Out of the Blueby Sally Mandel
At once heart-wrenching and funny, poignant and provocative, here is a rare novel about finding the courage to take a remarkable leap of faith. Smart, funny Anna Bolles, a born athlete and a dynamic teacher, figures God decided to have the last laugh when her life was tragically and irrevocably changed five years ago. Since then she has kept herself firmly
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At once heart-wrenching and funny, poignant and provocative, here is a rare novel about finding the courage to take a remarkable leap of faith. Smart, funny Anna Bolles, a born athlete and a dynamic teacher, figures God decided to have the last laugh when her life was tragically and irrevocably changed five years ago. Since then she has kept herself firmly grounded in the present with the door marked "future" shut.
Anna's days are filled with the vibrancy of summer in New York City where she takes joy in the details, the sensual assault of an air-conditioned museum and a perfectly baked muffin. She relishes her role as an observer to the dramas played out around herfrom the adolescent courtships of her private school students to the turbulent love affairs of friends and colleagues. Yet Anna never dares to open her heart, except to the father who has drifted from her and the mother who sustains her, until the one thing she didn't think could happen becomes a twist of fate that may just set her free. Until Joe Malone.
Joe Malone, pilot, businessman, amateur photographer, is a man who has everything except happiness. Though he's notorious for his short attention span, he sees in Anna a world of possibilities. Maybe Joe, a man who has only been skimming the surface of life, has finally found a perfect place to land. He thinks he wants a life with Anna no matter what and seems willing to risk everything to be with her. But can he trust himself enough to give their deepest dreams the chance to flourish?
Through laughter and tears, from the depths of heartbreak to the pinnacle of joy, Sally Mandell never fails to remind readers of the things thatmatter most in life. Now she has written her most dazzling novel yeta very special story about two unique people whose love comes from seemingly out of the blue.
- Random House Publishing Group
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- First Edition
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- 6.48(w) x 9.55(h) x 1.14(d)
Read an Excerpt
I pictured God feeling a little bored one morning and sifting through his files until he found my name. Oh yeah, that little jock, Annie Bolles. That flibbertigibbet who never sits still. Let's toss a thunderbolt her way and see how she handles it.
I knew there was something amiss when my legs disappeared. I was on my third lap around the Central Park Reservoir on one of those autumn mornings when the mist sighed from the surface and the gulls rose up through it like ghost birds. First, there was a tingling sensation in my toes, intensifying with each step until it felt as if my running shoes had been hot-wired. I tried to run it off, assuming it had to be some kind of weird cramp or shin splints. But within another quarter mile, the current had crept up to the knees, microwaving my muscles. And then my legs just pureed. I kind of collapsed against the chain-link fence until Armando, one of the regulars, came along and helped me hobble to Fifth Avenue and put me in a cab. It was my last great run.
MSmultiple sclerosis. For a while that was how I thought of myself. "Anna Marie Bolles, MS," as if it were some kind of advanced degree that followed my name everywhere. But as it turned out, getting MS was not the most significant event of my life.
That was five years ago, and I'd put in a lot of adjustment time before the Saturday afternoon I wheeled myself into the American Institute of Photography. During those periods when I was completely immobilized, I often surrounded myself with art books. Leafing through them gave me the pleasant illusion that I was strolling through a museum. Anyway, photos had always interested me.
This particularexhibit at the A.I.P. was called "Our Own Backyard," and it featured local amateurs. It was a summer afternoon, really steamy, and I hadn't done anything more than brush my hair back into a ponytail, a decision I lived to regret. The uptown bus wasn't air conditioned, but at least it had a functioning handicapped exit.
I saw him as soon as I got inside the gallery. Anybody would have noticed that striking face, but it was more than that. I found out later that he'd recently been on the cover of Crain's magazine, which is sold from wheelchair-eye-level at my neighborhood newsstand. But I wonder now if the jolt of recognition went a lot deeper. He was leaning oh-so-casually against the doorway, pretending to look at the photographs, but I knew he was faking. One of the advantages of this chair is that after people give me that first uneasy glance, I seem to become semi-invisible and I can stare at everybody to my heart's content. I figured he'd dropped by to check out the women.
