“A seamless, shining tale.”
“Stunning. Little Chapel on the River is beautifully written, artfully crafted and lovingly told.”
“Compelling . . . I could not put it down.”
“Reading Wendy Bounds’s very fine book is much like a delightful night spent visiting a pub in Ireland.”
“Gwendolyn Bounds has perfectly captured the sounds, flavorsindeed, the soulof a quickly disappearing kind of small town life.”
“Set aside a huge chunk of time to read this book as putting it down would cause heartache.”
“Bounds captures the warmth of the place and the rootedness it [Guinan’s] symbolizes.”
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
“In an age of spiky-heeled chick-lit, this book is a refreshing change.”
New York Post
“Bounds’ elegiac tale of transformation is a story filled with sweet surprises that never becomes cloying...”
“A true romance--with a place.”
Associated Press Staff
“A true romancewith a place.”
Read an Excerpt
Little Chapel on the River A Pub, a Town and the Search for What Matters Most
By Gwendolyn Bounds
HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. Copyright © 2006 Gwendolyn Bounds
All right reserved.
Didn't you hear it?
The sky is a brilliant blue and clear, the air unusually warm for September -- a sign we are still closer to August than October. A little past 8 a.m. finds me still moving slowly around my Manhattan apartment, stepping over the dirty clothes and half-unpacked suitcases from a two-week beach vacation in the Hamptons and Southern California. My girlfriend, Kathryn, is in the kitchen washing dishes. Neither of us hurry. The Wall Street Journal's offices, where we work, sit directly across the street, making our commute something approximating eight minutes from door to desk.
It is Tuesday.
Cup of coffee in hand, I curl up in a chair at our dining room table overlooking the harbor in Battery Park City. To my left is the Hudson River. To my right, the World Trade Center towers. The windows are open to catch the early morning breeze. Joggers run by, breathing in damp sea air. Workers are streaming off the ferry, headed into the various office buildings downtown.
Sipping my coffee, I glance at the New York Times front page for September 11, 2001. A collage of picturesshows the city's mayoral candidates stumping for last-minute votes for the day's primary elections. There is a story about stem cell research, and a piece about the trafficking of nuclear material to Iraq and Iran. I skim an article about young girls dressing like Britney Spears at school and think about my day, which spreads before me, orderly and full. There's a 9:30 a.m. doctor's appointment, a 1 p.m. lunch at Odeon, editing in the afternoon, a 7 p.m. appointment to look at a loft for sale and then back to the office to edit prototype pages for a new section our paper is creating called Personal Journal. One notch below these obligations churn the smaller concerns: I need to call my mother ... my toenails are a wreck from two weeks in the salt water ... neck hurts from six hours in a tiny coach airline seat... . Guiltily I watch another set of joggers chug by ... could cancel lunch and sneak out to the gym instead ... will think it over in the shower... .
The conditioner is nearly rinsed out of my hair, and I'm lingering too long as usual under the warm water, when the first plane strikes. And with that initial deep thud, the day's dependable order explodes into mental Polaroid snapshots and sound bites. Hearing the noise, like someone dropping a cauldron upstairs. Yelling through the shower curtains to see if Kathryn is okay. Finishing my shower. Figuring it was nothing. Getting dressed. And then a phone call from our friend Erle, who lives in a building nearby -- "Didn't you hear it?" -- telling us to look out our window. Looking out and seeing the smoke streaking from the first tower across the street, hearing people scream beneath our window. Turning on CNN and seeing the second plane fly across the screen, an instant before we hear the roar in real time over our heads. And then the slam of the impact across the street. A bit of panic now -- knowing that two planes can't be an accident -- throwing on our clothes, grabbing our wallets, reporters' notepads and cell phones. The little decisions we'll regret: I choose open-toed black sandals. Contacts already in, Kathryn leaves her glasses behind. Running down ten flights of stairs, not even bothering to dead-bolt the door. Because of course we'll be home for dinner. Of course Kathryn's fourteen-year-old cat, Stoli, will be better off here than outside in the chaos. Minds still glibly tuned to the way life is, with its reason and predictability, it never occurs to us to look back and register home, warm and alive with our presence, one more time.
From Erle's apartment a block farther south, we watch the Pentagon in flames on TV. Listen to the newscasters try to make sense of all this. Then a colleague from work, one of our top news editors, walks by the window. We yell at him to wait, gather our notepads and then go outside, where we congregate together by the river. What's going on? we ask each other rhetorically, our voices oddly pitched. We are wired, full of questions, scribbling details in our little books. This is a news event. We do not know to be scared.
The first tower's collapse is invisible. What we see are the giant smoke plumes pouring around the corner, cartoonish in their dervish, billowing balls. What we hear is that rumble, a deep, horrible, guttural noise as if the earth were growling. Thinking that maybe a bomb had gone off in one of the planes, I am suddenly alone several hundred feet down the river. Did I run? I must have run. Blinded from the smoke, I make my way back north against the tide of moving bodies, calling for Kathryn and Erle until I find them holding the river's guardrail and calling for me. Then together we join the throngs fleeing south along the river, racing from something we can't see amid the abandoned baby carriages, high-heeled shoes and unshaven men scurrying by in their curiously patterned boxers, briefcases tucked under one arm.
When the second tower falls -- again, the deepest growl -- we're at the very end of the island, now nearly covered in what seems a relentless white dust storm and still ignorant of what's unfolding, although there is now a rumor floating about the lips of the fleeing: a piece of one tower may have broken off. Aircraft storm low overhead, and not knowing they are our own military, the noise is terrible. I start to step over the railing, ready to face the Hudson River rather than whatever that noise brings. Kathryn grabs my arm and pulls me back. The sky is so dark I can barely see her or Erle, who is still carrying his 101 Dalmatians coffee cup ...
Excerpted from Little Chapel on the River by Gwendolyn Bounds Copyright © 2006 by Gwendolyn Bounds. Excerpted by permission.
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