Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Mothers and Other Liarsby Amy Bourret
How far will a mother go to save her child?
Ten years ago, Ruby Leander was a drifting nineteen-year-old who made a split-second decision at an Oklahoma rest stop. Fast forward nine years: Ruby and her daughter Lark live in New Mexico. Lark is a precocious, animal loving imp, and Ruby has built a family for them with a wonderful community of friends/p>/b>
How far will a mother go to save her child?
Ten years ago, Ruby Leander was a drifting nineteen-year-old who made a split-second decision at an Oklahoma rest stop. Fast forward nine years: Ruby and her daughter Lark live in New Mexico. Lark is a precocious, animal loving imp, and Ruby has built a family for them with a wonderful community of friends and her boyfriend of three years. Life is good. Until the day Ruby reads a magazine article about parents searching for an infant kidnapped by car-jackers. Then Ruby faces a choice no mother should have to make. A choice that will change both her and Lark's lives forever.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
“Watch your back, Jodi Picoult! Here comes Bourret, a Yale-trained lawyer who practiced child-advocacy law and draws on past experiences for her gripping first novel. When Ruby was 19, she found a baby abandoned in a rest-stop trash can. Thinking she is doing the right thing, Ruby takes the baby to raise as her own. Flash forward nine years, and Ruby and the little girl, Lark, are a happy family in New Mexico, where Ruby works as a nail technician. They have a large network of friends and bond with Ruby's boyfriend's family. Then Ruby sees a tabloid article about an abandoned baby, and everything tilts. Lark wasn't simply left, she was kidnapped, and now Ruby must figure out what to do. The choices she makes tear her world apart. VERDICT Bourret nails the character development and pacing that make a good novel compelling. She unfolds her well-written, dramatic story in tidbits that will make readers hungry for more. Perfect for summer reading.” Library Journal
“What a joy to discover a wonderful storyteller like Amy Bourret. Her debut novel, Mothers and Other Liars, underscores not only the strength of the ties that bind mother and daughter but those that connect friends, as well. The love between Ruby and Lark goes to my heart. Amy Bourret's voice is one of compassion and humor, and I want to hear it again and again.” Sandra Dallas, New York Times bestselling author of Prayers For Sale
“This lovely, lyrical novel is one that will have you on the edge of your seat as you wipe a tear from your eye… The dialogue sings on every page and the story rings with authenticity. Anyone who loved Marisa de Los Santos's Love Walked In will love this.” Eileen Goudge, New York Times bestselling author of The Diary
“Bourret has created a wonderfully flawed character who is willing to do whatever it takes to keep a promise to her child. There is nothing predictable about this story of love and sacrifice. Ruby is confronted with an unrelenting question; what are willing to do for those you love? Bourret is fearless with her answers.” Jacqueline Sheehan
“Bourret has created an unpredictable, gripping story of love and sacrifice.” Jacqueline Sheehan, New York Times bestselling author of Lost and Found and Now and Then
“Amy Bourret's smart, compelling tale of motherhood, fate, law, and love, grabbed me and pulled me into the murky pool that lies between morally right and unimaginably wrong, where good intentions are not enough to keep poor Ruby Leander afloat. You will ache for Ruby and her daughter Lark, and stay up late turning the pages, hoping for justice and for joy. Thought-provoking and suspenseful, Mothers and Other Liars will have you asking, ‘What do you do when all the choices are impossible ones?'” Therese Fowler, internationally acclaimed author of Souvenir
“Mothers and Other Liars is the absorbing story of Ruby, a woman who bravely does the wrong things for all the right reasons--all for one child. Readers will be talking about this compelling novel and what it means to be a child's real mother. A strong debut.” Lynne Griffin, author of Life Without Summer
“The beauty of Amy Bourret's novel is that she makes you yearn for each and every character to get exactly what they what--an outcome that is of course impossible and sets up the most delicious conflict of interests all the way to the surprising end. I was captivated by this wrenching tale of Ruby, her spunky Lark, and their tribe of fiercely loyal friends.” Katrina Kittle, author of The Kindness of Strangers
“Mothers and Other Liars is a page-turner from beginning to end, impossible to put down. It will provoke lively debate about the meaning of motherhood, nurture, sacrifice and law. Readers who love Jodi Picoult's novels will find a new favorite in Amy Bourret.” Liz Rosenberg, author of Home Repair
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Read an Excerpt
Mothers and Other Liars
By Amy Bourret
St. Martin's PressCopyright © 2010 Amy Bourret
All rights reserved.
