Shelter Me

( 179 )

Overview

In the tradition of Marisa de los Santos and Anne Tyler comes a moving debut about a young mother's year of heartbreak, loss, and forgiveness...and help that arrives from unexpected sources

Four months after her husband's death, Janie LaMarche remains undone by grief and anger. Her mourning is disrupted, however, by the unexpected arrival of a builder with a contract to add a porch onto her house. Stunned, Janie realizes the porch was meant ...

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Overview

In the tradition of Marisa de los Santos and Anne Tyler comes a moving debut about a young mother's year of heartbreak, loss, and forgiveness...and help that arrives from unexpected sources

Four months after her husband's death, Janie LaMarche remains undone by grief and anger. Her mourning is disrupted, however, by the unexpected arrival of a builder with a contract to add a porch onto her house. Stunned, Janie realizes the porch was meant to be a surprise from her husband—now his last gift to her.

As she reluctantly allows construction to begin, Janie clings to the familiar outposts of her sorrow—mothering her two small children with fierce protectiveness, avoiding friends and family, and stewing in a rage she can't release. Yet Janie's self-imposed isolation is breached by a cast of unlikely interventionists: her chattering, ipecac-toting aunt; her bossy, over-manicured neighbor; her muffin-bearing cousin; and even Tug, the contractor with a private grief all his own.

As the porch takes shape, Janie discovers that the unknowable terrain of the future is best navigated with the help of others—even those we least expect to call on, much less learn to love.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly

After Janie LaMarche's husband, Robby, dies in a motorcycle accident, the 38-year-old Pelham, Mass., widow embarks on a year of transformations in Fay's wise and inspirational debut. Going through the bewildering and painful cycle of grief and anger while trying to hold it together for her children-preschooler Dylan and toddler Carly-is no walk in the park. Enter Tug Malinowski, an attractive contractor Robby had hired to build a screened-in porch to surprise Janie. Tug is divorced, childless and attracted to Janie while she's tempted by Fr. Jake Sweeney, who has "a secret life of misery" and fears casting aside his vow of celibacy. Fay's mingling of Janie's pithy journal excerpts with crisp traditional plotting adds a nice depth to Janie's journey to emotional healing. The concerns of single motherhood after sudden tragedy come vividly to life, and as Janie learns to appreciate everyday miracles, readers will be charmed. (Jan.)

Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780061673399
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 12/30/2008
  • Edition description: Original
  • Pages: 448
  • Sales rank: 199,891
  • Product dimensions: 5.30 (w) x 7.90 (h) x 1.20 (d)

Meet the Author

Juliette Fay

Juliette Fay received a bachelor's degree from Boston College and a master's degree from Harvard University. She lives in Massachusetts with her husband and four young children. Shelter Me is her first novel.

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Read an Excerpt

Shelter Me

Chapter One

Tuesday, April 24

Today wasn't so bad. Carly seems to have made friends with the bottle finally. When my milk stopped she went on a hunger strike, pushed formula away like it was vinegar. Then she'd only take it from Aunt Jude, of all people. Never thought I'd be so happy to see her on a daily basis. But now even I'm allowed to feed her. Time marches on, I guess.

This isn't working.

Father Jake is now officially in the deep end without a lifeguard.

Thursday, April 26

Dylan's pretending to play Monopoly. He just likes rolling the dice. I'm not allowed to play because I ruin it; he says he can't think what rules he wants to have when I'm watching. I know how he feels. I can't think what rules I want to have when I'm around, either.

Not sure why I'm trying this again. (See, Aunt Jude? Occasionally I do try.) Options seem to be dwindling since I jumped ship on the grief group she found on the Internet, Googling her way to my happiness. But, please, it was worse than bad. That facilitator was so annoying. Her lipstick was orange, her shoes were pointy, and she looked like an upscale elf. That constant sympathetic nod she did made me want to throw my drippy tissue wads at her. Add six or eight people wailing in self-pity, and you might as well crack open the Chex Mix, because hey—it's a party!

I might tell Father Jake not to come anymore. Pretty much a waste of time, though I suppose it's good cover. After the grief group didn't work out, I figured Aunt Jude was planning an intervention. But all I got were visits from the boy priest, Father Listener.

