at night, as if the sun were already in mourning.

Andrew stirred briefly, then rolled over, away from her. Rising from the bed, she stumbled across the darkened bedroom and into the living room so as not to awaken him. She hit her little toe on a chair leg and let out an expletive, her choice of words the only thing about her still reminiscent of her background.

"Dangnabit!" she muttered, reaching for the phone and knocking it off the hook. She grappled with it on the floor before finally placing it to her ear. "Hello?"

There was a brief pause, then, "Hi, Cassie. It's me. Harriet."

Cassie's blood stilled as she gripped the receiver tighter. "Harriet," she said, her voice sounding strained andunsure to her ears. "How are you?"

The words were so inadequately stupid that she wanted to bite them back as soon as they left her mouth. It was three a.m., her estranged sister was calling after more than a decade of silence, and she was asking about how she was in the same kind of voice she would ask a coworker if they liked sugar in their coffee.

"It's Daddy. He's dying."

A siren screamed outside in the dark beyond Cassie's window. She reached across the table and flipped on a lamp. "What happened?" The marquise diamond on her left hand sparkled in the dim light. Andrew came and sat next to her, his forehead creased with a question. Cassie put her hand over the receiver and mouthed, "My sister."

"Hang on a second." Harriet's phone clunked as the sound of a baby's crying trickled through the line. It must be Amanda, Harriet's new baby. Cassie knew each child from pictures her father sent. There were five of them, spread evenly over fifteen years of marriage. Each birth announcement from her father had opened the old wounds, scraping away the scabs, making Cassie bleed again.

Harriet came back. "I'm sorry. The baby's been fussy all day."

Cassie swallowed. "What's wrong with Daddy?"

Harriet sounded as if she'd been crying. "He's had a stroke. We didn't think it was so bad, but he says he's dying. And you know he always means what he says. He's in the hospital now, but he wants us to bring him home tomorrow. It was his idea to call you right now in the middle of the night. He says he won't rest in peace until both of his girls are here. He wants you to come home."

Cassie didn't say anything, but listened to the sounds of the phone being put down again and of the fretting baby fading. She glanced over at Andrew, who had put his head back against the sofa and closed his eyes. Her gaze wandered the living room of her Upper West Side apartment. Nothing in the cool, crisp space, with its black-and-white checkerboard of color and harsh angles, resembled the old house in which she had grown up. The house with porch swings, ancient oaks, and screen doors. Just as the woman she had become no longer resembled the girl of twenty who had left the small town of Walton, Georgia, fifteen years before without a backward glance.

Then a man spoke, his words deep and resonant. "Cassie? It's Joe."

She looked away, trying to focus on the abstract splotch of color on the painting behind her sofa, wanting to block out the memories his voice stirred. The memories of moonlit nights, serenading katydids in the gazebo behind the old house, and Aunt Lucinda's gardenias drooping in the heat, spreading their seductive aroma.

"Cassie? Are you there?"

"Yes." Her voice cracked, so she said it again, more firmly this time. "Yes. I'm here."

Andrew sat up and took her hand, his eyes guarded.

Joe spoke again. "Are you coming home?"

The receiver slipped in her sweaty palm. Every day, she handled difficult clients, the bread and butter of the ad agency, but nothing had ever made her as unsettled as the sound of Joe's voice and the mere thought of returning to the place she swore she would never set foot in again.

"I am home," she said, defiant.

"You know what I mean, Cassie." She could barely hear him, he was speaking so low. "Harriet needs you now. More than either one of you imagines. He's her father, too."

She looked over at Andrew. He wore only boxer shorts, his skin pale in the glare of the lamp. She stared at the contours of the muscles on his chest, every ridge etched in her fingers' memory. Cassie had worked for Andrew Wallace for five years and been his lover for three and his fiancée for one. Like her, he was a transplant to New York, all the way from Newport Beach, California.

