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The Wednesday Daughters

The Wednesday Daughters

3.5 11
by Meg Waite Clayton

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In the tradition of Kristin Hannah and Karen Joy Fowler, Meg Waite Clayton, bestselling author of The Wednesday Sisters, returns with an enthralling new novel of mothers, daughters, and the secrets and dreams passed down through generations.
It is early evening when Hope Tantry arrives at the small cottage in England’s pastoral Lake


In the tradition of Kristin Hannah and Karen Joy Fowler, Meg Waite Clayton, bestselling author of The Wednesday Sisters, returns with an enthralling new novel of mothers, daughters, and the secrets and dreams passed down through generations.
It is early evening when Hope Tantry arrives at the small cottage in England’s pastoral Lake District where her mother, Ally, spent the last years of her life. Ally—one of a close-knit group of women who called themselves the Wednesday Sisters—had used the cottage as a writer’s retreat while she worked on her unpublished biography of Beatrix Potter, yet Hope knows little about her mother’s time there. Traveling with Hope are friends Anna Page and Julie, first introduced as little girls in The Wednesday Sisters, now grown women grappling with issues of a different era. They’ve come to help Hope sort through her mother’s personal effects, yet what they find is a tangled family history—one steeped in Lake District lore.
Hope finds a stack of Ally’s old notebooks tucked away in a hidden drawer, all written in a mysterious code. As she, Julie, and Anna Page try to decipher Ally’s writings—the reason for their encryption, their possible connection to the Potter manuscript—they are forced to confront their own personal struggles: Hope’s doubts about her marriage, Julie’s grief over losing her twin sister, Anna Page’s fear of commitment in relationships. And as the real reason for Ally’s stay in England comes to light, Hope, Julie, and Anna Page reach a new understanding about the enduring bonds of family, the unwavering strength of love, and the inescapable pull of the past.

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“The present and the past intertwine beautifully and inevitably in Meg Waite Clayton’s winning follow-up to The Wednesday Sisters. From the beguiling Lake District setting, to a completely charming (and spot-on) portrayal of Beatrix Potter, to the way the Wednesday daughters strive to unpuzzle both their own choices and their mothers’ legacies, every layer of the novel delivers. The Wednesday Daughters is utterly rich and satisfying.”—Paula McLainNew York Times bestselling author of The Paris Wife
“A captivating novel about mothers and daughters, lifelong friendships, love affairs, betrayals, and redemption. Clayton transports us to the English Lake District, an area rich in literary history and romance, where her characters’ secrets unfold in ways both satisfying and surprising.”—J. Courtney SullivanNew York Times bestselling author of Commencement, Maine, and The Engagements
“Beautiful storytelling . . . [Meg Waite Clayton] delves deep into the human heart . . . and [will] keep you hanging on until the very last page is turned.”RT Book Reviews

The Wednesday Daughters is a bewitching escape of a novel. The characters became my beloved companions. I wanted it never to end.”—Elin Hilderbrand, author of Beautiful Day
“Heartwarming . . . filled with memorable characters.”Bookreporter

Selected as Recommended Summer Reading by Chicago Tribune • Fort Worth Star-Telegram • San Jose Mercury News

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"What a rich book! With her cast of fresh, engaging characters and her vivid English Lake District setting, Meg Waite Clayton reveals so much about our most vital human connections: the relationships that infuriate us, challenge us, make us happy, make us whole." - Marisa de los Santos, New York Times bestselling author of Falling Together and Love Walked In
"A captivating novel about mothers and daughters, lifelong friendships, love affairs, betrayals, and redemption. Clayton transports us to the English Lake District, an area rich in literary history and romance, where her characters' secrets unfold in ways both satisfying and surprising." - J. Courtney Sullivan, New York Times bestselling author of Commencement and Maine

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Random House Publishing Group
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5.20(w) x 7.90(h) x 0.70(d)

Read an Excerpt

Chapter 1

Autumn is far away the best time at the Lakes.