Ruby Leander's third life ends with the flip of a page. The photograph catches her eye first. Then the words shriek at her, in stark black and white. Lines of type shift on the page, curl into a tight ball, somersault, gathering sentences, whole paragraphs, gaining momentum. And just like that, on an otherwise ordinary Thursday, this life is over.
She slams the weekly tabloid shut, sandwiching the article between weight-loss ads and pictures of celebrities misbehaving. As her client, Antoinette, approaches, Ruby tosses the magazine aside.
Antoinette bustles up to the nail station, oversized tote bag banging against her curvy hip. Thursday is Ruby's late day, to accommodate the working women. Antoinette has a standing appointment in the last slot. Margaret's partner, Molly, baby sits Lark — though nine-year-old Lark would cringe at that word. And Antoinette and Ruby go to dinner. This is their routine.
"Sorry. Sorry. Shakespeare had it right. I want to kill all the lawyers." Antoinette plops down on the seat across the narrow table. Her thick hair is tamed into a demure bun, her white blouse closed a button higher than before her recent promotion from the court clerk's office to judge's secretary. She pauses, looks at Ruby. "You okay?"
No, Ruby is not okay. The photograph, the words, are burned into her brain. From a serendipitous thirst, a wrong turn, and a chance meeting — and a big lie — she built this Santa Fe life for herself and her daughter, Lark. This is no sand-castle life that could wash away in the evening tide; this is a mountain life, strong and tall and solid. Yet even mountains erode, and this one is crumbling at her feet. She is definitely not okay.
"Yes. I'm fine."
Without a doubt, that photograph is of Lark; a similar shot sits in a frame in their living room. This life is over, but what she does about the article will define what the next life will be — for her and for Lark.
"You sure you're okay?" Antoinette's voice sounds tinny, as if traveling from a soup can and string, what with having to penetrate that photo before reaching a piece of Ruby's brain. "It's not ..."
"I'm fine. Really." Ruby tries to ignore the worry creasing Antoinette's brow and avoid meeting Margaret's eyes in the mirrored wall that lines the hair stations. Margaret doesn't miss much in her salon.
"You know you can tell me anything." Antoinette's voice is soft with concern.
The kindness soaks into Ruby's skin, rises to a lump in her throat. "I know."
As Antoinette turns to the rack on the wall to choose her polish, Ruby picks up the tabloid from the floor beside her chair, fans through to the page. She rips out the article, folds it into a tidy square, then gestures to the sudsy manicure dish. "Soak a minute. I'll be right back."
In the back room of the salon, Ruby braces her arms on each side of the sink, fights the nausea pulsing against her throat. She turns on the faucet, splashes her face, the cold water a welcome slap against her hot cheeks. Over the past decade, she has never once thought of herself as a criminal; Ruby did right by that child, even if the law doesn't agree. But now a boulder is careening their way.CHAPTER 2
Ruby flings the door open at the first crunch of gravel on the driveway. She gnaws her lower lip as Molly's car parks beside the porch. Clyde bursts from the car first, a flash of four-legged auburn highlights leaping up at Ruby for a quick lick before bounding around the corner into the backyard. Lark's butt emerges next, followed by the rest of the child tugging out a purple backpack.
As Molly pulls away, Ruby waves and mouths "thank you," pretends not to see the questioning look in the woman's eyes. Lark barely reaches the porch before Ruby grabs her, pulls her into a tight hug. Ruby draws in a deep breath through her nose, savors the hint of Larkness buried under scents of horse and a day outdoors.
