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Keeping Time: A Novel

Keeping Time: A Novel

3.5 21
by Stacey McGlynn

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Daisy Phillips is tired of being treated like an old lady. Sure, there was that incident with the lawn mower and the mud. And she did get trapped at the top of a ladder. But that doesn’t make her incapable of living on her own, as her son Dennis seems to think. Now Dennis is pushing her to sell the family home in Liverpool and move into a retirement community


Daisy Phillips is tired of being treated like an old lady. Sure, there was that incident with the lawn mower and the mud. And she did get trapped at the top of a ladder. But that doesn’t make her incapable of living on her own, as her son Dennis seems to think. Now Dennis is pushing her to sell the family home in Liverpool and move into a retirement community. To make matters worse, her best friend is going away for the summer and the new boss at the library politely informed her that her services as a volunteer are no longer needed. Is it any wonder that Daisy is feeling distressed?

But the unflappable Daisy won’t go down without a fight. What she needs to boost her spirits is an adventure. A long-forgotten watch found in a box in the basement provides the perfect start. The watch belonged to her first love, an American soldier stationed in England during World War II. With a decades-old Brooklyn address as her only clue, Daisy embarks on a trip to New York City with plans to track him down and return the valuable keepsake, and maybe get a peek at the life she might have had.

But first there’s a haphazard family reunion, where she meets and settles in with her colorful American cousins on Long Island. Elisabeth is the harried working mother who’s engaged in a fashion battle with one of her five sons. Richard, her attorney husband, might be taking his enthusiasm for the game of darts too far. And their sullen teenage son Michael is on the brink of failing all his final exams. Though Elisabeth can barely keep up with the life she already has, she eagerly jumps on board with Daisy and her quixotic quest, determined to help Daisy find her long-lost love—an adventure that holds surprises for all involved.

From the Hardcover edition.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
When 77-year-old Liverpool widow Daisy Phillips, ostensibly the narrative crux of this deeply botched debut, comes across a watch given to her by an old flame, she goes to the United States to track him down. There, the focus shifts to Daisy's American relatives, particularly the family of Elizabeth, her cousin Ann's daughter. Elisabeth is miserable in her job and convinced that her husband is "Dart Man," a bicyclist who shoots women in their butts with darts. Her son, Michael, meanwhile, is deep in the throes of teen angst. No matter, though: Michael's growing pains are assuaged by his interest in Daisy, and Elisabeth's Dart Man obsession awakens her to her own happiness. Eventually, the characters recall Daisy's purpose in visiting, leading to a lazy, coincidental resolution. Though sloppily executed and inconsistently plotted, McGlynn's use of participles, with superfluous lines like "Dennis nodding" appearing multiple times on every page, is what's most deadening. McGlynn's ear for dialogue can be pleasing (she has a film M.F.A.) but the monotonous style and wandering story line kill any potential.(Oct.)

