In this witty novel by the author of Frenemies, Philadelphia cellist Courtney Cassel decides the occasion of her engagement is the perfect time to heal family wounds. Six years ago, wild-child middle sister Raine ruined oldest sister Norah's wedding and ran off with longtime friend Matt Cheney, with whom Courtney was having a secret affair. Accompanying her supportive fiancé, Lucas, on a business trip to San Francisco, Courtney drops in on Raine unannounced and discovers Raine is still with the smoldering, charismatic Matt, whose mere presence can still reduce Courtney to the emotional state of an adolescent. Soon, Courtney's questioning every choice she's made. When Matt and Raine show up for the engagement party, scores are settled, lives are examined and a few secrets about strait-laced Norah come to light. Crane's brisk voice and knack for finding the humor in Courtney's angst keep the mood upbeat all the way to the rosy resolution. (Apr.)Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information
Names My Sisters Call Meby Megan Crane
Courtney, Norah, and Raine Cassel are as different as three sisters can be. Norah, the oldest, is a type A obsessive who hasn't forgiven Raine, the middle sister, for ruining her wedding day six years ago. Raine is Norah's opposite, a wild child/performance artist/follow-your-bliss hippie chick who ran off to California. The only thing the two have in common is… See more details below
Courtney, Norah, and Raine Cassel are as different as three sisters can be. Norah, the oldest, is a type A obsessive who hasn't forgiven Raine, the middle sister, for ruining her wedding day six years ago. Raine is Norah's opposite, a wild child/performance artist/follow-your-bliss hippie chick who ran off to California. The only thing the two have in common is their ability to drive Courtney, their youngest sister, crazy.
When her longtime boyfriend proposes, Courtney decides it's finally time to call a truce and bring the three sisters together. After all, they're grown-ups now, right? But it turns out that family ghosts aren't easily defeatedand neither are first loves. Soon Courtney finds herself reexamining every choice she has made in the past six yearsincluding the man she's about to marryand the value of reconnecting with the sisters she knows she needs, in spite of everything.
Courtney Cassel's life is full of promise-she's a cellist in Philadelphia's Second Symphony Orchestra, and her boyfriend, Lucas, just proposed. But her relationship with her family isn't as good. Her father died after abandoning the family, leaving her mother unable to handle her older sisters, controlling Norah and irresponsible Raine. Family troubles peaked six years ago, when Raine ruined Norah's wedding and ran off with Courtney's then-boyfriend, Matt. Now, against Norah's stridently expressed wishes, Courtney travels to San Francisco to invite her fun, formerly favorite sister Raine to her engagement party. But does she want to heal family wounds, or is she really looking for Matt? And will this cost her the understanding Lucas? As Courtney learns what she truly wants, she, like most chick-lit heroines, makes some bad choices. But Courtney isn't stupid, just appealingly human throughout. And although her sisters' intense personalities irritate, the two are not completely unsympathetic. Crane's (Frenemies) latest is recommended, especially where books featuring sororal relationships, such as Lee Nichols's Hand-Me-Downand Eileen Rendahl's Do Me, Do My Roots, are popular.
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Read an ExcerptNames My Sisters Call Me
By Megan Crane 5 SPOT
Copyright © 2008 Megan Crane
All right reserved.
When Lucas went down, right there on the sidewalk outside my sister's place in Chestnut Hill, my first thought was: ice.
It was February in Philadelphia. Ice was everywhere, along with slush, gray skies, the threat of more snow, and my personal and only slightly hysterical worry that this would be the year that winter refused to give way to spring, leaving us stuck in some Narnia-ish winter forevermore.
Lucas and I had skidded along down Germantown Avenue, from the train toward my sister's place, using our boot heels as impromptu ice skates. We'd attempted to avoid careening into the cute little shop windows, and I'd shared my fears of Narnia with Lucas, complete with my suspicion that the White Witch could be played to perfection by my sister Norah.
My boyfriend had just hit the concrete right in front of me, and this was what I thought about? Narnia and a mixture of frustration with my sister combined with guilt about my frustration? What if he required medical attention? I felt ashamed of myself.
"Oh my God," I said, throwing both hands out as if to catch him, though it was already too late. "Are you okay?" Which was when I noticed that he was grinning up at me, which was a good indicator that hospitalization wasn't required after all.
And that he was actually on one knee.
"Oh my God," was my brilliant response.
"I love you, Courtney," Lucas said, as if I'd said something brilliant. Or even coherent. "I've loved you since the day you sat next to me in that café and made up better headlines for the Sunday New York Times."
