Sandpebbles

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Overview

The tale of a broken heart's awakening to hope.

A moving, richly told story set in a small fishing village in coastal North Carolina, Patricia Hickman's novel portrays a witty, recently widowed herione who must learn to let go of the past--and discover God's surprising, renewing provision for her future.

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Sandpebbles

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Overview

The tale of a broken heart's awakening to hope.

A moving, richly told story set in a small fishing village in coastal North Carolina, Patricia Hickman's novel portrays a witty, recently widowed herione who must learn to let go of the past--and discover God's surprising, renewing provision for her future.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
The pain caused by the loss of her daughter the previous year in a car accident permeates Hickman's newest inspirational novel, the story of a widow's search for meaning after her husband's death. "Not letting go is my downfall," says March ("like the month") Longfellow, and so begins this tale of losing loved ones and finding renewed faith through surrendering control. March is attracted to Pastor Colin Arnett, a widower with four children who knows grief as well as she. But March fends off love and holds tightly to what little control she has left in her life, keeping a close rein on her widowed father, her young son, Mason, and her newspaper, the Candle Cove, N.C., Sentinel, until the story's conclusion allows March to lay old ghosts to rest. Hickman's characterizations are chock-full of originality, from March's would-be suitor and town exterminator, Jerry Brevity, who drives a truck with a giant fake rat on top, to Charlotte, Colin's eight-year-old handicapped daughter, who has a penchant for angels (a motif scattered throughout the story). However, Hickman's descriptive writing and her word choices often go over the top, making it difficult for the reader to become engrossed in the narrative. Too many hospital incidents are included, and even the cat has a brain tumor. It's a good if not exceptional story with some nice touches of humor. Hickman continues to be one of CBA's most promising novelists, even if this story doesn't achieve its full potential. (Apr.) Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
Library Journal
The boating death of her husband leaves March Longfellow and her son, Mason, in a painful coexistence. March hints of suicide when she thinks of how her husband died, but she's too busy trying to support her son in the small town of Candle Cove to worry about explaining his father's death to him. Meanwhile, her pastor father is ready to retire and invites widowed minister Colin Arnett to preach as a potential replacement. Refusing to believe that her father truly means to retire, March subconsciously sabotages his efforts and drives Colin away. After her father suffers a heart attack, March takes a long look at how stubborn she's been and approaches Colin to ask his forgiveness. Their initial meeting soon blossoms into love, but March has to open her heart to God again and replace her sense of duty to the church with a true joy before they can find happiness. To the novel's detriment, Hickman's (Katrina's Wings) March is self-centered and self-righteous for much of the story. Still, Hickman's writing will be in demand by fans and will appeal to readers of Robin Lee Hatcher's emotional Ribbon of Years. Purchase where demand warrants. Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780849943003
  • Publisher: Nelson, Thomas, Inc.
  • Publication date: 4/28/2002
  • Series: Women of Faith Fiction Series
  • Pages: 336
  • Sales rank: 1,020,165
  • Product dimensions: 5.60 (w) x 8.52 (h) x 0.81 (d)

Meet the Author

Award-winning novelist and speaker Patricia Hickman has published fourteen novels, including her critically acclaimed Fallen Angels and Nazareth's Song. Her works have been praised in such publications as Publishers Weekly, Romantic Times, Moody Magazine, SHINE Magazine for Women, and Library Journal. Hickman has won two Silver Angel Awards for Excellence in Media and has been a frequent guest nationally on radio programs. Patricia is married and mother to three children--two on earth and one in heaven.
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Read an Excerpt

Chapter One


Not letting go is my downfall. I can think of at least three lives I saved because of it and at least two lives I wrecked. Case in point: Whenever my husband Joe and I saw an accident, I leaped from the car, checked the victims' vitals, and directed traffic until the local cops and EMS team arrived.

    Be that as it may, succumbing to this same inner mechanism is why I held a gun on two thugs and rescued my baby-sitter, Yolanda, from what would have been possible torture. It was not a real gun.

    A year and a half after Joe's death I drove home from Gum's Food Mart loaded down with ears of corn and shrimp for a seafood boil near the ocean. My boy, Mason, expected me to punctually pick him up from his Grandpa's and chauffeur him to his baseball game. My late habits at the newspaper office triggered occasional tardiness. He tended to get miffed about my weak timekeeping. So I almost missed seeing Yolanda at the Hep-Ur-Sef coin-op car wash because I exceeded the speed limit. But in an oblique sort of manner, I saw the spray wand lift and lower above Yolanda's VW Beetle. Then the whole hose contraption went haywire. Suds fountained in the air as the hose spewed in circles and made cobralike gyrations that caught my eye and caused my foot to hit the brake.