"Mo-om," Lark says into Ruby's shirt. "You're squi-ishing me."
Ruby loosens her grip, moves her hands to Lark's shoulders. "Sorry, baby."
"What's the matter?" Lark steps away from Ruby and into the house.
Ruby picks up Lark's backpack, follows her inside. "Nothing's wrong. I just needed my Lark fix."
"You were jonesing, huh?"
Even in her terror, Ruby can't help laugh. "Jonesing? Where on earth ..."
"I'm precocious, remember?" Lark tucks a wisp of angel-wing hair behind her ear.
Ruby crosses the living area, moves to the sink nestled in a corner of the tiny kitchen. Through the gap in the curtains behind the sink, a sliver of the Sangre de Cristo mountains is awash in purple evening light. Reaching past the herb garden and Lark's latest project, an avocado pit suspended over a glass by toothpicks, she tugs the curtains closed against any possibility of prying eyes.
A door slams. Ruby startles. She drops her hand from her throat when she sees Clyde, who nosed open the screen door to the back porch. He pads over to her, rubs his sleek doggy body against her legs. Normal, she tells herself. Just act normal.
She leans back against the kitchen counter. "You hungry?"
Lark throws herself onto the sofa that they inherited with the house. "We were just finishing our burgers when you called. We were going to the movie." Petulance mixes with concern in Lark's voice.
Molly hadn't asked any questions when Ruby called her. Ruby's tone had probably put her off. Back at the salon, Antoinette's face had registered somewhere between hurt and confusion when Ruby asked for a rain check from their regular Thursday girls' night. Ruby didn't intend the edge in her voice, but it cut Antoinette just the same.
Ruby is going to have to explain everything, to Margaret and Molly, to her boyfriend, Chaz, to Antoinette. To Lark. First, though, she has to understand it, believe it, herself.CHAPTER 3
"Can we watch one here? A movie?" Lark asks.
Ruby nods. "Your pick."
Lark slides off the sofa, opens the oak armoire, runs her finger down the videocassettes stacked beside the TV — Ruby has yet to upgrade the collection to DVD. "Singin' in the Rain?"
"Again?" Ruby says. "Whatever. But bath first. You reek of horse."
"We rode out at Rancho Enchanto." Lark still uses her years-old mispronunciation of Rancho Encantada, the fancy horse stables and residential development just north of Santa Fe. "I got to ride Gus."
Ruby follows Lark into the bathroom sandwiched between the two bedrooms. When the tub is filled, Ruby sits on the toilet lid while Lark soaks the dirt and sweat and summer off her lithe body. Clyde sits at Ruby's feet, his chin resting on the edge of the tub.
"You got camp tomorrow," Ruby says. Lark has attended the twice-a-week Girls Inc. day camp for the last few years, part of Ruby's patchwork of care for Lark while school is not in session.
"Yeah. The image lady is coming again." Already a crisp line divides Lark's legs into the creamy part shielded from sun by her shorts and the bronzed lower limbs.
"Images?" If Ruby can keep Lark talking, she might be able to fake her way through a cheery bath time.
"Of us. Girls. Last time she showed us pictures from magazines and stuff. And asked us what we thought the pictures said about the girls in them. She showed us how the people who make the clothes put us into either 'Girly girl' or 'Naughty girl.' Like the T-shirts that say 'Boys Will Be Toys.' The ones you won't let me wear."
Ruby shakes her head at Lark's bubble beard. Sometimes the kid is nine going on forty, sometimes nine going on four. "The ones you wouldn't be caught dead wearing."
"Well, anyway, we're making our own shirts. Tomorrow we get to draw what we want on them and then she's going to take the pictures and put them on the shirts." Lark pauses to scrub her face with the washcloth. "We're supposed to draw things that show who we are. Like it's okay to use 'Princess' or 'Flirt' if we want, but what else are we?"
Lark washes her "toeses," chanting the "Moses" song from the movie they'll watch after her bath. "Do you think the other kids will think I'm a total nerd if I put old movies on my list of things I like, on my shirt?" Her elfin face is earnest.