"That was three months after we started dating," I pointed out, as I had many times before when he brought up that morning in Center City near my old apartment. And I continued with the usual script, despite the clearly unusual circumstances. It was habit. "What was I before that? Just a fling?"
It felt strange to stand there towering over him, when it was normally the other way around, so I knelt down to face him, expecting the cold and wet to seep through my jeans in seconds. The funny thing was, I didn't much care when it did.
"I suspected I loved you before," Lucas continued, only the slightest hint of longsufferingness in his voice? for effect. "But that was when I knew. Kind of like right now, when you're interrupting me in the middle of my romantic proposal. Moments like this one make me realize not just that I love you but that we must be perfect for each other, because first of all, I think it's cute, and more importantly, I knew you N were going to say that."
"Yes," I whispered, reaching over to hold his face between my mittened hands. I thought about the years we'd been together, and how bright they seemed when compared to the years that came before. How bright everything seemed when he was near. "Yes, I will marry you."
"I haven't asked you to marry me," Lucas retorted. His gray eyes were calm and gleaming, all at once, and I wanted to look at nothing else, ever again.
"Well, hurry up then," I said. "Any minute now Norah's going to look out the window and assume we've finally gone crazy. Because most people don't propose on the street five seconds before an annoying family dinner, you know."
Lucas laughed and took my hands between his. He kissed each one and then let them go.
"I wanted to do this right smack in the middle of our life, because I love our life," he said. "I want our marriage to be a celebration of our life together, not something outside it."
He reached into his pocket and drew out a small box.
And that was when everything got real in a hurry. I was aware of a hundred things, all at once.
I couldn't believe this was actually happening. As in, to me, right then and there. I felt my heart thump against my ribs as I stared at the box in his hand, small and black and shaped to contain only one possible item.
I wasn't sure I was breathing.
In my fantasies, and I'd had a lot of them, this moment was usually accompanied by cinematic landscapes, orchestras, and possibly choirs of angels.
I'd seen so many films, and read so many books, that I felt sort of flung out of my own body as I stared at the velvet box Lucas held out to me. As if I were sitting in a theater somewhere watching this version of The Proposal. Except the role normally played by the wispy Hollywood actress du jour was now being played by me. Instead of the romantic, gauzy sort of dress I'd imagined wearing while being knelt in front of, I was dressed to battle the Philly elements in jeans, boots, and a warm peacoat. To say nothing of my hat, scarf, and mittens. I'd imagined a rolling summer meadow with an orchestra of songbirds. Instead, there were minivans swishing along the sub urban street, an obviously mentally challenged jogger in far too few clothes, and the general grim winter cacophony of the East Coast all around us. A cold street below and the threat of freezing rain from above. It was the last place in the world I would have expected a marriage proposal.
It was perfect.
"Courtney," Lucas said, never looking away from me. "Marry me." I reached past the velvet box and the glorious, gleaming ring nestled inside it, and kissed him on his delicious, perfect mouth.
"I love you," I whispered.
"I know you do," Lucas replied in the same whisper. "But now is the time to say 'yes.' There's a whole set routine to these things, Court. You're messing up my flow."
I loved his teasing tone, and that tilt of his head. As if he was proud and serious and thrilled, all at once.
"How would you know?" I teased him right back. "You've never proposed to anyone else."
"I might have. I'm very mysterious. You don't know everything." He tugged my left hand mitten off. Then he slipped the ring from the jeweler's box and very carefully slid it onto my hand, where it fit perfectly and sparkled, brightening the dim afternoon all around us.
"It's perfect," I breathed, and then we were beaming at each other and kissing.
I eased back from a kiss and held him close in a hug that felt like it should go on forever. Like it could somehow encapsulate everything that had happened since that fateful night at a party I hadn't really wanted to go to in the outskirts of Philadelphia, and found him there, almost as if he'd been waiting for me. Like it could embrace all of our past and the future we'd already started knitting together between us.
It was a really good hug.
Which only ended when the door at the top of the steps opened and we both turned, still grinning foolishly at each other.
"Why are you causing a scene outside my house?" my sister Norah demanded, in the same slightly scandalized, authoritative tone I'd heard her use on her university students when they asked stupid questions. "Do you want someone to call the cops?"
"Oh," I said, gazing up at her, and then back down at the ring, cold and resplendent on my hand. "Um." It was like I looked at the ring and became hypnotized. I knew the appropriate words to use but couldn't seem to form them on my tongue. I looked at Lucas for help.