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Read an Excerpt

Chapter One
Come on, Mum. It’s not as if you’re being put out to pasture.” Words by Dennis. Aimed at Daisy. Tipping the evening on its side.
Fifty- five-year-old Dennis, sitting on the taupe linen sofa, across from the mahogany cocktail table. His new wife, Amanda, beside him, not saying a word. Dennis, leaning forward, patiently waiting to hear all the things Daisy wasn’t saying. Then, hammering on. Forcing a smile.
“I hope you’re not thinking that.”
Actually, Daisy Phillips was thinking that.
Smelling the grass of the pasture.
Feeling the tickle of the blades under her nose.
Searching her son’s face for some scrap of infanthood, a glimpse of childhood, a shred of adolescence. Nothing. Silly to think there might be, but Daisy was groping, thoroughly shaken.
Dennis, “I think, we think”— gesturing to include Amanda—“you’d really like it there. It’s crazy to go on like you’ve been.” Meaning to continue living in the house she had been born in and had inherited from her parents. The house she had spent her whole life in. Dennis, going on: “Life would be a permanent holiday.”
Daisy, not replying. Too prim, too proper, with an elegance, a grace that never had to be taught, a perfectly straight back that did. Ironed into her by a mother who had spent a lifetime focused on the wrong things. Daisy, staring down at her hands clasped tightly in her lap. Adjusting her ring.
Dennis, thrusting the colorful glossy brochure into her eye line. Daisy, turning away. Dennis, holding it there for a moment, shaking it as though it needed shaking to get her attention. Not getting a response, Dennis, sighing. Putting it on the table next to him. Saying, “You can take the brochures home with you. Look through them when you’re ready. Amanda and I think The Carillion would be perfect for you. There’s a lot more to these se nior homes than you know. At least think about it, okay?”
Daisy, looking at him. Meeting his eye. “I’d like to go home now.” Standing up, smoothing her pleated beige skirt over her narrow hips. Dennis, hoisting himself off the sofa. “I can take you right away if you’d like.”
Daisy, “I’d like that.” Nodding.
Minutes later Dennis, the top of his head glistening with rain from the trip out the front door to the car, driving his silent mother home, leaving the dark splashing streets of Merseyside for the dark splashy streets of Saint Helens, northeast of Liverpool. His wiper blades lashing noisily back and forth, rerunning the conversation in his head.
He had not gotten nearly as far as he had hoped. Amanda would surely lay into him when he got home.
Pulling slowly into the driveway at 24 Rosemary Lane. Slipping the gear stick into neutral. Turning to his mother. “I hope you had a nice dinner.”
“Yes. It was very nice, thank you.” Stiffly.
“Look, Mum”— adjusting himself in the seat to face her—“I’m sorry, but it’s been hard on me having two houses to maintain— two lawns to mow, two networks of pipes and wires to worry about. I appreciate that you try not to call me, but things always do seem to come up, and I’m not so young myself anymore. And you know Amanda wants to move to Chessex, to be nearer her family. And now that Gabriel’s finishing school, there’s really nothing keeping us here. We’ve already started looking at houses. Chessex is beautiful. You could have a cozy little apartment at The Carillion, with me and Amanda close by. Think of it as an adventure, a new chapter in your life.”
Daisy, nodding her head. Slightly. Turmoil deep within.
Dennis, feeling a charge of relief. Maybe they were getting somewhere.
Her hand on the passenger side door catch. Leaning over. Kissing him. “Good night, Dennis.”
“Good night, Mum.” Dennis, watching her ease out of the car, before scurrying nimbly up the stone front walk, past the stone wall. Glimpsing her disappearing behind the cheerful yellow door, flanked by climbing red roses flush against white stucco, on her thatched- roof home half- timbered with exposed dark beams.
Not seeing what was on the other side of that cheerful yellow door: Daisy leaning heavily against it, her shaking frame pressing against its solid frame, surrendering to a fast- moving current of tears.
The following Saturday, Dennis, calling. Daisy had been dreading his weekly call all morning. She had spent the whole intervening week in a closed- circuit loop over his recent proposal— locked in a cycle of ignoring it, denying it, being annoyed by it, irate over it, despairing because of it, hungering back to ignoring it again.
And now a ringing phone.
Daisy, picking it up. She had to. It was a responsibility growing stronger every day, knowing that Dennis wouldn’t be thinking that she was busy in the kitchen, living room, or bath. He would be afraid that she was dead in the kitchen, living room, or bath. Sighing. Answering it.
An exchange of greetings. Brief pleasantries. Dennis, not getting to it right away. Saying first that he couldn’t mow her lawn yet again because of the rain. Further discussion about the ceaseless rain. Then finally, the main point: asking if she had had a chance to look through the brochures.
Daisy, assuring him that she had— and she had, as they flew through the air into the wastepaper basket.
Dennis, asking what her thoughts were. About an apartment at The Carillion. About moving to Chessex.
Daisy, saying, “Oh my, what’s that?” Saying sorry, she had to go. Someone was at the door. Pity they couldn’t talk longer. Partly true. Someone was at the door.

