The Proper Care and Maintenance of Friendship

( 18 )

Overview

What makes a wife a lover?
For Kate, the spark went out of her marriage long ago but her husband doesn't seem to notice. Their role as parents consumes their lives so they need to rekindle the romance they once shared.

What makes a woman a mother?
For Jo, a high-powered career has led her to believe that she doesn't have a single maternal ...

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The Proper Care and Maintenance of Friendship

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Overview

What makes a wife a lover?
For Kate, the spark went out of her marriage long ago but her husband doesn't seem to notice. Their role as parents consumes their lives so they need to rekindle the romance they once shared.

What makes a woman a mother?
For Jo, a high-powered career has led her to believe that she doesn't have a single maternal instinct. When an orphan unexpectedly enters her life, she is forced to confront her own unhappy childhood and the walls it has built around her heart.

What makes a man the love of your life?
For Sarah, home is the steamy jungles of Africa while the man of her dreams waits in the air-conditioned confines of Los Angeles. Her longing for this man from the past is blinding her to a new love standing right in front of her.

What these women all have in common is a friend with a generous soul, an irrepressible spirit- and a serious illness. In her final letters, Rachel raises one last question: What makes a friend live in our hearts forever?

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Higgins's (Heaven in His Arms) life-affirming novel reduces a fearless foursome to three when the adventurous Rachel Braun dies of cancer at 38. Though Rachel kept her diagnosis a secret from her friends, she wrote each a challenge to be read after her death. Kate Jansen, a married homemaker with three children, is told to skydive ("you're overwhelmed by your life," Rachel writes). In Rachel's view, globe-trotting Doctors Without Borders nurse Sarah Pollard is blinded to love in her grief over her ex: "You need to win him back, or finally say good-bye." But it's Bobbie "Jo" Marcum, a single, commitment-phobic businesswoman, of whom Rachel makes the greatest request, by leaving her custody of her seven-year-old daughter: "Take Grace." Large and small, their decisions affect them all in transformative ways, as when Kate accompanies Sarah to find her ex, now a doctor living in India. Higgins's romantic tendencies (she's penned several romance novels) inform the proceedings; with her mainstream debut, she creates a happy reminder that life is all about taking risks. (Jan.)
RomanceJunkies.com
"Expertly woven together by Lisa Verge Higgins...simply but beautifully written...the common thread is Rachel, who has given the best gift a friend can give - a second chance."
Claire LaZebnik
"Poignant, romantic, and funny...about the need for our closest friends to occasionally give us a shove in the right direction when we've lost our way. You'll recognize yourself in these women. I loved it."
Jane Porter
"An amazing novel of love, friendship, and community. A truly joyous read that marks an impressive debut."
Debbie Haupt
"Get the first 'Best Read' of 2011...a love story about what it really means to be a friend."
Luanne Rice
"Higgins writes with grace and humor, reminding us to hold tight to the ones we love."
Liza Palmer
"Offering words of wisdom from a dying friend, The Proper Care and Maintenance of Friendship inspires us to focus on what's really important in our lives."
Elizabeth Noble
"Full of humor, love, and life lessons, this is an uplifting and satisfying novel that lingers long after the last page."
Nancy Thayer
"The Proper Care and Maintenance of Friendship is a lovely novel with moments of deeply moving insight into what it means to be a mother, a wife, and a friend. Read it and share it with your own friends-you'll be glad you did!"
Kirkus Reviews

At the urging of a dying friend, three women take life-altering risks.

As the novel opens, Rachel has already died of cancer. It is a cosmic joke that Rachel, mountain climber, base jumper, sky diver, lived a life of extreme adventure unscathed, only to succumb to an ordinary disease. After her death, her best friends receive letters with a last request: Kate, an over-scheduled soccer mom, is to go sky-diving; Sarah, a relief worker in Africa, is to track down the doctor she once loved; and career woman Jo, man-killer, is to become legal guardian to Rachel's 7-year-old daughter Gracie. After Kate sky-dives for the second time, she mentions it to husband Paul, who is none too pleased that his dependable wife is taking afternoons off to risk her life. But she loves it, and it makes her see how stiff her marriage has become, how tied to her children's lives she is, how she has somehow disappeared. The strain on her marriage is solidified when she decides to accompany Sarah to India to track down Dr. Colin O'Rourke. Fourteen years ago in the Peace Corps in Paraguay, the two fell in love, he left, and Sarah has been holding a torch for the god-like doctor ever since. Finding him is Rachel's last request, so once and for all Sarah can move on. When Sarah and Kate arrive in India, Sam, a dashing colleague of Sarah's in Africa, is there to greet them. It is no coincidence—he's in love with Sarah and has followed her, but she only has room for Colin. When they eventually meet, it seems he's been carrying a torch too. In the midst of this exotic romance, Jo is in New York with Gracie, as she tries to make a home (baby gates? Mac and cheese? Barbie?) for a traumatized orphan. Of course the women learn their lessons—live life more fully—but only Jo's challenge is vital: to learn how to become a mother.