—­Beatrix Potter, in a September 1903 letter to her then publisher and eventual fiancé, Norman Warne

We Wednesday Daughters weren’t born on Wednesdays, and we aren’t blood relations. We don’t gather to write at picnic tables like our mothers did. We’re just daughters of friends who’ve called themselves “Wednesday Sisters” since before I was born, daughters who became friends ourselves the way girls who grow up together sometimes do, whether they have much in common or not. Perhaps that is a lot to have in common, though: a shared childhood, friends who’ve known you since before you knew yourself.

We’re are all old enough now to understand what Aunt Kath forever tells us—­that life and living aren’t the same—­and our moms long ago moved on (more or less) from mothering us to other passions: Aunt Linda’s cancer-­survivor runs, Mom’s infertility support group, the novels Frankie and Brett still write. But they’ve brought us together for holiday dinners and barbecues so often over the years that at some point we started gathering ourselves, our childhood bonds deepening despite, say,  the dozen years that separate Anna Page and me. It’s that combination of our mothers’ friendships and our own that sent three of us together to the English Lakes—the fall of 2011, it was—and allowed us to share the comfort we found there in one exquisite wooden puzzle box. We are, in the Wednesday Circle, our mothers’ daughters: Kath’s Anna Page, Linda’s Julie, and me, Ally’s Hope. And this is our story, which is, I suppose, a love story. Or two. Or, actually, probably four.

“You’ll want to be hearing the quiet of the evening coming up,” the boatman suggested as he lead us to a rowboat rather than a motorized launch. “Your head’s a marly if you’ll have an engine spoilin’ this.” Such funny phrases, I thought as he loaded our suitcases and set off across Lake Windermere. Like so many of the expressions Mom brought home from her stays there: “queue” and “toff” and “fancy,” “single-­track” instead of “one-­lane” to describe the winding roads. But as the daylight softened from blue to salmon to steel with each hushed push of the wood oars, I could hear the quiet. Even with the squabble of geese down the shoreline, the occasional gunshot clap of a car passing over a trestle echoing off the hills, I could hear the quiet of our little boat slipping as surely forward as time itself.

It was mid-­October, the air fresh with the smell of lake water and field grass and forest, the promise of frost. On the hillside we’d left behind, the maze of stone walls dwindled. The black-­faced sheep we’d seen out the train window faded to nothing as lights blinked on in the shops trailing down from the station to hug up together at Bowness, the boats in the harbor bare-­masted as full sails were exchanged for fireside seats in restaurants and pubs and homes. Ahead, two white swans dug at the lake grasses. The thick woods on the shore beyond them took shape as individual trees. A stone chimney poked above the treetops upslope, collecting more stone around it: other chimneys, a square tower, various slants of roof that were all of a same.

“That’s your mama’s little writing cottage, Hope?” Anna Page asked, fingering her hair, which was wavy-­dark and wild in the still of the approaching evening.

The boatman—­Robbie, he’d said his name was—­glanced over his shoulder, his hands on the rough oars not young, but steady and surprisingly well kempt. “That’s the one to gawk at, the big house,” he said, his voice Irish rather than English; perhaps that was the hint of not quite belonging I sensed in him. He raised the oars and pointed to the right of a lone wooden pier and a dilapidated boathouse. “There’s a cottage there through the scrub, see?”

A glimpse of cornflower blue took shape through the tangle of branches—­a door overhung with vines on a cottage I’d seen only in photographs: a simple rectangle of gray stone; low walls around a patio; a last straggle of geraniums in a window box. I trailed a hand over the boat’s edge, the echo wake of my fingers folding into that of the drifting boat as I imagined Mom writing at a wrought-­iron table on the patio, her feet up on a second chair. When it was colder, she would have moved inside, written at a desk beside a wood fire, or at a table piled with books and papers, pens and paper clips and Post-­it notes, empty teacups scattered as if to catch drops from a leaking ceiling in a life that held little rain—­except maybe the disapproval of Ama, my dad’s mom, who spent a lifetime trying to make a proper Indian wife of her Caucasian daughter-­in-­law.