Cassie reached for his hand resting on his thigh. He jerked awake, an annoyed expression quickly turning into a smile. She squeezed his fingers, feeling the bond between them, the bond that made her regard them as wild hothouse flowers, uprooted from the tropics and moved to an intricately landscaped formal garden. They understood each other, sharing a mutual passion for their work and never talking about how very far from home they both were.

Cassie blinked hard. "I'll come. For Daddy."

Joe sighed into the phone. "Whatever it takes to get you here, Cassie. Just come as soon as you can."

Cassie heard whispering on the other end of the phone, then Harriet spoke again. "Let me know which flight you'll be on and I'll pick you up."

"No." She said it too quickly. She wasn't ready for an hour alone in a car with Harriet. "I mean, I think I'll drive. I'll need a car while I'm down there, and ... I'd like the time to think. If I drive straight through, I can be there by tomorrow night."

"You be careful. The roads aren't safe for a woman driving alone."

"Really, Harriet. I can take care of myself."

Harriet breathed into the receiver. "I know, Cassie. You always have."

Cassie waited a moment, then said, "Tell Daddy ... tell him I'm coming."

They said good-bye, and Cassie hung up, staring into space for a long moment. Finally, Andrew stirred next to her, and she pulled her hand away. "I've got to go back to Walton. Daddy's sick and wants me there now. He may be dying."

Andrew looked down at his carefully manicured hands and drew in a deep breath. "I'm sorry." He looked up. "I can't come with you, you know."

Cassie regarded him calmly. "I know. That's fine. I think it's better you stayed, anyway. Walton's not your kind of town. You'd be screaming to leave after five minutes."

He set his mouth in a straight line. "It's not that. It's just that one of us needs to stay behind to see to business. You know the BankNorth campaign is scheduled to hit next month, and we've got lots of work to do."

She touched his shoulder. "Really, Andrew. You don't need to explain. I understand."

He nodded, looking down and breaking their gaze.

Cassie rubbed her face as if trying to erase old images. "It's so hard to believe. I just spoke to him on the phone last Sunday. He was telling me yet again that it was time to come home." She smiled at the darkness outside the window. "He said the most peculiar thing."

Andrew flipped off the lamp, then stood, pulling her into his arms. "What did he say this time?"

Cassie nestled into the soft spot below his collarbone, wrinkling her nose at the tang of stale cologne. "He said that Georgia dirt would always stick to the soles of my shoes regardless of how many elocution lessons I took."

Andrew snorted softly. "The old judge never gives up trying to argue his case, does he?"

Cassie shook her head. "No, he doesn't." She closed her eyes, knowing her Italian pumps would never have the patience for the clinging red clay of Georgia.

They stood in their embrace in front of the large plateglass window. The never-ending traffic below pulsed and vibrated like an electronic serpent, moving with the city's energy. Cassie lifted her chin and stared out at the glittering city skyline, the hulking outlines of the surrounding buildings like the bruises on her memory.

Without being conscious of it, she lifted her hand to the frail gold chain on her neck and placed her fingers around the four small charms that hung from it. The gold was cool to the touch, but it comforted her soul, just as it had many times since her mother had given it to her.

Andrew's voice was muffled. "You're nervous."

Cassie looked up at him. "I am not. Why would you say that?"

His smile lacked mirth. "Because you always play with that silly necklace whenever you're nervous. It's one of your bad habits."

She pulled away. "I'm not nervous. Just ... thoughtful."

Cassie dropped her hand, and Andrew bent to kiss her neck, his lips warm and lingering on her skin. He lifted his head. "How long do you think you'll be gone?"

She felt a prickle of annoyance. "I don't know, Andrew. My father's sick and may be dying. I'll go for as long as he needs me."

He rubbed his fingers through highlighted hair. "I'm sorry. I don't mean to sound callous. It's just that I've got an office to run, and I need to make plans." He sent her a dim smile. "And don't forget I'm here if you need anything."

Placing her hands on his chest, she fixed him with a steadying gaze. "Actually, there is something. I'm going to drive. And I was wondering if I could borrow your car."

She could see the internal struggle in his eyes from the glow of the lights outside.