    That is when I saw the thugs. One wielded a terrorizing blade. According to the ten o'clock news that night, the wayward boys had escaped from a jail in New Jersey, stolen a car, and made it all the way to our town of Candle Cove, North Carolina—a mistake they will most surely never make again. We are tight here. Whateverthey intended to do with Yolanda never came to light. Before they could wrestle her away from the Beetle, my tires squealed to a dead stop right in front of them. Grenades of corn pitched throughout my SUV and I remember whisking away husk hairs for a solid month from the upholstery and carpet, a fact that irked me for the longest time. Mason had dropped his black water pistol onto the floor of the car. With both hands, I gripped it tight through the open window. I hid the plastic cap that holds in the water with my thumbs. "Put up your hands! I'm the police!"

    Yolanda whitened and tried to speak even though one of the brutes had his filthy hand clamped over her sweet teenage mouth.

    Both of the men were so surprised they froze, and the one with a knife threw it down. I called May at the police station on my cellular and she sent our two cops, Harold Gleason and Bobby White, over right away. (They were having jalapeño bagels at the nearby Lighthouse Java Mill.) I ordered the criminals to lie facedown on the pavement and Yolanda ran shrieking out into the street to flag down Harold and Bobby. Harold held them at bay while Bobby cuffed them and read them their rights. Harold said he wanted to swear at me for succumbing to my mechanism only to endanger the life of two helpless women, one being myself. But I had already stepped aside to retch into the Hep-Ur-Sef trash container.

    Yolanda cried and ran up the bill on her parents' cellular phone, calling first her mother, her father who was away in Pittsburgh on business, her orthodontist, and her best friend in the whole eleventh grade. She hugged me and bawled on my shoulder so hard I had to tear myself away to run and fetch Mason, who by that time paced in front of his grandfather's house, tapping the tip of his bat against the walk, irate as mad bees. Even though I had rescued his lifelong babysitter, he was angry enough that he spilled out disconnected phrases that seemed to combust at the end with incensed grunts. The slightest infraction on my part, in his ten-year-old estimation, was worthy of castigation.

    That is why I took him to Virginia every spring to visit his father's grave, to leave flowers, and to help Mason forgive me.

Six months later, the second anniversary of Joe's death rolled around, and Mason and I drove all the way up to northern Virginia to visit his daddy's grave. Neither of us wanted to stay behind in Virginia, or return to North Carolina. The trees along I-95 were not greening yet, and that disappointed Mason. Ten-year-old boys like him see sunsets and blooming trees and grow up to be men who can cry. Masons daddy could not cry, and I believed that was what caused his death.

    I thought that Joe's death would end my life. Even when Bobby and Harold showed up at my door stiff as soldiers with the news of Joe's passing, I had said just that very thing—"Dear God, my life is over!" But instead of ending me, Joe's accident left me opened up and walking around. Yet if I attempted the most menial tasks, I felt a paralysis slip over my mind. The most insignificant incidents reminded me of my Joe, like the time I opened a tool drawer out in the garage and found it stuffed with bank slips and gas receipts. I thought I had cleared away all of the clutter that reminded me of his pack rat tendencies, but right next to a ratchet and a box of matches lay more of his addiction to disorder. I cried for days. For hours every night after I sent Mason to bed, I cleared out every possible cranny in the house where Joe might have tossed a piece of this or that, even poring through his shoeboxes filled with tax returns until his clutter was eradicated and every inch of our house cleared of the-history-of-us. After the Nights of Eradication, I worked to close the windows of my soul and bar the attic of my mind.

    It was the very worst thing I could do.

    During our summer, we are the sun children of the Sound Country, not a long distance from the ferry that tools tourists out to Ocracoke Island or from any number of the fishing villages that dot the decaying womb of upper coastal North Carolina. Candle Cove draws beachcombers and business opportunities but not always both trades at once. Winter does not kiss us with heated passion the way it plays to its mistresses of the low country and Florida. Damp winters sluice the Sound people with blankets of firmament so thick the sky is one with the fog beneath our feet.

    Summer is where we prefer to live. Mason wanted to cross the threshold to the inland with its thickets of live oak and find it green, not plain—not allowing the wind to howl through the naked tree limbs, brittle beggars undressed in the fields. Winter makes its home up north, but it plants its feet in the Carolinas, enough to chill the field and to blow snow across the upper decks of the mountains and leave a tinsel of cold upon the Atlantic side. Mentally I had painted our little piece of heaven green, just as I painted my mother alive. "Soon, Mason, we'll have us a good spring."