“That’s the pier Mom uses, then, I guess,” I said. “She keeps a bicycle and a small boat here, so she doesn’t need a car.”

Kept a bicycle. Didn’t need. Mom didn’t need anything in this world anymore except for me to pack up what was left of her life in England, the way I’d not yet managed to pack up her pajamas and teapots and hairbrushes at home, her puzzle box collection, her manuscript drafts of the children’s books she’d spent her life writing but had never seen in print.

“Aunt Ally said there’s a ghost who walks those hills?” Anna Page said to Robbie.

Robbie answered softly, “ ‘That old Crier of Claife on Furness Fell,’ /  “ ‘as long as ivy evergreens shall twine, / May sally forth at will from his ravine, / And rouse the boatman with his human yell.’ ”

Julie blinked back the same surprise I felt at the fact of this boatman spouting poetry—a poem he’d have memorized to amuse the folks he took on tours of the lake, but still. “A ghost,” she said, and I remembered Aunt Frankie joking about a ghost friend of Mom’s who played piano at an old mansion in the park at home. I imagined Mom insisting that the ghost of the grizzled old character who’d ferried her across this English lake could have been enlisted to take us.

Anna Page leaned close to Robbie and whispered in his ear, the sprinkle of grays at her part line a bit tacky—­although that was just me being tacky; Anna Page had no marriage to end first, and never had. She could have as many doors as she wanted. She could paint them any color she chose. Which she did; even at fifty-­one, Anna Page took in men as often as I took in the Sunday paper, and took what she wanted from them, and set them out with the recycling bin, or that was the way it sometimes seemed. Julie could have as many doors or men or anything else as she wanted by then, too, with her divorce from Noah filed. I was the only one of us with a marriage left, or with what passed for one.

“They say he killed someone,” Robbie said to Anna Page or to Julie, I wasn’t sure which, but it was Anna Page’s laughter that warmed the evening in response.

“Lordy, did Ma pay him to say that?” she said to Julie and me. Then she delivered, in a near-­perfect mimic of her mother’s Southern accent, the Gatsby line our moms all whipped out at the slightest provocation: “ ‘You look at him sometimes when he thinks nobody’s looking at him. I’ll bet he killed a man!’

I heard Mom’s voice wrapped around the words, Mom’s laughter.

“Not a bloke but a lady,” Robbie insisted as he set his weight to the oars again. “His British wife.”

“His British wife,” Anna Page repeated, charming him with the hint of tease that worked so well with men.

“He had two, didn’e,” Robbie said. “One wife in India and a proper British wife as well.” He laughed uncomfortably, glancing my way as if his words might offend me when they wouldn’t offend Julie or Anna Page. He thought I was Indian. People who aren’t Indian always do.

“Two wives,” he repeated more gently, staring shoreward with eyes as deep as the lake in a face that had seen as much weather, eyes that just might understand how two loves could be held in a single heart. “Or that’s the blather here,” he said.

He dipped one oar and raised the other to ease us toward the pier, where he hopped out and secured the boat to a mossy post, the swan pair watching suspiciously from a jetty of flat rocks on the other side of the boathouse, where the original pier must have been. “They say old man Wyndham who killed his British wife is the Crier of Claife, the ghost who calls across to the ferrymen at Nab. The only one who ever went to him, though . . . that poor bloke wouldn’t speak of what he’d seen, and still he died the next day.”

Meet the Author

Meg Waite Clayton is the author of the national bestseller, The Wednesday Sisters, and The Language of Light, a Bellwether Prize finalist. She hosts a blog featuring well-known authors sharing stories about their paths to writing and publishing. Her short stories and essays have been read on public radio and appeared in several magazines. She's a graduate of the University of Michigan and Michigan Law School, and lives with her family in Palo Alto, California.