Daisy was at the door. Putting herself there, in the rain, with the portable phone. Saying their talk would have to wait until next Saturday, or until the rain finally let up and Dennis could come and mow the grass.
Hanging up, thin strands of guilt fl owing through her. Pushing them aside. Hurrying to get ready to go to the club. A train to catch. An early lunch with friends, followed by shopping in the afternoon, and stopping for tea.
Daisy, standing at the gilded mirror above the bathroom sink, putting on makeup. Running a wide- toothed comb through her light brown hair. Applying lipstick. Taking a good hard look at herself. Her face, especially her chin— long, always had been, not brought on by the duplicities of aging. Her features small, delicate on a perfectly shaped head. Her nose, narrow. Big light blue eyes behind oval wire- rimmed glasses. Her cheekbones, not too crinkled, her forehead, not too smooth. Wavy hair, parted on the left side, thick clumps of bangs swooping off in both directions, forming a series of Cs and Js across her forehead. Her hair long enough to reach her eyebrows, short enough to reveal her earlobes, curling under at the collar in the back. A tiny, slender woman of seventy-seven. Gifted with an ever-present smile, an easy laugh.
Taking a deep breath. Standing as tall as she got. Confident, defiant, upbeat.
Ignoring a slow, steady dripping from the shower head.
Her friends, gathered around her— Gladys, Marylin, Cate, Ellen, and her favorite, Dot. Umbrellas, drenched raincoats at the door.
Daisy liked these weekly luncheons. Taking the train into the city. Lunching, shopping at the rejuvenated Albert Dock. Feeling part of something with the city beating around her. Liverpool, recently voted Europe’s cultural capital. The Merseyside Waterfront regional park and the whole waterfront area drew millions of visitors every year. The Cavern Club, the Beatles Museum, and the childhood homes of the former Beatles still attracted fans from all over the world. The cafés, pubs, heart- stopping architecture, cutting- edge theaters— all of it contributing to the energy Daisy loved.
If only the skies weren’t consistently hosing the place down.
But that was Liverpool.
Daisy, feeling good. Wearing a new dress— navy with beige trim—that fell just below her knees. Sensible low- heeled navy shoes. Smiling during the conversation. Buttering her bread. Ordering the lamb. Ignoring nagging unpleasantries pecking away at her. Going over what she had lately been thinking about: hitting Dot up with a proposal.
Waiting for the appropriate lull in the conversation, then turning her attention to Dot, to get her idea out. Daisy, full of hope and slowly gathering excitement at spilling the words.
But then Dot blew her away, speaking first. Mentioning innocently that she was going on holiday for the summer. To Spain, where her daughter had a house. Shooting down Daisy’s idea before it even got out of her mouth. Not giving Daisy the chance to say that she’d been thinking the two of them should go on holiday together. To Ireland. Or Scotland. Even Wales.
When Paul was alive, he and Daisy had traveled several times a year. Both loved exploring; together they had covered much of the globe. But Daisy hadn’t been anywhere in the last four years— not since Paul died. She hadn’t even thought of it. Until recently. Startling herself, imagining traveling again— on a much smaller scale, of course. Places she could drive to. She just had to figure out with whom. Dot’s face had presenteditself, and after thinking it over for some time, Daisy had concluded that Dot would indeed be the ideal travel companion. They liked the same things, needed their tea at precisely the same time, craved the same schedule of bed at night and waking in the morning, were equally active— which was to say they were unusually energetic for their ages— and were both devoted to the same evening ritual: Cointreau with mixers. Dot was as good a stand- in for Paul as Daisy could imagine.
But no sooner were the words “Dot, I’ve been thinking” out of Daisy’s mouth than Dot dropped her bombshell. Daisy, nodding, smiling, wishing her well, her disappointed eyes sweeping around the table of faces to see if anyone else might be a candidate.
Dismissing each in turn. That creeping feeling again. Of walls closing in, of dreams swirling down drains, of possibilities not yet lived like dandelion seeds on wings of birds, launched, full of potential but never hitting the ground. Unable to shake the feeling that her best days were behind her. Paining her to find travel on that list, too— that great, sweeping list.
Sighing. When Paul went, everything went. Except her house, 24 Rosemary Lane. Still hers. It was not going to be stored away like short skirts, high heels, her passport— not if she could help it. Dennis and Amanda could go. Let them go to Chessex, but not with her.
She would hire someone to mow the lawn every week. Fix theshower head herself.
There. Problem solved.

From the Hardcover edition.


Meet the Author

STACEY McGLYNN lives on Long Island with her husband and three sons. She holds an MFA in screenwriting from Columbia University. Keeping Time was inspired by a real-life visit from her first-cousin-once-removed, Dot Nicholson of Liverpool, England.

From the Hardcover edition.