I started looking at the pictures, taking my timealso something I never used to have the patience for. Most of them were fairly clichÃ©d. I, too, love that old lady in the park with pigeons perched on her head, but I think it may be time to give it a rest. I moved along, and then I stopped. I stared. I set my brake because I knew I wasn't going anywhere for a while. It was a bridge, but photographed from underneath so you could see the gridwork. It loomed upward in a pattern of delicate intricacy that contrasted starkly with the steel's violent power. I don't even know how long I sat there gazing. But sometimes if I remain in the same position for too long, I begin to ache. Finally,I noticed that the backs of my legs had started to throb, and when I shifted in my chair, the man I'd seen when I first came in was standing beside me. God knows how long he'd been there.
"You seem interested in this photograph," he said.
"Very," I answered. I was rattled, disoriented, as if he'd shaken me awake from a disturbing dream.
"I wonder why." It wasn't a casual questionhe really wanted to know. I took a closer look at him. He was about six feet tall, a little stooped and on the slim side, in a navy polo shirt and faded jeans. His hair was dark blond with sun streaks in it, and of the straight fine texture I always, after seeing too many Merchant-Ivory movies, think of as belonging to English aristocrats. He had blue eyes set deep into the bony planes of his face. He hadn't shaved.
I glanced at the picture again, pretending to consider it, but I was trying to make out the name on the placard: Joseph D. Malone.
"Well, Mr. Malone, I hope you've got a good shrink," I said.
His eyes opened a little wider, then he grinned. "That bad?"
"I think it's brave of you to hang around while people look at your work," I went on.
"I've never had a photo exhibited so I was curious. But I'm not sure I'd do it again."
"Are all your pictures so tragic?"
"I didn't think this one was." He stared at it. "I wasn't in the best state of mind when I shot it, actually."
No kidding, I thought. "What about that one?" I pointed to the next photo by someone named Smith, a bicycle leaning against a bodega.
"You first," he said. I got the feeling he was testing me.
"It's an interesting idea, but not very well executed. It's too flat."
"I think we'd better get some coffee." Not waiting for a response, he took hold of my chair as if it were the most natural gesture and starting shoving me to the exit. Maybe he just figured since I was disabled, I wouldn't have anything pressing to do. I didn't know whether to be angry or embarrassed at my reaction, which was all too passive-female circa 1950. Not only that, I was revoltingly grateful that I'd pulled on my pale blue tank top because I knew it made my eyes seem almost navy.
"Who's got easy wheelchair access around here?" he asked when we hit the wall of heat outside.
"Jackson Hole's fine," I answered. I knew I could rely on the air conditioning there, and I was going to need it soon. I don't do so well when it gets over eighty degrees.
It took some maneuvering to get me through the narrow doorway into the restaurant. They seated us against the window where I wouldn't trip anybody up. Joe faced the interior of the room and I had a dazzling view of the street. Ordinarily I can't drag my attention away from the New York parade passing by outside, but now I had to force myself to keep from gawking at Joe Malone's face. Close up, his eyes held prisms of gold that lent them an unusual aqua tint. His eyebrows and lashes were dark, much darker than his hair. The effect served to further outline the extraordinary eyes.
Since I got sick, most people start out with, "Do you mind if I ask you a personal question?" So I was surprised when Joe said, "You're a perceptive critic. Are you a photographer?"
I laughed. "If you're partial to snapshots of people's feet with acres of lawn. I'm just an art junkie. Any kind of art."
"You know, you really brought me up short. I always thought of that bridge shot as a comforting image."
"Well, it just shows what a good photographer you are. That the other feelings percolated up as well."
"Or what a sensitive eye you have," he said.
I was inordinately pleased, but I was dying to ask him about the unhappy time he'd referred to back in the gallery. Maybe he'd been breaking up with a girlfriend or getting a divorce. I looked at his finger. No ring.
"I want to know every goddamn thing about you," he said, and our eyes snapped together with what seemed an audible click. I don't know who was more startled.
"Jesus," he murmured.
But since I'd already jumped on the freight train, I decided to get it over with. "It's MS. Why I'm in the chair."
"How long have you had it?"
"Do you get remissions?"
"Mostly I do pretty well. I've only had to resort to this," I tapped my chair, "twice. I still work out at the gym when I can."
"Did something set you back?"
"I don't know, really. It just seems to happen periodically, and I'd picked up a cold." Actually, it was a urinary tract infection, but I was hardly going to tell him that.
I liked that he didn't get all maudlin about what a pity it was, wasted youth, etcetera, etcetera. He just nodded as if I was telling him how many siblings I had.