He seemed to glow as he helped me to my feet.
"Courtney and I are getting married," he told Norah, his voice sounding almost formal. I felt myself flush. Married was such an adult word. It carried so much weight.
"Well," Norah said, her voice much smoother. Maybe even pleased. "That's wonderful news." She smiled, and then looked at me. "And about time, if you ask me."
"No one did," I muttered, immediately reduced to behaving like a child. It took exactly one sentence from my bossy big sister. But Lucas squeezed my hand to keep me quiet, and we walked inside.
Norah led the way into her house, calling out the news like the town crier. And suddenly there was commotion, as my family crowded around us in the living room. I was still tugging my arms out of my coat sleeves as my mother rushed up to embrace me.
"I'm so happy!" she cried, and I breathed in deeply as her familiar scent enveloped me, a combination of shampoo and cold cream, and, sometimes, the faintest hint of perfume. "My baby's getting married!"
Across the room, I heard Lucas talking about his secret ring- buying excursions with Norah's husband, Phil.
"I actually cut the piece of string, and measured her rings," Lucas said, demonstrating with his hands and catching my eye as he said it. "Just like they tell you to do it in the magazines."
"So it's a surprise?" Phil asked, smiling in his affable way. "Norah and I picked hers out together."
"It's a complete surprise," I said, fanning out the fingers of my left hand.
Which wasn't entirely true. I would have had to have been asleep in my own relationship not to know how serious it had been for some time, and I hadn't been asleep. But I hadn't known Lucas was involved in clandestine ring measurements of my costume jewelry, either.
"The thing about Courtney is that she doesn't wear any particular jewelry all the time," Lucas said. "She has lots of rings she wears sometimes, but she likes her hands the way they are."
I had never paid much attention to my jewelry preferences, I realized then. But I made my living with my hands. I depended on them and enjoyed them. I wouldn't have known how to go out and choose something that would sit on them ever after. I was kind of amazed that Lucas had given the entire process so much thought.
Norah reached across my mother and picked up my left hand. She held it to the light, turning the whole hand this way and that as if examining it for flaws. It didn't seem to occur to her that it was still connected to my body.
"You'll really have to concentrate on your manicure," she told me in a low voice, as if she didn't wish to embarrass me in front of everyone else. "Your hands are going to be the focus of a lot of attention, and the last thing you need are scraggly, dirty nails."
I tugged my hand out of her grasp. My hands might not be confused for a hand model's, but I thought scraggly and dirty were taking it a step too far.
"Nobody cares about my nails, Norah," I told her, feeling defensive.
"You wouldn't believe the things people care about," she retorted. Because she, as ever, knew best. "I'm going to get the camera."
Norah was about control and had always been this way. When she was a kid, her control issues generally involved the sanctity of her bedroom and her refusal to lend out her toys and dolls. These days she thought a bit bigger.
She insisted that she was not in any way OCD, a laughable assertion, but one she felt comfortable making because, she would tell me, there was a right way and a wrong way to do things. She chose to do things the right way. End of discussion.
The right way meant that we had Family Dinner every weekend at her house, and she always used linen napkins. The right way meant that she and Phil refused to allow a television to pollute their home, preferring to read the newspapers from a selection of Eastern Seaboard cities, peruse the most esoteric literary fiction, and engage in stimulating intellectual debates concerning international politics and ethical dilemmas over fine wine. When Lucas and I expressed our preference for the Sci Fi Channel, anything on Adult Swim, and classic DVD marathons, they both pretended not to hear us. When it was pointed out to them that Eliot, their two- year- old son, might one day face ridicule in school for being completely out of the pop culture loop, Norah actually sneered.
She'd practically raised me, she would say. And last she'd checked, I was doing fine.
Someone had to step in and take charge after Daddy died, she would say with a sniff, and I was the only one who could.
Because she was the only one capable, was the subtext. Mom had been lost in a haze of grief. Our middle sister, Raine, had been acting out since she was a toddler. By the time I was ten, Raine had distinguished her sixteen- yearold self in our prudish Pennsylvania Main Line town by being wilder than all the other bad seeds put together, Mom had parlayed her grief into a continuing life choice rather than a debilitating incident, and Norah already had her first PhD. In bossiness. At eighteen.
"So," Norah said then, studying me across the roast chicken she was serving up onto her best china plates. "You're finally engaged!"