He dropped his arms from her shoulders. "My car? You want to drive my car?" He gave an exaggerated groan. "I was afraid you were going to ask me that."

Nobody she knew in the city needed or wanted a car, but Andrew had a house in Connecticut complete with horse barn and garage.

His shoulders slumped slightly. "Couldn't you rent one?"

She took a deep breath, wondering if he would be as protective of her as his wife as he was his car. "I want something safe, reliable--and fast. You know I'll take good care of it." Trying to add some levity, she said, "And it is insured, right?"

"Very funny, Cassandra. But what if it breaks down? I don't know if I want a redneck grease monkey under her hood. Those people barely know how to speak English, much less understand the intricacies of a German performance car."

Cassie put her hands on her hips, reminding herself of Aunt Lucinda. She quickly dropped them. "Just because they have accents doesn't mean they're ignorant, Andrew. Most of the boys I grew up with could rebuild your car from a junk pile and it would perform better than it does now." Cassie chewed on her lip, wondering why she had jumped to the defense of Southerners. It wasn't as if she were one anymore. She had rid herself of her accent along with her long hair and penchant for fried foods, although she still couldn't bring herself to wear white shoes after Labor Day or before Easter.

Andrew sighed. "All right. You can borrow my car. But you have to promise me you'll take care of it and have it waxed at least once."

She pulled him closer and kissed him. "Thank you. I promise I'll take care of it."

Several hours later, in the predawn morning, they took the earliest train to Greenwich, Connecticut, and took his car out of long-term parking. Andrew loaded her luggage into the small trunk of the Mercedes and spent twenty minutes going over things she could and couldn't do with his car.

When there was nothing left to be said, he took her in his arms and kissed her deeply, his hands sliding down her back in the practiced way he knew she liked. "I'll miss you," he murmured into her neck. "And I hope things go well for your father. Call me and let me know how things are going."

"Thanks, and I will." She brushed his lips with hers. "I'll miss you, too," she said as she pulled away and sat in the front seat.

She shut the door, put the car in gear, and sent him a brave smile. She couldn't shake the feeling that this parting was somehow permanent. Swallowing the thick lump in her throat, she shouted, "I'll call you," then pulled away.

Her glance in the rearview mirror revealed Andrew standing in the parking lot, staring after his car until it rounded a corner and he disappeared from sight.

Meet the Author

After playing hooky one day in the seventh grade to read Gone With the Wind, Karen White knew she wanted to be a writer—or become Scarlett O'Hara. In spite of these aspirations, Karen pursued a degree in business and graduated cum laude with a BS in Management from Tulane University. Ten years later, after leaving the business world, she fulfilled her dream of becoming a writer and wrote her first book. In the Shadow of the Moon was published in August, 2000. This book was nominated for the prestigious RITA award in 2001 in two separate categories. Her books have since been nominated for numerous national contests including another RITA, the Georgia Author of the Year Award and in 2008 won the National Readers’ Choice Award for Learning to Breathe.

Karen currently writes what she refers to as ‘grit lit’—southern women’s fiction—and has recently expanded her horizons into writing a mystery series set in Charleston. Her tenth novel, The Lost Hours, will be released in trade paperback by New American Library, a division of Penguin Publishing Group, in April 2009.

Karen hails from a long line of Southerners but spent most of her growing up years in London, England and is a graduate of the American School in London. She currently lives near Atlanta, Georgia with her husband and two teenaged children, and a spoiled Havanese dog (who appears in several of her books), Quincy. When not writing, she spends her time reading, singing, playing piano, chauffeuring children and avoiding cooking.