He'sthe one who came up with this journaling idea, which is gimmicky and hideously '70s. (What's his next idea—a mood ring and a shag haircut?) If he had handed me one of those cheesy blank books with teacups or inspirational sayings on it, I would have dug out Robby's blowtorch and lit it up on the hood of that boring gray sedan Father drives.

Actually I would have just given it to Dylan with a box of Magic Markers. "Grief" makes you sound so melodramatic.

Janie closed the 89-cent black-and-white-speckled composition notebook. It reminded her of one she'd had in third grade for the purpose of practicing her cursive writing. She would sit at Aunt Jude's kitchen table after school, gripping the pen as if it might get away from her and do some certain but unspecified damage. All those loops and slanty lines. So messy and complicated compared to the clear clean strokes of the printing she had been used to.

The doorbell rang, jolting Janie from her memory. She tucked the notebook in the cabinet above the refrigerator and forced herself to face the intrusion, hoping it wasn't another pity offering of quiche or lasagna or baked fucking ham. Friends and neighbors had stopped coming by, sensing, she knew, that their company was all but unbearable to her. It was just too hard to answer that stupid question over and over. "How are you?" She could barely keep herself from saying, Still shitty, thanks for asking. Care for some ham? God knows I can't eat it.

The man who now stood at the door carried nothing but a smudged manila folder. He scratched his fingers through the caramel-colored hair over a recently healed scar on his forearm. "Hi," he said, squinting into the room's relative dimness, the faint lines around his eyes clustering against each other. "Rob around?"

"No," said Janie.

"Uh, well, can you give him this?" He held out the folder. "I told him I couldn't start 'til summer, but then another job got postponed, so I'll start here next week. Permit's already pulled." He checked his watch, the crystal so scratched it must have been hard for him to see the face. "I'll pick those up tomorrow. If he wants to call me, the number's there."

The man waited for a response, which was not forthcoming. Janie stared back at him for a second, then glanced away. "Okay," he said, his lips flattening into a confused smile. He walked quickly to his truck. When he opened the driver's side door, Jane saw "Malinowski Custom Design, Inc." written in curling maroon script on the door panel. "Pelham, Mass." was in smaller type below it.

He's from here, she thought. Not that it mattered.

"Who was that?" Dylan asked, the little metal Monopoly dog bounding around the board.

"Some guy," said Janie, and tossed the manila folder on the stairs.

Thursday Night

It's my screened porch. Maybe a birthday present? Where on earth did he get the money—already paid for half of it. Already signed a contract with that Malinucci guy. He said he didn't need a new car, even though the Subaru was twelve years old. Said he'd ask for a raise at the bank if I wanted to hold off going back to work at the hospital. Robby, goddammit. I don't want the stupid porch now.

Shelly Michelman banged on the front door, opened it a face-width, and yelled "Hey!"

"It's open," Janie called from the back of the house. This was not very far. It was a small house, a Cape, the modern version of a Colonial style that had been built with zeal throughout the Boston suburbs in the 1930s and '40s. The front door opened directly into the living room. To the right was the kitchen, just big enough to hold a round butcher-block table and four chairs. The painted white cabinets, and counters devoid of all but the most necessary small appliances, kept it from feeling claustrophobic. A staircase divided the living room from the kitchen and led up to two bedrooms on the second floor, their ceilings slanting down toward eaves on the front and back of the house. Janie was in the tiny office behind the living room rummaging through bank statements.

Shelter Me. Copyright © by Juliette Fay. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.
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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 179 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(117)

4 Star

(32)

3 Star

(17)

2 Star

(9)

1 Star

(4)

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 179 Customer Reviews
  • Posted December 19, 2008

    You Must Read This Book

    It's been quite awhile since a book has captivated and stayed with me long after I finished it. Everyone will find someone or somthing to relate to in "Shelter Me." It will spark interesting contemplation and conversation about the meaning of true love, family, spirituality, forgiveness and fate. I am jeolous that you get to read this book for the first time. Don't miss this very precious opportunity. I give it my highest rating.

    16 out of 18 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 30, 2009

    Couldn't put it down!