    We saw the "Welcome to North Carolina" sign as we left Virginia behind, but the crossing of thresholds had lost its sheen. When too much change comes to your door, you grow anxious around thresholds.

    I had learned to watch Mason without him knowing it. He sat with the passenger shoulder safety belt twisted behind him. Mason complained of seat straps too high for short kids. He never minded the height issue until fifth grade. But now he attached all of his worth to it, as though it were his defining trait. Within every comment from a grade-school imbecile—and every class has one—he found hidden meaning between what was said and what was implied.

    My observances of Mason were as covert as all of the things that kept me a step ahead of him, like the furtive ways that a mother watches her boy so he won't complain she's smothering him. I catalogued a mental collection of a mother's snapshots into little significant files like "Mason when he is angry with me" and "Mason when he daydreams." I thirsted for the tender and rare moments right now, the sight of things that stole my breath and gave me pause. You learn to look for beauty in the fragile lace of life when other things in your world come unthreaded.

    Mason remained transfixed on the ebbing color that stained the horizon, as though he were sucking the color out of the sky himself. A mélange of orange and cinnamon firmament floated just above the mountains, a marker for where the sun had just kissed the sky before bed. He traced the cloud shape onto the surface of the car window. Or perhaps he drew something else. I don't know why I give every action a meaning. It's just the thing a writer does when she sees something mysterious.

    "This is North Carolina," he said, "not South."

    "Right, Professor. North comes before South."

    "Not if you're coming from Florida."

    "Let's stop here tonight. Then tomorrow morning we'll have only three hours left until we reach Candle Cove."

    "Grandpa's looking for us."

    "I told him it might be tomorrow."

    A LaQuinta sign the color of orange and cinnamon floated above the interstate. It advertised a special for families.

    "Free breakfast. Let's stop here." I braked.

    "Continental. That's not real breakfast."

    "We have continental every morning: cold cereal, frozen waffles, toast."

    "Ask if we can check the pillows first. I hate pillows that are overpuffed," he said

    "Overpuffed isn't a word. Unless you're saying it as two words." We drove over a speed bump and past the flashing vacancy sign.

    Mason slid his finger up and down the bridge of his nose in a manner that followed the inward curve of the bridge to the upturned and rounded curves that housed his trademark Longfellow nostrils. Whenever anger shot up his spine, those same nostrils flared and he looked pug-nosed.

    "I hope the dog and cat are all right. Hercules always acts psychotic after he's been at the Pet Spa," I said.

    "Johnson acts psychotic every day. Cats are all psychotic."

    But none as off-the-wall as Johnson who had feline phobias such as a fear of walking on sand—he would mince onto the sand, shake his paw, and turn and run back up to the cottage. Only he didn't like the cottage either, and I swore he had agoraphobia or whatever you call that thing when you just want to stay in all of the time. "You know you love Johnson, Mason. You ought to. He's gotten too old to give away."

    "A needy family still might take him. For a rug."

    "This LaQuinta looks new. Maybe we'll get a new room. Toss my shoes over here, will you?"

    "I'd rather pick up Hercules tonight. He's nervous without me." Mason slid my sneakers toward me with the side of his foot.

    "He'll be fine one more night. Anyway, the Pet Spa closes at seven, I think. We have to wait until tomorrow to check him out anyway. This is like a three-day weekend for me. If Gloria keeps her word about it, that is." Gloria Hammer, my assistant at the Candle Cove Sentinel, had promised to keep the presses rolling in my absence from the weekly newspaper. I had never used my degree until after Joe died so I chose a business that seemed to line up with my journalism major, forgetting I might have needed a few courses on small business administration. I purchased the Sentinel as a safety net after Joe's death. Instead, it consumed our money as if we had carved a hole beneath the little downtown bank and plugged it with a vacuum. "Your last day of spring break. No cooking, no making the beds."

    "We don't make the beds now. This place looks Mexican. See if they have a Taco Bell, Mom."

    "You wait here, Mason. I'll get a key to check a room."

    "And don't forget to check the pillows." He yelled "overpuffed" through the glass.

    I crossed the asphalt beneath the registration overhang and glanced at Mason, but he stared down at the floor, stared as though he needed to count how many caramel corns had dropped to the floor between northern Virginia and North Carolina. He had grown more argumentative over the last few weeks, more as we packed away the office where Joe had kept his law files. And even more so when we swept away the veil of snow from the grave site where two years ago we had laid Joe to rest.

    The night clerk was a Southerner who had developed a sonorous Midwestern elocution. I knew that because I could still hear the mountains in his vowels whenever he said, "Please take advantage of our free breakfast that starts at dawn."