Higgins balances humor and a touch of pathos to deliver an amiable tale of friendship.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780446563512
  • Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
  • Publication date: 1/26/2011
  • Pages: 341
  • Sales rank: 360,787
  • Product dimensions: 5.20 (w) x 7.90 (h) x 1.10 (d)

Meet the Author

While studying for her Ph.D. in chemistry, RITA finalist Lisa Verge Higgins penned twelve romance novels under her maiden name. THE PROPER CARE AND MAINTENANCE OF FRIENDSHIP is her first foray into mainstream women's fiction.

She lives in New Jersey with her husband, an attorney, and their children.

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Read an Excerpt

The Proper Care and Maintenance of Friendship


By Verge Higgins, Lisa

5 Spot

Copyright © 2011 Verge Higgins, Lisa
All right reserved.

ISBN: 9780446563512

chapter one

When the rumbling Cessna heaved into the sky, Kate Jansen completely lost her nerve.

She seized the strap of her seat belt as the whole plane shuddered. Through the dirty window she glimpsed Jo and Sarah—her two best friends in the world—standing on the tarmac and shrinking swiftly into the distance.

“Now don’t you mind all the rattling, Miz Jansen,” Bubba shouted, patting the metal sides of the plane. “This old girl has brought me safely up and down again a hundred times or more.”

Kate glared at her skydiving instructor. He sat facing her, dressed in his black-and-blue jumpsuit, looking like a giant mutant housefly. He’d just spent two hours shoving her off ever-higher platforms onto thick mats, to teach her the proper falling techniques in the airport’s single hangar. He’d promised her that the jump would conquer her fear of heights, her fear of flying, her fear of everything. He promised her that the experience would completely change her life.

What the hell am I doing?

Breathe. Breathe. It had to be all right. Her friend Rachel Braun had done this a thousand and thirty-six times. Solo. But Kate would be diving with Bubba strapped to her back, hooked to him at six points. Each hook could carry two hundred pounds, he’d told her, and so if four of them snapped off while they were tumbling toward earth, well, a little thing like her shouldn’t worry.

The plane banked. Kate let go of the chokehold she had on her seat belt. She seized the ragged edge of the plywood she sat upon. A thousand little splinters pierced her palms.

She was going to kill Rachel Braun for this. And she would—if Rachel wasn’t dead already.

The plane jerked in sudden ascent, and she cast about wildly, seeking escape—an exit, an out that didn’t involve tumbling through the sky. Her gaze fixed upon a silver cross dangling from the rosary beads clutched in the other skydiver’s hands. His name was Frank, Bubba had told her, a Franciscan monk who jumped a few times a year.

She wondered, in a panic, if a monk could take confession.

But what did she have to confess? She loved her life. She was a thirty-nine-year-old mother of three who had a comfortable home with a cranky heater and flaking plaster walls. Her life overflowed with PTA meetings and Christmas-craft fund-raisers. She baked bread on Sundays, slapping the dough with floured hands. Every other year or so, she’d do a twenty-mile walk for one of Sarah’s charities.

She loved, most of all, her kids, whose faces she could summon up like spirits. Tess, trying to be cool while sucking on a hank of hair, her cropped hoodie clinging to her rib cage; Michael, moody and dark and brooding like Heathcliff; and Anna, little Anna, who gave small wet kisses like sparks.

Only a few hours ago, she’d signed fifteen pages of a contract that absolved the entire universe of any responsibility for loss of property, loss of limb, loss of life. It prevented anyone from even asking about her death—the death that would affect her three little beneficiaries, and her husband, too—who didn’t know that she was currently approaching a cumulus cloud hovering a mile above the earth.