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Falling Home 4.2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 150 reviews.
LASR_Reviews More than 1 year ago
Exquisite imagery makes Falling Home a memorable story that reaches right into the heart and soul. As Cassie Madison rushes to her dying father, back to the place she left fifteen years ago with her heart in shreds, all the old emotions return to plague her. Even with her successful career in advertising and her engagement to her sophisticated boss, she fears her dad's comment that she will never get the red Georgia clay off her shoes might be true. As the people of Walton, Georgia still remember, Cassie gets mean when she gets scared. WOW! The reader sees this side of Cassie in full screen Technicolor as she struggles with all the feelings she ran from fifteen years ago, with new and even-more-extreme emotions pressing in. Sam Parker, Cassie's friend since childhood, knows all her flaws and fears. He meets her snobby New York attitude head on and gives her tit for tat. He is one darling of a hero! After medical school, he returned to Walton, the life style suits him. Making money is not his number one priority in life. While Cassie had kept her family at a distance, Sam has become close to her father, her sister Harriet and Harriet's husband Joe as well as their adorable children. He and Mary Jane, Cassie best girl friend in high school, run the clinic in Walton. To him Cassie's laugh is like "a coke freshly poured in a glass"-effervescent. Her hurts of long ago he'd helped her through and now he finds himself doing it again, but with a more mature view, he goads her to not run from, but to work through, her fears and hurts that had prompted many of her actions since the death of her mother so many, many years ago. Cassie and Sam strike sparks of each other. His kisses set off a crackle, pop, and sizzle like lightning in Cassie that makes her "knees melt like butter in a frying pan", but he refuses to be just temporary solace. He declares he will be all or nothing at all to her. Both are sorely tested as traumatic events set both their lives in upheaval when they are thrown together to work for the good of something more important than themselves. When Cassie's load gets to be more than she can handle, she weeps and fallings into Sam's arms and realizes it is like falling home. Harriet, who makes decisions with her heart and stands by them with unerring love, is amazing and her connection with Cassie awesome. However, the super strength and courage she shows as she deals with the inevitable is magnificent. Her oldest daughter Maddie, so much like her Aunt Cassie, suffers all the raw wounds of adolescents. She adds a new point of view for the happenings that is so different from what adults see, yet her Aunt Cassie seems to understand her. Many of the supporting characters like Ed Farrell, Aunt Lucinda, and Miss Lena play important roles in Cassie's "true coming of age". They add suspense, mystery, conflict, and abundant love. Karen White creates a story to be savored not to be rushed through-I found myself reading some passages again because they teased my senses, or touched my heart in a special way. She gives us imagery that lingers in the heart and mind long after the last word is read. Falling Home is one for the bookshelf to be read more than once. Originally posted at The Long and Short of It Romance REviews
Katty20221 More than 1 year ago
This was my favorite novel from Karen White so far. I have read The Memory of Water, Pieces of the Heart, and Sea Change, but Falling Home was just beautiful. It's full of that southern charm and the ultimate unbreakable family love. This novel will make you cry for her family, fall in love with the man who never stopped loving cassie, and uncover secrets from the past. I plan on reading the rest of the novels from Karen White. I hope everyone will enjoy Falling Home as much as I did. I always hate it when I am done reading her her books they really become a part of you.
nfmgirl More than 1 year ago
Cassie Madison was a small town girl with big city dreams. After a she learns that her sister and her boyfriend have fallen in love and eloped together, she runs away from her small town of Walton to chase those big dreams, never giving it a second thought until the phone call comes that changes everything. Returning to her childhood home 15 years later to attend to her ailing father, Cassie must finally face old hurts and learn to forgive and forget, or run away once more. But this time there are new ties to hold her to Walton. Will those ties be strong enough to finally tether her down? I can always tell that I'm really "getting into" a story when I can see it playing out in my head. And this one very quickly took on a life of its own on the "big screen" in my mind. I soon saw scenes from the movie Hope Floats flashing in my mind, glimpses of town characters, the city streets. I love Cassie Madison. She is tough and tenacious, and has lost touch with her soft side long ago. However returning to her family and finding herself surrounded by her nieces and nephew begins to soften her up as she gets to play "aunt" for the first time. I sort of identify with Cassie, and I even posted recently on my Facebook status: "Is it bad to say that I identify with the character in the book that I'm reading that is described as "stubborn, bullheaded, and mean to boot"? Cassie returns to find an old school chum is now "Doctor" Sam Parker. And it seems that Sam prefers to spend his time acting as a thorn in Cassie's side. This, of course, brings some nice sexual tension to a storyline that is often wrought with emotion. Cassie must finally deal with the guilt of abandoning her family for all of those years, and the pain she endured as a result of the relationship between her sister Harriet and old boyfriend Joe. And along the way there is a little mystery, a little levity, and a lot of sincere emotion. I loved this story. It had such richness and depth. It hangs in one's mind like a good wine hangs on the tongue. It's full of truth and regrets and family and love. This story has heart.