Lesa Lockford is a professor in the Department of Theatre and Film at Bowling Green State University. She teaches courses in voice for the actor, dialects, acting, and performance studies. She is also a writer and performer. Before becoming a teacher, she was a professional actor in Great Britain where she appeared in a variety of roles in television, film, and on the stage. She trained at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art in London.

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The Wednesday Daughters: A Novel 3.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 11 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
One need not already be a fan of The Wednesday Sisters to enjoy this new novel by Meg Clayton.  The Wednesday  Daughters is a book about friendships, well as the bond between a mother and daughter (even after the mother is dead.  And through it all is weaved a delightful tale of Beatrix Potter (a personal favorite of mine!)  I  loved the conversations between Ally Tantry and Potter, as well as the way Clayton's words carried me all the way to the English Lake District (a place I have never been, but now feel I know somewhat intimately).  Clayton truly explores the intricacies and complications of friendships and familial relationships.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Didnt want the book to end. This is why I love reading....books that captivate you, take you away, yet speak to something inside of you.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I enjoyed this novel immensely.  The setting is magical, as are the glimpses of Beatrix Potter herself (imagined  by Hope Tantry, the mother of this story's central character, in Hope's journals).  The story weaves delicious elements of family secrets into a daughter's search for her mother, and for her own truest self.  I'm moved by the generational aspect to this book, as it follows Clayton's earlier novel, The Wednesday Daughters, into our  contemporary world.  Daughters, I feel this book is saying, must make their way in the world, just as their mothers did -- through courage, honesty, and love.     
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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quaintinns More than 1 year ago
A compassionate story of mothers and daughters, best friends, and secrets. Hope is devastated when her mother, Ally passes away without warning. This sudden loss has left her numb and her grief has prevented her from sorting through her mother's belongings. However, she doesn't have the luxury of stalling when it comes to dealing with the material items that her mother left behind in a small cottage in the Lake District of England, where she spent much of her later life writing a biography of Beatrix Potter. Julie and Anna Page accompany her on this journey and they have been there for one another for years. They are born to a group of women who call themselves the Wednesday sisters; therefore now they are called the Wednesday Daughters. Each woman is struggling with a demon of her own. Julie lost her twin sister to breast cancer the previous year, and Hope misses her mother and struggling with her marriage. Anna (the eldest) connects with men on a sexual level but never an emotional one. The women band together to say their farewells to Alley and come to face some hard truths about themselves. Ally used the cottage as a writer’s retreat while she worked on her unpublished biography of Beatrix Potter, yet Hope really knows little of her mother’s time there. Hope finds some of Ally’s old notebooks in a hidden drawer written in a mysterious code. They begin to decipher her writings and the reason for Ally’s stay in England comes to light. The journals divulge the secrets of an age-old family history and she soon realizes she did not know her mother as well as she thought. A heartwarming story of a group of women who still love one another despite their shortcomings.
Ro5030 More than 1 year ago
Only about 1/4 done with the book but seems like it is dragging and not holding my attention. Maybe once I get more into the story it will pick up
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I loved the Wednesday Sisters but this book was painful to try to read. It was so disjointed. I tried to keep reading since I had paid for it but I had to give up. I was actually becoming agitated.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Jane_Wilson More than 1 year ago
There are many facets to this little gem of a novel.  The Wednesday Daughters are members of an extraordinary extended family, whose lives have been intricately interwoven.  Their gently recounted stories are told with tenderness and great insight.    The charm and rich literary history of the English Lake District enhances the narrative.  This is an exquisitely written, multi-layered story, replete with whimsical imaginary conversations with Beatrix Potter's ghost.  It’s a great read.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Reading the synopsis of this book, I felt it might be entertaining. Instead, I found every character in the book to be insufferable. There is not one character in this book for whom I feel any sympathy whatsoever. The level of rudeness and carping is fantastic, especially coming from people who are supposed to be adults. Please, save your money unless you find enjoyment in being annoyed. If I could get my money back for this purchase I would do it.