Suddenly the photographer stood up. He grasped the handle of the door just opposite the pilot’s seat and yanked it open to a blast of sunlight and freezing air.

Ohmygod. Ohmygodohmygodohmygod

“Don’t go cold on me now, Miz Jansen,” Bubba yelled over the roar. “Let’s go over procedures one more time.”

I can’t do this.

“Remember, breathe through your nose.”

I’ve got three kids to pick up from school this afternoon.

“We’ll hook up, walk to the ledge, and somersault out.” Bubba leaned in closer, so she could better hear the bellow of his voice. “Then get into the arch position right away.”

The Franciscan stood up, palming the sides of the open door. He yelled something over his shoulder, and then made the sign of the cross. Papers on the pilot’s clipboard rattled—two tore off and reeled into the wind.

Frank was gone.

Holy shit.

“C’mon, Miz Jansen.” Bubba grinned as he reached over and unbuckled her seat belt. “Let’s do this.”

“No…” The wind sucked the word from her mouth. “No…”

But Bubba didn’t hear her. He hauled her up with those ham-sized fists and then twisted her around like he was going to take her by the backside. She struggled to speak as she stood there with her knees buckling, bracing herself against the back of the plane, while he pressed his long, hard body against her and hooked her up to him—six little hooks.

She forced air past her throat. “I’ve changed… my mind.”

“Ten minutes.” He moved against her. “Ten minutes, and we’ll be on the ground.”

Kate’s foot slipped off the plywood into a gully where the seats should have been. Something imploded inside her, shooting sparks to her extremities, making her cramp into a curled ball of terror, held up by six little hooks. She seized a beam of molded metal above a window, shouting, “You said… I could change my mind.”

“You’re not going to chicken out on me, are you, Miz Jansen?”

“I’m just… a housewife!”

“Right now you’re a sassy thirty-nine-year-old woman,” he bellowed, “with a big country boy strapped to your back.”

“I’ve got three kids—”

“Congratulations. You must be a heck of an athlete, keeping those abs of yours.”

“—I’ve got responsibilities.” She couldn’t breathe, and all the yelling hurt her throat. “I’ve got obligations. But Rachel died—she’s dead.

Rachel, Rachel, why did you ask me to do this?

“Hey,” the pilot barked. “We’re over the drop zone! Get out!”

“Miz Jansen, you’ve got to make a decision now.”

“Rachel… Rachel died,” Kate stuttered, her whole body shaking. “That letter should have had instructions for her funeral. Dirty songs to sing over her grave. Not… not this.

Bubba yelled, “You opting out?”

“Yes!”

“You sure?”

“Yes!!”

Bubba sighed. She rose and fell upon the weight of it.

“Okay,” he said. “We’re done.”

Kate stilled. She kept her grip on the molding, slippery now with sweat. She heard her breathing, felt the slight banking of the plane. “Really?”

“Oh, yeah. Really.” Bubba worked the hooks. He spoke close to her ear so he could make himself heard without yelling. “You think you’re the first to give up, honey? Hell, no. Happens all the time.” He slipped the first hook free. “ ’Specially with women like you. The ones staring down the barrel at their fortieth birthdays. Think they’re going to hurl themselves out of airplanes to resurrect their wild youth. Never happens.”

“I’ve got… three kids.”

“So you said. It’s too bad you didn’t go. They’d never look at you in quite the same way.”

“Better that I’m around to see them,” she retorted. She straightened up, away from the cutting rumble of his voice. “Better I’m alive on the ground—”

“Oh, sure,” he said. “Then you can go back to your soccer carpool. Flip out your foldable chair. Over a fancy coffee, tell those other moms all about how you almost jumped out of an airplane.”

Hell, yes.

“And when you’re done, you can go home and dust the moldings, maybe scrub a toilet. Figure out how you’re going to cook chicken for dinner. Schedule a tune-up for your second car. Maybe slip in a load of laundry before bedtime. After all, you have to get that stain out of Junior’s soccer pants. I hear Tide with bleach is the thing.”

Stop.

She didn’t need to hear it. She saw it, as clearly as she saw long wisps of clouds through the window. Oh, yes, the unfurling of the long years, marked by yet another beach-house vacation and another project involving toothpicks and toilet-paper rolls, another concert with the grammar-school band screeching “Hot Cross Buns.” Smiling all through it. Yes, this was fun; yes, this is the life; yes, we’re a hundred thousand times blessed. Year upon year passes in clockwork predictability, and the only things that change are the height of her kids, the baldness of her husband, and the width of her ass.