That finally was because Norah felt grown- ups shouldn't (a) date for longer than six months without Knowing Where the Relationship Was Headed, (b) live together under any circumstances before marriage because They Still Don't Buy the Milk No Matter How Feminist It Might Be to Give It Away for Free, and You Know How Liberal I Am, Courtney, and (c) continue to date after a year without being engaged, because You Either Know or You Don't. She and Phil got engaged on their first anniversary, married on their second anniversary, and that, as she'd told me many times, was the secret to their happiness. No "waffling," as she put it. The fact that Lucas and I had been together for three years without so much as a shared bank account confused and annoyed her.
I thought that the fact Lucas chose to attend these weekly dinners with me was proof of love far above and beyond the gorgeous ring he'd just put on my finger. The ring was the prettiest thing I'd ever seen, but Family Dinners were tests of strength and will. Norah maintained a constantly updated spreadsheet of checks and balances, slights and alliances, and was always waiting to pounce. I assumed this spreadsheet existed only in her mind, but sometimes I suspected the existence of a hard copy, too.
"I'm so happy for you," Mom was saying. "I remember what it was like to be young and in love." She beamed at me. "And what fun we'll have, with a wedding to plan!"
"Remember, Courtney," Norah chimed in, frowning at Mom. "Your wedding is about you. Not about some fantasy wedding Mom wished she had with Dad."
Twenty-eight years had passed since my father's death, and yet I winced a little bit at Norah's tone. Lucas reached over to grab hold of me, his hand warm and reassuring on my leg.
My mother didn't respond, a well honed battle tactic, though I could swear I saw her lips tighten.
"You'll have a summer wedding, of course," Norah said, wresting back control of the conversation as she served me a plate of drumsticks and stewed carrots, both of which I hated. But I didn't say anything. About the food, anyway.
"We haven't made any plans, Norah," I told her. "We got engaged fifteen minutes ago." Lucas squeezed my leg a little bit, and I felt a rush of giddiness. Engaged. We were engaged. To be married.
"It's never too early to start making plans," Norah said, frowning slightly.
When she got engaged, if I remembered correctly, she'd allowed seven point three minutes for weeping and excitement, and had then proceeded to book her venue, photographer, and caterer before the end of the day. Because Nora was nothing if not prepared.
"Eliot can be your flower boy," Norah continued, handing out plates to Mom and Phil. "Or your ring-bearer. It's up to you, of course."
I felt the strangest urge to apologize for the possibility that I might want control over my own wedding. But then, hers had turned out to be a disaster, despite the kind of planning that would have done Napoleon proud.
"Everyone will tell you that the process is scary, or stressful," Mom told me. "But I think you can decide how it will be. There's such a thing as too much planning, you know." It was a gentle dig, but Norah stiffened.
"Not everyone is satisfied with stopping by the courthouse on their way home from work," Norah sniped right back at our mother.
"Everyone is not you, Norah," Mom said in the even tone she used when she wanted to prevent an escalation.
"Mom, please," Norah said crossly. "Courtney doesn't want to elope!"
"I don't know what I want to do," I offered up into the tension. "I guess Lucas and I are going to have to think about it."
"But I'm betting you're not going to elope," Norah retorted-more to her plate than anything, and, obviously, to make sure she got the last word. We all knew better than to engage.
"While you're thinking about it, the first thing to plan is the engagement party," Mom said, using a getting-down-to-business tone. "Lucas, you'll have to invite your parents to come down." She made it sound as if the party was already planned, and happening the following week.
"I can't have any parties until the season's over," I told her, after sharing a dazed look with Lucas. The season in question was not winter, which was likely endless, but the more finite Philadelphia Second Symphony Orchestra concert season, which finished in late May.
"Then we'll do it this summer," Mom replied. "How about July?"
I couldn't answer her for a moment. An hour ago I'd been skating on Germantown Avenue with my boyfriend. Now I was discussing my engagement party and feelings on elopement. I wasn't sure I could keep up with the life shift.
"Wow," I said, feeling panicky. "I mean, this is really nice of you, but I'm not sure we ..."
"I would be thrilled to throw it for you," Mom said, inclining her head at me as if that settled the matter.
"Um, great," I said. "Thanks." But something occurred to me. "Is the engagement party where we all sit around and play those weird games with the ribbons? Because I don't think I can handle that. With a straight face."
Excerpted from Names My Sisters Call Me by Megan Crane Copyright © 2008 by Megan Crane. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Meet the Author
Megan Crane grew up in New Jersey, graduated from Vassar, and got her MA and PhD in literature from the University of York in England. She currently lives in Los Angeles. Visit her website at www.megancrane.com.
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