The Space between Before and Afterby Jean Reynolds Page
Forty-two and divorced, Holli Templeton has just begun to realize the pleasures of owning her life for the first time. But the experience is short-lived. Her son Conner has unexpectedly fled college in Rhode Island and moved to Texas with his troubled girlfriend, Kilian. This alone is difficult to handle, but as Holli begins to understand the depth of the girl's
Forty-two and divorced, Holli Templeton has just begun to realize the pleasures of owning her life for the first time. But the experience is short-lived. Her son Conner has unexpectedly fled college in Rhode Island and moved to Texas with his troubled girlfriend, Kilian. This alone is difficult to handle, but as Holli begins to understand the depth of the girl's problems, concern turns to crisis.
Conner's situation is worsening, and as if that's not enough, Holli notices signs of serious decline in the beloved Texas grandmother who raised her. She has no choice but to leave the comfort zone of life in New York and return to her hometown in Texas to care for the people she loves.
In the tight space between these two generations, Holli initially feels lost. The journey back stirs so many unresolved hurts from her childhood. But something else happens in this uneasy homecoming. Comfort arrives in the ethereal presence of the mother long lost to her, and Holli is surprised to find that as she struggles to help her son and grandmother, the wounds of her own past begin to heal.
The space between before and after—easily the most challenging place she has ever known—begins to reveal an unanticipated hope for what the future might hold.
In this complex, multilayered book, Page (Accidental Happiness) revisits familiar themes in the story of one family coming to terms with loss and past events. On the morning of the space shuttle Columbia disaster, Holli Templeton is sick with worry, as NASA milestones have proven to be "harbingers of raw, personal events." Her mother was killed in a car accident on the night of the moon landing, and she suffered a miscarriage the same day the Challenger exploded. Sure enough, as soon as the wreckage of Columbia clears, Holli finds out that her grandmother, Raine, seems to be losing her grip on reality. Meanwhile Holli's 20-year-old son, Conner, is nursing his chronically ill girlfriend and pondering his future. Complex interactions between Holli, Raine and Holli's difficult stepmother, Georgia, further complicate the situation, and in order to care for her aging grandmother and overwhelmed son, Holli must let go of her long-held resentments and see her family in a new light. Although Page's penchant for flowery description can be distracting, she seamlessly navigates the book's intertwining narratives and presents believable characters, at once imperfect and utterly sympathetic. Both the story's emotional pull and intricate plot twists are sure to seduce new readers. (May)Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
- HarperCollins Publishers
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Read an Excerpt
The Space Between Before and After
Holli—February 1, 2003
I woke with a sense of being off-center—of having slipped out of gear—but with no clear notion of how to make things right. I put one of my ex-husband's old dress shirts on over my pajamas and made my way into the kitchen.
As I made breakfast, I listened to the small TV on the counter. A view of the Hudson through the high vantage of my kitchen window showed the river to be calm. No cars passed on the street that ran into town. Nearly two years of living in the house, and it amazed me that such a quiet village existed just north of Manhattan.
On the television, I heard the music intro for a special news report, and I turned to watch as the network cut away from the weekend morning show. Something had gone wrong with the space shuttle. Early, unofficial accounts seemed to tell the story, though no one had confirmed it. NASA's ship Columbia had been scheduled to land in Florida. Instead, people on the ground told of visible debris as it began to come apart in the air over Texas and Louisiana.
Dear God. Fear moved slowly into my conscious thought. In my neck, in my chest, I felt the weakening that came with an awareness of dread. I put my full weight against the counter to steady myself against the growing uneasiness—a discomfort that went well beyond a normal response to such a disaster.
Reports of loud noise and falling objects had come in from Texas. I pictured pieces of hard metal and torn insulation raining down on hardscrabble dirt and terrified livestock. I thought back to the day when Challenger hadexploded nearly two decades before. At the time of that explosion, there had been nothing so concrete as metal—no immediate sections of wreckage to be found. In the early moments of that other shuttle's dramatic demise, the spaceship had seemed to disappear in a trail of magician's smoke.