“Listen, asshole,” she yelled over her shoulder, “stop the reverse-psych crap. Sure, I’m a housewife, but it’s a hell of a better way to spend my time than chilling in a morgue.”

“Like Rachel?”

Bubba yanked another hook free. He might as well have jerked it from her flesh. It left her speechless. Aghast. Grasping for words.

Failing to find them.

Then he pushed against her, sensing her vulnerability. He pressed his stubbled cheek against her hair. “What do you think your friend would give, Kate, for a chance to be up here again?”

Kate knew the answer. Rachel had lived for moments like this, made huge sacrifices for the adrenaline rush. Sacrifices Kate hadn’t always agreed with.

But all that was over. All possibilities, for better or worse, were gone forever.

The pilot yelled, “Last chance, Bubba.”

Last chance.

The plane dipped. The wind battered the jumpsuit against her legs. Kate Jansen glared out at those blue skies, at the ground so very far below. She glared up at the heavens. Didn’t know whether to curse Bubba or Rachel or her wretched self for the foolishness she was about to attempt.

Bubba spoke, one last time.

“What’ll it be… wifey?”



Continues...

Excerpted from The Proper Care and Maintenance of Friendship by Verge Higgins, Lisa Copyright © 2011 by Verge Higgins, Lisa. Excerpted by permission.
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.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 18 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(8)

4 Star

(6)

3 Star

(2)

2 Star

(1)

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(1)

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Sort by: Showing all of 18 Customer Reviews
  • Posted January 22, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    A well written contemporary buddy book c

    Rachel Braun, Kate Jansen, Bobbie Jo Marcum, and Sarah Pollard were best friends forever, but three of the foursome did not expect forever to end abruptly with death. Not quite forty, Rachel the bravest of the quartet dies from cancer that she concealed from her BFFs. However, before her death, Rachel wrote letters to each of her buddies daring them to take on the challenge of their greatest fear.

    Rachel directs house-mom Kate to rekindle the spark of her marriage with Paul that she doused to give her all to their three children. Doctors Without Borders nurse Sarah needs to win back the love of her life Colin who lives a zillion miles away in geography and lifestyle, but who she never moved on from; this requires risking her heart again so that win or lose she wins as she can love again. Jo the businesswoman avoids personal commitment like it's the plague as she learned as a foster child; so single mom Rachel challenges her to raise her seven year old daughter Gracie with the grace she knows the woman has.

    This well written contemporary buddy book contains plenty of depth as the premise of friends knowing you at times better than you want to admit makes for a strong tale. Rachel from her deathbed provides the impetus to her three BFFs to take risks as she insists you only live once and must make the best of your short time span. No final negative shockers though some spins end surprisingly, fans will enjoy the saga of the three surviving musketeers who understand that life is a risk but with friends who are "all for one and one for all" (Dumas) it can be fulfilling.

    Harriet Klausner

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted January 11, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    Your First MUST READ of 2011

    Four very different friends have remained so with much effort, but when tragedy strikes and deathbed requests are made the least that will happen is head scratching, the most will be life changing.
    Ms. Higgins has a sure to be hit on her hands in this her first foray into mainstream women's literature. The first thing that was apparent to me was her astonishing storytelling capability, the second is her capacity to pull some deep emotions from me while reading. She gives us a heart-wrenching tale that will affect even the most stoic readers and she does this will a gracefully flowing narrative that will transport her readers from the most exotic of locations to the mundane of everyday life. She makes this happen with the most incredibly unforgettable characters not stopping with the stars of her novel but right on down the line to the most minor of roles. Her main characters are outstanding in their density and Ms. Higgins does an excellent job of making them very real to her audience. They were not only authentic in the roles they played but also very multi-dimensionally faceted in their personalities. She did an excellent job of making them believable and at times frustratingly so. This is not a romance even though there are romantic elements to the story it's instead a love story about what it really means to be a friend, what it takes to keep that friendship alive and makes those of us who haven't done that ashamed and looking up names that we have forgotten about along the way of growing up and growing older.
    Anyone who has ever had a lifelong friendship should not only read this but buy it for that special someone they call friend, every woman who's ever experienced the whole hearted friend love between herself and another woman should experience this awe inspiring novel. And every man who loves a woman will get a better insight into her should he read this tale.
    So go out and get this the first "Best Read" of 2011, you won't be sorry and you will be a better friend if you do.
    Kudos to you Ms. Higgins for an inspiring, heart warming and very emotional read.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted January 1, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    Just how far would you go for your friends?