    I thoroughly enjoyed this book. No - enjoyed is not the right term --- absorbed...agonized over....consumed by..... -- these much more aptly describe my experience with reading this incredible piece of work. I became deeply attached to Janie, and felt her fury, cried her tears and celebrated her survival. I read the book in three days, stealing every moment I could to dive into a page or two. Changing my 4 month old's diaper? Propped the book open and read a page while I let the baby "air out". "Watching" my three year old do a puzzle? Read a few sentences at a time when she wasn't looking at me. I even brought a flashlight to bed to read while my husband slept! A flashlight! I haven't done that since I was 10 and reading Madeline L'Engle!<BR/> <BR/>I can't recommend this book highly enough. It is a brilliant first novel, and I eagerly await a second! It will be an absolute honor to once again experience this writer's exceptional gift.

    9 out of 10 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted January 25, 2009

    Hallmark of a good read

    Shelter Me, by Juliette Fay, is one of the most emotionally honest novels I¿ve ever read, in a long lifetime of much reading. I don¿t find it easy to say why ¿ in part, because the words used to praise such novels have become hackneyed ¿ and also, to divulge details about plot, theme, or characters could not begin to capture the fascination one feels from experiencing them first-hand. Suffice it to say, I was grabbed by this book from the beginning and the fascination intensified as I read on. About midway, I began reading more slowly, because I didn¿t want the experience to end (one of my hallmarks for a great read). When I got to the denouement, what a joy to find it not only believeable but inevitable, even though I hadn¿t forseen it.<BR/><BR/>Despite the long process of recovering from a major loss, which is so graphically shown here, Shelter Me tells a basically life-affirming story. The cast of characters is large and varied; each is vivid and believable; their conflicts, attractions, and interacting in the ordinary business of life create a world of kaleidoscopic intensity, as the innumerable ways in which people comfort or repel each other are portrayed by a gifted story-teller. In a largely domestic setting, this story covers the entire spectrum of human emotions. Even in scenes of rage, hurt feelings, or crushing disappointment, there is always an awareness that these lives are interlocked, and a sense of the great beauty of unnoticed, everyday heroism.<BR/><BR/>Recently, I woke up one morning thinking ¿ ¿It¿s January 14th. That¿s the day Robbie died.¿ Was Robbie one of my own nearest and dearest? No, he¿s a character in Juliette Fay¿s first novel. I think that¿s quite a tribute to the insight and artistry of this new author, and I already look forward to her next creation.<BR/><BR/>Ann Staffeld, editor (retired)<BR/>Harvard University Press <BR/>Little, Brown and Company

    7 out of 8 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted December 20, 2008

    I LOVED this book!

    Shelter Me was a great read and offerred everything that I look for in a book-- well developed and engaging characters, insights into human behavior, a plot that moves swiftly but believably, and well crafted sentences. So often I find that books strong on character development with lyrical prose lack a plot, but this book had it all. Such beautiful writing that it made me laugh and cry-- and that almost never happens to me. This book would be a great gift for a friend, and a wonderful choice for book clubs. The cover is gorgeous and totally captures the spirit of the novel. Great job Ms. Fay! Can't wait for your next book!

    6 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted January 16, 2009

    great first novel

    Hard to believe this is her first novel. Such great writing and characters you really get to know and love. Can't wait to read her next one...

    4 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted November 14, 2008

    more from this reviewer

    A winner

    In Pelham, Massachusetts, thirty-eight years old Janie LaMarche is stunned to learn her husband Robby died in a motorcycle accident. She needs to grieve, but must hide her inner torment from their two preschool aged children, Dylan and toddler Carly. Each, but especially the older Dylan questions when will daddy come home?<BR/><BR/>As a pleasant surprise for his wife, before Robby died four months ago, he hired contractor Tug Malinowski to build a screened-in porch. Divorcee Tug is stunned how attracted he is to the new widow although he tries to hide his feelings out of respect for her grief. She in turn finds herself shockingly wanting someone else who she knows should be beyond temptation; which adds to her overall depression. <BR/><BR/>Janie is a complete character who owns the novel as she mourns her loss yet tries to put up a strong front for her bewildered children. Her journal entries display her confusion, her fears, and her grief as she doubts she will be able to cope as a single mom raising two children feeling overwhelmed by her trials and tribulations. The two new men in her life add to her overall bewilderment. Juliet Fay provides a deep character study focusing on a depressed person, buried in grief and fear with no outlet for her stress that she hides from her kids while also over time starts to marvel about the beauty and wonder of life. <BR/><BR/>Harriet Klausner