"There have been descriptions of a 'sonic boom' type sound and other freight train or tornado-like noises from areas in the vicinity of Dallas," the newscaster said as he scanned papers in front of him, trolling for newsworthy comments to fill his airtime until more was known.
After the nation as a whole had taken ownership of the moon landing, it seemed only right that we should internalize NASA's heartbreak, as well. The country would pause and wait. There was nothing else to do.
But it meant even more than that to my family. Things that happened in space inexplicably proved to be harbingers of raw, personal events in our lives. It seemed inconceivable that this would be true again. But still, I waited, wondering what would come.
I switched from channel to channel. On all of them, young television anchors, on hand for the lower profile, weekend segments, struggled with live coverage and tried to assume the gravitas of the senior anchors. The Brokaws and Jenningses of the news world were no doubt in transit from Long Island or Connecticut, caught off-guard when such astounding news inconveniently arrived before ten o'clock Saturday morning.
The TV screen flashed a map that simulated the path of the shuttle. Already the news had confirmed the reports: large pieces of the rocket ship lay in the fields and pastureland southeast of Dallas.
They didn't name Thaxton, Texas on the maps they showed. Thaxton was almost too small to notice when driving through in a car. From the air, it very nearly didn't exist. But I knew it was there. Somewhere along the line drawn to show the trajectory of the doomed ship, my hometown waited. Raine, the grandmother who raised me, was there along that line. With her, Conner, my only child. I marveled at the accident's proximity to my childhood home and to the -people I loved. Letting superstition take hold, I entertained the notion that the gods of fate had gotten bolder—then immediately dismissed the thought as ridiculous.
I poured a cup of coffee and dialed my grandmother's house. Conner answered.
"Are you watching the news?" I asked.
"Yeah, I just turned it on." He sounded unnerved. I could hear Raine in the background, talking to someone. Maybe Kilian, Conner's girlfriend.
"It happened right over you," I said. "The shuttle came apart over Texas."
"No shit. The whole damn place shook," Conner said. "We're with Gran now. We ran down from the trailer right after it happened. It sounded like a bomb exploded in the backyard."
"Jesus, Conner," I said, for the first time comprehending just how very close it had come to my family. "It must have scared Raine to death." I didn't know where to focus my thoughts. "They're all dead. The -people in the shuttle. They have to be," I said, the fact of it suddenly real.
"Mom?" Conner's voice held a hesitance, as if he hadn't decided exactly what to say next. "Mom?" he repeated. A general plea.
"What is it, Conner?"
"Gran's acting a little weird," he said.
"I don't know, exactly," he said. "Talking to herself. But like she's really talking to somebody else. Not us, that's for sure. Just somebody she thinks is there."
Conner's name for his great-grandmother had evolved over the years. In his very young days when he was still a Texan, he called her Great-Granny Raine. As he got older and more impatient, he slurred the words together and it came out as G'Raine. Rain and Grain. The two names covered the spectrum of sustenance, which seemed fitting to me. But from middle school on, Conner has just called her Gran. I never told him that such an ordinary name didn't seem to suit her.
"It's all the space stuff, Conner," I said, trying to reassure myself. "The rockets and astronauts. You know how all that business freaks her out, even under normal circumstances."The Space Between Before and After. Copyright © by Jean Page. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.
Meet the Author
Jean Reynolds Page lives with her husband and three children in Wisconsin.
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Found myself running and picking this book up to read every spare second I had. Each character had flaws and weaknesses (some more than others), but through the author's eyes I was able to sympathize with each; and forgive them their various trespasses. I would definitely recommend this book to others...as matter of fact, I'm mailing my copy to my sister today!
I don't know why this author isn't heard about more often. She is wonderful. This is her 3rd book and I have enjoyed all of them. Blessed Event and this one are the best, but you just don't hear about the author that much and I think she writes wonderful books.
I enjoyed this book. I would not run out and recommend it. But we did it for our book club and everyone thought it was a nice summer read.
This tops my list of 'I can't put it down' books. a truly mesmerizing book!! I LOVED it!!!