    "I notice a large bus parked out back. Is that a seniors' tour or a youth group?" I wanted peace all night.

    "Neither. It's a basketball team from Florida."

    I held the key card a foot away.

    "They're a good bunch of young ladies."

    "Oh, ladies' basketball." I always thought it strange to call those young girls "ladies," and imagined them with enormous handkerchief-stuffed black leather handbags with brass latches. I remembered Masons request but felt too silly to ask about the pillows. "I need to check out the room first. But I'm sure it's fine. If I don't come back, it means I took the room."

    The clerk picked up the phone but answered me tacitly, lifted his head and pinched his forehead until both eyebrows beetled, black antennae spreading over dark insect eyes.

    I steered the car around the lot, slowly ascending the hills of speed bumps and following the red arrows the clerk had scrawled on a hotel map. "You can check out the pillows yourself, Mason."

    "I wish I was already home. It was dumb to plant Daddy so far away."

    "His family comes from Virginia, Mason. Your dad grew up there." Mason followed me up the little rear porch dimly illumined by the muted yellow courtesy light, and then tramped ahead to be the first inside.

    "Virginia is too cold. My fingers almost froze up and cracked off."

    "I think we enter through that doorway. Then down the hall is the elevator."

    "You don't listen to anything I say."

    "Mason, I'm tired."

    "You look it."

    We rode the elevator up to the second floor without a word exchanged between us. The door opened to a hallway decorated with quiet red carpet. Electric candlesticks cast a soft ambiance. I fiddled with a luggage strap and then said to him, "I know for a fact I haven't said anything to make you mad at me. I think you're tired."

    Mason turned his rounded koala face from me, as if to keep me from studying the way his eyes liked, slumberous at the corners. "You don't miss him as much as I do. If you did—"

    An older man, his years frozen around his eyes, stopped to look at us two doors down. We vanished from the stranger's reproving stare and locked the door behind us.

    "Mason, I just took a road trip halfway up a nation just so we could visit your daddy's grave."

    "You didn't cry."

    "Maybe I'm cried out. Folks get cried out. Tear ducts empty. It's not unnatural." A weird bareness rose up inside of me. I felt naked, my insides twisted open by a ten-year-old corkscrew.

    "Why does his name on the grave thingy look so cold anyway? I feel like I want to cry, or I'm supposed to but it's not coming out. I waited for you to start, right when you put those plastic daisies in the stone vase. But you never cried, Momma."

    "I see what you mean. I need a soda. You fill the ice bucket and I'll get the drinks."

    I swore that Mason and I had talked out Joe's boating accident. Heaven knew the rest of Candle Cove had talked it to death. Masons gut-thundering honesty shined up nice on some days but on others left me without any energy.

    When Joe died, he had left enough of the aroma of manhood on Mason to make him wish for it, but the scent had faded. Mason ran in dogged circles in search of his dad, in search of a face that would tell him what God looked like.

    Mason handed me the overnight case and then gutted his duffel bag, a bombed-out explosion of boy's underwear and game cartridges. He dumped both bags near the bathroom door and then scuttled downstairs to lock up the car, marching almost in cadence, the chivalrous male. On some days, he faked it so well, so near ultimate maleness that I believed Mason needed no more than just me. Just us; that was all we needed. I pressed a tissue against my eyes. The cold made them moist.

Sunrise had come too early, especially since I had allowed Mason to rent an in-room movie at nine the night before and break open the microwave popcorn deposited onto a tray by the maid. After an hour or so of driving, I initiated conversation to suppress the sleep demons that turned my eyelids to lead.

    "For lunch, let's have a root beer float and toast it just like when your daddy did on that day up at Ocean City. It was your birthday, I believe. I'll bet your daddy would like that."

    "Should we wait until we get home and invite Grandpa? Will we be home by then or did you mean along the way?" Mason had encircled the calendar day in red crayon and scribbled three initials—DDD—for the "day Dad died." He laid the calendar on the seat between us open to the month of March, the tenth day.

(Continues...)


Excerpted from Sandpebbles by Patricia Hickman. Copyright © 2002 by Patricia Hickman. 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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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 18, 2003

    What a treat!

    Patricia Hickman is one of my favorite authors. Because of a project which consumed most of my time, I was forced to stretch out this story in small doses, taking about two weeks when I longed just to sit up all night and read. But those little 'Sandpebbles' breaks were sweet and fun. I'm ordering 'Fallen Angels' -- Ms Hickman gets better with every book, so I'm looking forward to indulging myself again.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 17, 2003

    THOROUGHLY ENJOYABLE READ!

    I enjoyed this book..no sex, no violence...just a very enjoyable book with interesting cast of characters.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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