    Kate, Jo, and Sarah, would have never believed their friendship would face the ultimate in tests. They also have one thing in common...Rachel.

    Rachel was their fourth member of their quartet friendship, whose life, although well lived, was too short. When she dies, she sends each of them a letter asking them to face their greatest fears. Only Rachel and the letter's recipients know the reason for choosing each unusual task that each of them has to endure through the novel, The Proper Care and Maintenance of Friendship by Lisa Verge Higgins.

    No friendship ever has to face the many challenges that Kate, Jo, and Sarah must endure, but in doing so, Rachel teaches them that the very things they fear, once conquered, will change them forever. For one, she has lost the spark in her marriage as her role of a mom consumes the person she once was; for another, she questions whether or not, she could ever be a mom after her difficult childhood, when she is asked to be the mom of Rachel's only surviving daughter; and for the last one, sometimes the love that we let go, will leave us struggling with doubts of a past we could have, and keep us from any happiness that comes our way.

    I love the intimacy of the words that Lisa Higgins uses to tell the struggles each of these women face. I feel like she is talking to us through their lives as a best friend would. I was captivated by the feelings and emotions she pulls from the reader and in witnessing their challenges, it changes us as well.

    I received the book compliments of Hachette Book Group for my honest review and for this being the first review of the New Year, I needed this one. It begins with a thrill ride from page one when Kate, your average, over booked, soccer mom to three boys and husband finds herself questioning her sanity as she is about to jump out of a plane. I loved it and couldn't put it down until I finished. This one is a stellar read for any women who lives with her own fears that prevent her from moving forward, and rates a 5 out of 5 stars.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted February 21, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    The strength of women's friendships can reach beyond the grave

    This book begins with Kate, a stay-at-home mom afraid of flying, getting ready to jump out of an airplane - to skydive. She has been sent on this "mission" by a letter that she received from one of her dear friends Rachel. Rachel has passed away and sent a letter to many of her friends and family with last requests. This book focuses on three of those - Kate's, Jo's and Sarah's. They were brought together by Rachel and the four of them had remained good friends despite their differences.

    As I stated, Kate was a SAHM then we have Jo - a single workaholic, and Sarah - a nurse who worked overseas in many unpleasant areas. When Rachel dies, unexpectedly to them, but something she was well aware of, she sent each of them letters with one last request. These requests led them on journeys in which they learned to let go and began to hold on. Rachel pushed each one of them to do something they would never have done on their own, which led them to discover things about themselves that they may never have seen.

    This is a great story about the strength of women's friendships and the bonds that they share. If you are looking for a book for your book club, this would be a good one. There is also a reading group guide available.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted January 29, 2011

    BookHounds

    This story is all about taking chances and getting out of your of comfort zone. Four women, friends forever, find themselves at a loss when one member, Rachel, dies of cancer. She has never told the other three about her condition. Before she dies she sends letters to the other members of the group and makes them face their fears. The requests make each person leave their comfort zone and in the process overcome things that are holding them back in their lives.

    The story reminded me a bit of the Friday Night Knitting Club and I think it will appeal to those readers as well. Each one of the girls in this group has an issue that once overcome, will help them live a much happier and productive life. There were some laughs and tears while reading this and overall, it was just a nice thing to do for a few hours. I received this book at no charge from the publisher in exchange for my honest review.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted November 2, 2013

    Kudos for The Proper Care and Maintenance of Friendship! I ide

    Kudos for The Proper Care and Maintenance of Friendship! I identified the most with Kate, the mom who needed to jump out of a plane to remember who she was before kids. But I think Jo, the single businesswoman, was the sweetest surprise of all. Loved her journey in which the reader got to know her slowly as she discovered the courage to know herself and heal the hurt child inside her. And, of course, I had a crush on Sam. Who doesn’t love a color-blind gun runner?

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 14, 2012

    Amazing

    Captured my attention from the start and kept it the whole way through! An inspiring read, i hope you enjoy it as much as i did.

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