"Some of them might." Ruby folds her arms in her lap. "You can't control what other people think, baby bird. Sometimes you can't even control what you think. You can only control how you act."
"Rinse, please." Lark tilts her foamy wig backward, ropy collarbones jutting out, the shampoo aroma a halo of that peculiar mix of strawberry and banana that the makers call kiwi. Ruby fills the plastic cup again and again from the faucet, and pours it over her daughter's corn-silk head. "Besides. Why would you care about the thoughts of someone silly enough not to like old movies? Okay, stand up." Ruby holds up a blue towel. "Just be your own wonderful self."
The phone rings as Ruby enfolds Lark in the towel. A second ring, a third, shriek. Ruby rushes to the kitchen counter, picks up the receiver as if it might bite.
"Hello?" Her voice is old-man gruff as much from fear as the instinct to disguise. "No, no. There's no one here by that name."
Slamming the receiver onto its cradle, she lays her hot forehead against the cool counter. A telemarketer, just a pesky telemarketer asking for Mrs. Levy.
She raises her head, clasps her hands behind her clammy neck, then she hurries into the living area. A yank on the cord beside the large picture window sends the rarely closed blinds crashing to the sill. Coughing through a cloud of sparkly dust, she leans over the sofa, peers through the slats, down the street, looking for cherry-topped cars or big, black government sedans.
Ruby's brain scoffs at her flailing heart. They're not going to call first; they're just going to kick in the door.CHAPTER 4
In the shed, Ruby works her grandfather's special concoction into the weary bones of the wood. Mineral oil, carnauba wax, and lots of elbow grease.
This slab of wood gets a rubbed-in dose of Ruby's fears, too. The furniture she makes is not typical Santa Fe, no pine and antlers but rather clean lines and Midwestern sensibility. Hers is a rescue mission, salvaging used and abused planks from castoffs, painstakingly removing nails, and caressing life back into their arthritic joints. Fur-nurture, she thinks of it.
A splash of white moonlight from the door mixes with the yellowier overhead light into a lurid square on the workbench. Ruby rubs and rubs the oil into the wood, as if quenched grain will reveal the future like tea leaves scattered in a cup. Yet she sees only the past, all those hours spent in the basement watching, and helping, her grandfather work.
He died when Ruby was twelve; she has coopted the story of his fall from an ornery John Deere tractor to explain the absence of Lark's father. After he died, Nana avoided his corner of the basement as if it were a pit of snakes, but Ruby fiddled there now and then, kept his tools from rusting. And all those basement lessons come flooding back to her with the tang of sawdust and turpentine each time she steps into this shed.
She listens to her grandfather's music when she works, old standards she finds only on AM and only on a clear night like tonight. What would he say, what would her grandmother say, about this mess? You've made your bed, Nana's voice whispers in her ear, and Ruby thinks about all those moments that added up to make this particular bed. She never even considered that someone was out there looking for Lark. Ruby could have made it right, back at the beginning, but now, now she isn't sure anything can be right ever again.
From the shelf above the workbench, a toddler Lark stares at her. Picking up the ceramic frame, Ruby traces Lark's face with a finger. Cow eyes, that's what her grandmother would have called those huge pools of knowing. Lark has always been cautious, watchful, as if she knew from the start that life, even mountain life, was not to be trusted.
Back then, Ruby thought of life as a cosmic crazy quilt. Like maybe on the way to being born, a person was handed a gunnysack full of scraps to be pulled out one by one. At the time, the pieces might seem totally unrelated to each other, ugly even. A person might come across a piece that didn't make any sense, or hurt someone terribly. Yet at the end of her days, she would be able to take a big step back and see that all those raggedy scraps came to be stitched together by time and toil, and tears, into a beautiful blanket that would warm her ancient bones.
Back then, she truly believed it was all some grand scheme. She lost Nana; she found Lark.
Back then, Ruby thinks, I didn't know squat.