We spent an hour over lunch, during which Joe spoke easily and passionately about photography and reading, another of his avocations. He was reticent regarding his career, and it wasn't until we'd left the restaurant for the park that I got him to open up. I use the term advisedly since he imparted information in such a detached manner. But I did determine that he worked for a small charter enterprise started by his father, upstate near Utica.
As for me, I told him about my early years as a dilettante, how difficult it had always been for me to make choices when I wanted to do it all. I confessed that I owed my career to my mother's bullying me into a teaching degree. Thankfully, as it turned out, since I'd had to give up my other gigstutoring tennis, teaching gymnastics on the West Side, coaching jazz dance. The Cameron School had been incredibly flexible, in part because I was an alumna but also, I suspect, because the headmaster thought it was instructive to have a disabled teacher on the staff.
Joe had pushed me down to the Great Lawn, where several ball games were going on. It took only minutes for the tops of my knees to turn pink in the broiling sun, but I wasn't about to complain. I knew the heat could make me sick, but I figured I was still semi-frozen from Jackson Hole and it might take me a while to defrost.
"What about men?"
I gave him a stare.
"I told you I want to know everything," he said. When he smiled, lines crinkled beside his eyes and an indefinable sadness evaporated. I could see that his bottom teeth were a little crooked.
"Are you married?" He wasn't about to give up. "Do you have three children? A boyfriend? Come on."
I suddenly felt shy. Not just a little shy, but blushingly, stammeringly shy. "This time you. You go first."
"All right. I've dated a lot of women but there's only been one relationship that's lasted more than a few months. It hasn't been working out. I know what you're thinking. Can't commit."
"My record isn't that hot in the commitment department either. There was an off-and-on two-year thing, but it ended after I got sick."
Just then somebody hit a triple halfway to the West Side and a great roar went up. I watched a runner slide home and felt such a tug, a tearing sensation. It wasn't usually that bad, but I had to blink hard. I'd never minded getting dirty in a slide. Joe was studying me carefully, so I put a hand up to my eyes as if the glare bothered me. He took the other one and held it, palm up, staring into my future.
"So there's nobody now?" he asked. I shook my head, not trusting myself to speak through the lump.
What People are Saying About This
Out of the Blue is a novel of soaring spirit, steadfast love, and the willingness to reach for dreams...even when they are close to home.
Funny, sad, tender, and triumphant, Out of the Blue is the poignant story of a courageous woman coming to terms with who she is and who she wants to be.
Meet the Author
Sally Mandel is the beloved author of four novels: Quinn, A Time To Sing, Portrait of a Married Woman, and the New York Times bestseller Change of Heart. She lives in New York City with her family.
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As a woman with MS, I accidently ran across this book in my local Eckert store. It's the best 6 bucks I ever spent. Little did I know I'd read about another woman with MS who triumphs over her challenges. Can't wait to read another Sally Mandel novel!
This was a marvelous book about real life in living day to day with multiple sclerosis. I work for the MS Society and will reccomend it to our clients. I wish I could get Salley to come to our annual meeting...
It has been five years since multiple sclerosis struck Anna Bolles. Even beyond those periods when Anna requires a wheelchair, her mother and she feel the impact of the disease as part of their daily lives. Not quite the athlete she once was, Anna understood why her long time steady Bobby Zaklow ultimately bailed out of their relationship. Outside of her mother, Anna does not allow anyone, including herself, her students at a private Manhattan high school, nor her peers to get close to her. Her role as a marvelous watcher ends when she meets Joe Malone at an art show exhibiting his photographs. The amateur photographer enjoys the hobby, but he earns his living as the marketing manager for a small upstate New York air charter service. Anna questions Joe¿s commitment to living and he inquires why she has given up on relationships. As their feelings turn to love, both of them ponders whether they can entrust their heart, body, and soul to the other for a lifetime. OUT OF THE BLUE is a typically wonderful Sally Mandel contemporary romance. The character-driven story line centers on relationships. Anna is a witty protagonist who uses humor to self-deprecate while remaining outside the emotional fray of deep interaction. Joe is a fabulous hunk who mentally contends with his own demons involving whether or not he can cope with his beloved¿s illness. Mama Bolles is an in your face secondary player who provides jocularity while helping the audience see inside the lead players. Even the support cast is fully developed as Ms. Mandel shows why she is a New York Times best-selling author. Harriet Klausner