    4 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted June 29, 2009

    Great book

    This was a great great book. couldn't put it down. This book really made you think about life and how you should treasure every moment. Like it says in the book "We are all here on loan enjoy being together." Doesn't get any better than that. just in that one sentence it says it all.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 6, 2009

    I Also Recommend:

    Just OK

    This was a good read; however, it was predictable. I was hoping for more after reading so many of the raving reviews.

    3 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted June 20, 2009

    I will recommend this book to others.

    It is hard to believe that this is the author's first book! The characters quickly became real to me as I became involved in Janie's situation. It was interesting to see her life changing as she slowly emerged from the despair of her husband's death. There were several good lessons to be found in this book. Realistically, there was no real conclusion and I was left wondering and caring about what happened beyond the last page.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 30, 2009

    It was a great book!

    I really enjoyed Janie's story. It was touching and felt real. I read it as part of my book club and Juliette Fay called in and spoke with our group. She was a lot of fun to talk with and shared some thoughts on her new book that I'm looking forward to reading. I did make the 'pology cake for our book club and would not recommend the recipe, but would highly recommend the book!

    2 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 28, 2009

    Healing the pain of loss

    I found this book to be a very enjoyable, touching book. Loved the son,with his sippy cup, the swimming goggles, the neighbor, the priest...a well rounded novel. I found it very entertaining and not predictable.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 13, 2009

    I Also Recommend:

    Outstanding!!!!!

    I hope that Juliette Fay continues to write. This is a touching, entertaining read that goes to the heart of grief with a sense of reality that is hard to convey. The humor and honesty is so well written that you find yourself with Janie and the kids living every moment. The characters are so real I think that Fay might know some of my family members.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted June 20, 2009

    It's hard to put this book down. I was totally engaged in the story and the characters' lives. I hope she has another book in the works !

    This was one of those books that you want to keep reading because it is so good, but you also don't want to read it too quickly, since you want it to last. I really enjoyed the book and Juliette's writing style.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted June 7, 2009

    One of my favorite books.

    This was one of the best books I've read in a long time. It was brought to our bookclub by someone who is a friend of the author. How lucky we were! It was a really interesting concept - depicting one year in the life of a young mother who loses her husband in a biking accident. The people you expected would be there to support her weren't and those that you would never expect stuck by her when she needed it most. Extremely well written, funny, sad, quirky, and uplifting. No predictable plots. Highly recommend. Can't wait for the author's next book.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 27, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    A Good Read

    I thoroughly enjoyed this book. It was an easy, fast read and I found I wanted to pick it up to get back into the lives of these characters. There were some times when I laughed aloud and several times it made me cry. I really felt for this character and her plight. I recommend this book.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 22, 2009

    Perfect Book Club Book

    We loved this book! Most of us couldn't wait to pick it up each day. The plot is alittle convenient, but the characters become people you care about. A nice blend of main and supporting characters. The book cover is nice, but would have preferred models that truly represented the characters and with an actual quilt to tie into the story more.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 30, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Awesome!

    I look forward to more from Juliette Fay. I love entering a story to become fully involved. I connected so intimately with this young women's plight. The author seem to take a page from my life. I was sorry to get to the end.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 13, 2009

    Shelter Me is a MUST read!

    I loved Shelter Me. It was so well written and a book I could NOT put down.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 12, 2009

    I Also Recommend:

    Good Read

    I didn't want the story to end.<BR/>Ms Fay brings her characters to life and you want to have them in for coffee. This novel is warm and sad, challenging and funny. The characters grow out of adversity. You are proud to 'know' them.<BR/>Look forward to Ms Fay's next produciton.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 12, 2009

    Perfect Read

    I never bother to write these reviews but I wanted to let other people know this book is a keeper. I hate to be trite but you will laugh and cry its just all good. Juliette Fay is the author and i have never read anything by her before. I will keep my eye out for the next book.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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