Ruby's heart slams against her rib cage as the sound of a voice clearing punctures the quiet of the night. This is it, she thinks.CHAPTER 5
She is still calculating the distance to the house, to Lark, when she recognizes Chaz's little-boy chuckle. Her elbows smack the table as her knees sway in her relief.
Chaz swings a white mouth shield from his finger. "You promised to wear your mask."
"But I am," Ruby says under her still-heavy breath. She gestures for him to follow her into the house, motions to the refrigerator as she moves toward the hall.
Summer moonlight shimmers across Lark's bed. Clyde raises his head, his eyes accusing, scolding, then nuzzles back onto Lark's hip. The dog, a stray that Lark brought home a few years ago, is one-quarter heeler, three-quarters God-knows-what, and 100 percent heart. He and Lark sleep each night like embracing lovers, moving in a bed ballet.
All the Larks this child has ever been are here on that silver-washed face, the watchful infant, the four-year-old who ruled the salon, the seven-year-old who played nurse to Ruby when she had the flu, the imp, the old soul, the all-eyes-and-heart kid who tries to rescue every animal in sight. They are all here, a part of the Lark asleep in this bed. Ruby can't imagine a Lark other than this sum total of all the experiences the two of them have shared.
Lark's eyes open, two slashes of obsidian against milky skin. "To the moon and back, Mama," she mumbles in a fairy-tale voice.
"Shh," Ruby says. "Go back to sleep. I love you, too."
Ruby pulls the door shut, crosses to the living area, watches Chaz drain his beer bottle in a few quick swallows. His charcoal hair is finger-raked; he sports a three-day beard.
"I just got off duty. Your message sounded ..." Chaz rubs his T-shirt at his breastbone. When he removes his finger, the shirt is marked for a second with the indentation of the Saint Christopher medal that he always wears, a gift from his aunt Tia when he joined the police force. "What's going on?"
She plops down beside him on the squishy sofa. "Just the usual."
His dark eyes scan her face.
She reaches out, traces the stubble along his sharp jaw. "Really."
"You always do that, chew on your lip, when something's bothering you."
Ruby shifts away from him, feeling shy, uncertain. Her hand brushes against the bump that used to be her waistline, jerks away. In all her pacing and hair pulling, she has avoided this part of the equation, this lima bean inside her. With her long waist and birthing hips, a baby has lots of room to hide; though she's barely showing, she's four months along.
"I missed you."
Ruby leans against his solid bulk. "I missed you more."
Antoinette had bugged Ruby for weeks to meet her brother. "He's a bit of a player, but, girl, you need some fun." Antoinette kept pestering her, at the salon or over dinner. "Just one drink. Just once."
Ruby hadn't been on a date — a real date — in years. When Lark was a toddler, she went out for a few months at a time with this Bob here or that Bill there. She even had a few sleepovers, at the guy's place, of course, and only planned in advance, with the Ms on hand to baby-sit. She was young still, only twenty-seven, and she was single. She was supposed to be out there hitting the bars. Frankly, she was content with her life the way it was.
But one night, after a couple of margaritas at a favorite hole-in-the-wall Mexican restaurant, Ruby said, "Why not?" Antoinette whipped out her cell phone and called her brother, before Ruby could change her mind, she said. And when Ruby looked up from her enchilada plate, up almost to the strings of lights and hundreds of piñatas hanging from the ceiling, dark-stranger eyes stared at her from beneath little-boy lashes.
Excerpted from Mothers and Other Liars by Amy Bourret. Copyright © 2010 Amy Bourret. Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Meet the Author
Amy Bourret is a Yale Law School graduate and former partner in a national law firm. In school and in her practice, she did pro bono work for child advocacy organizations, where the passion that fuels her novel Mothers and Other Liars was born. She has also been a gymnast, event planner, community volunteer, judicial clerk, official neighborhood bee catcher, corporate communications director, and flower girl at a tadpole funeral, but above all, she has always been a writer. She splits her time between Dallas and Aspen.