literarymuseVC More than 1 year ago
Cassie has escaped a small town in Georgia she found absolutely stifling and has joined the world of a successful career and boyfriend in dynamic New York. But one phone call changes it all. Her father is dying and he wants to see her. Worst yet, she gets the message from her sister, who married the man Cassie once loved; and now they tell her she is needed. How can she return home and bear the pain of betrayed love and how will she respond to the town busybodies who feel they have the right to know the family's entire story? But Cassie's life is about to be turned upside down. For as many gossips and busybodies she meets, she is surprised that an old friend, Sam, the town doctor, a man she didn't even recognize as an old high school peer, takes an interest in her present circumstances. He's not about to be insulted or literally take her rebuffs as she repeatedly reminds him and everyone else that she's only back for a visit and her real life lies elsewhere. Wounds hide the love we all hold deep down for a place called "Home," a place with precious memories, a place that forms the fabric of who we become and will always be. What will the future hold for Cassie once those veneers of defensiveness and pain dissolve with a lot of patience and dedicated attempts to break down the walls of escape? Falling Home is even better than On Folly Beach, the author's most recent novel, and that's saying a lot!!! Get ready to curl up with this terrific novel and enjoy an unpredictable, engaging, and revealing story! Wonderful!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Nice story line showing that you can go home again
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book was a great read and not a book easy to put down. It is a story of sister's love and a wonderful story of family and community. I could not wait to read the follow-up book "After the Rain"! A must read!
wiscnd More than 1 year ago
I really loved this book. I hated to have it end. Was so glad the next one was laready available to finish the story
VirtuousWomanKF More than 1 year ago
I cannot put my finger on exactly why I love Karen White's writing, but I do. Maybe it's that she so reflects problems of ever day life and the hope that we can over come them. Falling Home is a perfect example. Although Cassie can be a "B" at times, I can certainly understand her pain and the reason she fled from home. It is not that the North is Bad and the South is Good, (as some reviews indicate), it is that she had more of an opportunity to be obscure in such a large city versus a small country town. Home is home, whether it is in New York, New York or in Walton, Georgia. Once again, I loved Ms. White's characters and the Southern charm that she brought to the story. She so well reflects the good and the "not so good" of living in small town America. This is a book that covers topics of forgiveness, redemption, death, breast cancer, love and belonging. Be ready to laugh with a box of Kleenex in your lap because your tears will fall. I had only one regret when I was turning the page for the last time, and that was that the last two or three chapters jumped ahead a year or two. There were some critical, (for me anyway), events that I wish had been revealed. Oh well, I guess I'll leave it up to myimagination. :)
Anonymous 10 months ago
Great read
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
It was honestly one of my favorite books
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Two sisters, Cassie and Harriet, lives disengage over the love for the same man. Cassie, the oldest, returns home at the time of their father's illness and faces old wounds, friends, belonging and finds her place again in a small Georgia town. Harriet and her husband, once Cassie's beau, have made a nice life and a family of 5 children that have never met their estranged aunt. Over years, many family secrets have been buried and unravel as Cassie returns home and finds her life again in her home town. The sisters re-unite, old friendships are kindled and love blooms. This book precedes After the Rain....both are had to put down.
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gizmonian More than 1 year ago
Great book, easy read!!
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Falling Home is so good, that it is a Christmas gift to my girlfriends. They will fall in love with Karen White, I am sure!
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This was a great book from start to finish. Karen White is a recent find for me and I'm loving her southern settings, the family intrigue, real characters with flaws and likability. This is the first of a series of three so start here. A romance, but much more. There's meat to this story.