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Keeping Time 3.6 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 21 reviews.
harstan More than 1 year ago
In Liverpool, septuagenarian Widow Daisy Phillips knows she has had elderly moments, she wishes her concerned son Dennis would stop pushing her into leaving the family home for a retirement assisted living community. At the same time Daisy is undergoing offspring pressure, her BFF is going away for a few months and the new town librarian informs her and other elderly volunteers that their services are no longer needed. When she finds a long lost watch in her home given to her during WWII by a Brooklyn GI, Daisy decides to cross the pond to the States to find him. In the United States, Daisy's American relatives have issues too. Her second cousin Elisabeth loathes her job and fears her dart playing spouse the attorney is the notorious "Dart Man," who rides a bike while shooting women in their backsides with darts. Parents of five children; their teenage son Michael overwhelms her with his raging hormonal torment and failing grades. Daisy's arrival at their Long Island home seems to calm down Michael and gives Elisabeth an escape as she teams up with her English relative in search of the solider. When the enjoyable story line uses third person grammar it is distracting, however the fully developed cast especially the two female amateur sleuths provide insightful gripping first person dialogue more often. Fans will enjoy harried Elisabeth who feels her world imploding die to her belief her husband has been firing darts are female butts and her son's anguish while also wondering what her other fearsome foursome is up to. However, this is mostly Daisy's American adventure even with a coincident over the top of the BQE. Harriet Klausner
Frisbeesage More than 1 year ago
Keeping Time is the story of Daisy, a sweet, plucky old lady trying to navigate the process of getting old gracefully. Her husband has passed away and one of her sons, Dennis, thinks she can't take care of herself and her beautiful old house and garden anymore. Of course there was the episode with the shower head she tried to fix and the one with the lawn mower in the mud....Desperately trying to prove that there is life in her yet Daisy goes jetting off to America hoping to find an old boyfriend to return his valuable watch and to meet some long lost relatives. The plot isn't anything unique - old lady proves she has vitality and value and reinvents herself. The characters are well drawn, coming across as eccentric and fun. I especially liked Elizabeth, harried mother of 5 boys, trying so hard to get it right and, instead, getting it oh-so-wrong. What really turned me off about the book was the writing style. About half the sentences are written incompletely. I think this was meant to make it more realistic, like this is how people really talk or think. Instead it came across as choppy and interrupted and was distracting for me. In the end I just couldn't like this book as much as I wanted to.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Here is a wonderful story by a great new storyteller! The author has a unique writing style and it immediately draws you into the story of Daisy and her quest for relevance. All of the characters are beautifully drawn and I could not put this book down. I will recommend this book to EVERYONE! It makes me want to join a book club!
Henriquez More than 1 year ago
This book is incredible. I love the writing style. It took me a few pages to get used to the fragmented sentences but then I was captured by the rhythm and uniqueness of the author's style which is so perfect for the story she tells. There were parts that made me laugh out loud and moments of pure poignancy. This book is an excellent read and will be highly recommended to all of my family and friends. If you are looking for a book you simply cannot put down, this is it!
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Curious-Clara More than 1 year ago
Keeping Time is the story of 77 year old Daisy, a woman whose son wants to sell her house and put her in a retirement residence. Daisy is not done living and is afraid life is passing her by. She resents her son's insistence that she'd be happier in an apartment. So far so good. But as the story progresses, Daisy reveals no faults so it's hard to find her humanity and vulnerability except for her age. Elizabeth and Michael are well drawn so I tried to like this book. I read through to the end and felt cheated at the way the book ended. It was as though the author thought it was more important to wind up the book in fewer than 300 pages than to allow the ending to reveal itself through the story. The next to last chapter tells the reader what would happen and this was very disappointing.
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The writing was choppy and grating, which made it difficult to get into the story.
MsGulch More than 1 year ago
I could not put this book down til the last page. I highly recommend this book to all who love a good story that gives you a good feeling inside when you are done. I hope this author has another story on the way, I love her style. Ms.Gulch
NRM10 More than 1 year ago
This book was heartwarming, laugh out loud funny and left me wanting more. I hope there is a sequel in the works. A must read!!!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
What a great read. Unique writing style makes it a fast read, and doesn't get soppy. I got caught up in the life of a delightful Daisy and couldn't put the book down. Can't wait to see what this new author will write next.