Amy Bourret is a Yale Law School graduate and former partner in a national law firm. In school and in her practice, she did pro bono work for child advocacy organizations, where the passion that fuels her novel, Mothers and Other Liars was born. She has also been a gymnast, event planner, community volunteer, judicial clerk, official neighborhood bee catcher, corporate communications director, and flower girl at a tadpole funeral, but above all, she has always been a writer. She splits her time between Dallas and Aspen.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
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This book starts kind of slow but builds until you feel that you know these characters and can't wait to see how the situation unfolds. There is an unexpected ending. Definitely a good read!
This well-written story with amazing twists and turns kept me up all night. And now I just keep thinking about Ruby and Lark as if they were my friends. I hope the author writes a sequel.
Mothers and Other Liars is overall a good read. There were several surprises as I followed the story of Ruby and Lark. However, the ending was a bit too cookie-cutter for me in that is seemed very unrealistic. I love a happy ending but in a story about a child being legally taken from the mother who raised her, I expect at least a little heartbreak. This book was filled with very interesting, different characters and somehow they all ended up perfectly happy in the end. Other than that though, the story is gripping and entertaining. SPOILER: Did anyone else find it hard to imagine explaining to the son Ruby had that he would have been raised by two different people had they wanted him? I thought that was strange especially since the grief Ruby felt for her newborn son was pretty brief in the story.
Absolutely loved the story!! Ok, in all fairness, this book was such an amazing story, it deserves a 5 out of 5. BUT, the thing that kept it from being a perfect score - the way the chapters were presented... roughly 2 pages each!! That could very well be the author's writing style. But, 117 mini-chapters could have easily been 12-20 larger chapters.
This book was amazing! It really hit home for me, I could not put it down, it plays with your emotions and gets you engrossed in the characters and you fall in love with every bit of this story. Must have for your bookshelf!!
I loved this book. Very well writen and enjoyable to read. Really makes you think, could this really happen??
couldn't wait to get back to this book!! loved the characters, loved the story!
Am embarrassed to admit that this book has been sitting on my shelf for several months, forgotten and neglected. After finally reading it, I'm sorry I waited so long. It was so good, I could barely put it down! The characters were unbelievably real, the situation they find themselves in was heartbreaking, and the writing was amazing! Ruby is a loving mother who I liked from the very beginning. She has made a good life for herself, with an adorable daughter, great friends, and a wonderful boyfriend. But it all threatens to come crashing down when she happens upon an article in a tabloid. The ramifications are devastating. One of the things I liked about Ruby is that she doesn't have all of the answers and makes mistakes. Who knows how anyone would react if faced with the same situation, but I found myself respecting her choices. I liked almost all of the characters, even if they didn't behave the way I wanted them to. The writing was beautiful, as it flowed so smoothly that I totally got lost in the story. Great pacing, strong characters, wonderful writing; the only thing that kept this from being a 5/5 was the ending, which I didn't find believable and sort of jerked me out of the moment. Up until the last few chapters, it's a solid story. Aside from the end, I loved this book! Even that didn't ruin the book, just stopped it from being perfect for me. Others may very well love the ending, so curious if anyone else has a different take? Don't make the same mistake I did in ignoring this book! Go! Read it! And let's discuss that ending!
Nineteen year old Ruby Leander was leaving Oklahoma for California following her grandmother's funeral. Stopping at a rest stop changed Ruby's life forever when she discovered an abandoned infant. Nine years later Ruby is now living in New Mexico with her daughter, Lark, and dating Chaz, a local policeman. A nail technician, Ruby sees a magazine article with a photo of a missing infant that can only be Lark and the parents who have been looking for her for almost a decade. Shocked, scared and unsure what to do, Ruby's decision is taken out of her hands when Lark discovers the article in Ruby's purse. Ruby's consults an attorney in her quest to do the right thing, even though she can't imagine life without Lark. Complicating matters, she discovers that she is pregnant with Chaz' child. Ms. Bourret's novel was a delight to read with good characters and strong writing until she injected a ridiculous plot line worthy of King Solomon in the Old Testament. Downhill from there; you should skip this one. Lynn Kimmerle