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The Vineyard: A Novel [NOOK Book]

Overview

In The Vineyard, New York Times bestselling author Barbara Delinsky (Lake News, Coast Road, Three Wishes) has written her most complex and emotionally rewarding novel: a story of two women, a generation apart, each of whose dream becomes bound with the other's.
To her family, Natalie Seebring is a woman who prizes appearances. She is exquisitely mannered, socially adept, a supportive wife, and head of a successful wine-producing enterprise. So when she announces plans to marry ...
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The Vineyard: A Novel

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Overview

In The Vineyard, New York Times bestselling author Barbara Delinsky (Lake News, Coast Road, Three Wishes) has written her most complex and emotionally rewarding novel: a story of two women, a generation apart, each of whose dream becomes bound with the other's.
To her family, Natalie Seebring is a woman who prizes appearances. She is exquisitely mannered, socially adept, a supportive wife, and head of a successful wine-producing enterprise. So when she announces plans to marry a vineyard employee mere months after the death of her husband of fifty-eight years, her son and daughter are stunned. Faced with their disapproval, Natalie decides to write a memoir. There is much that her children don't know about her life -- about her love of the vineyard, her role in fighting to build it up, and the sacrifices she made for her family.
Olivia Jones is a dreamer, living vicariously through the old photographs she restores. She and her daughter, Tess, have no one but themselves, so they cling to the fantasy that a big, happy family is out there somewhere, just waiting to welcome them home. When Olivia is hired by Natalie to help with her memoir, a summer at Natalie's beautiful vineyard by the sea seems the perfect opportunity to live out that fantasy -- an elegant home by the shore, a salary that allows her to hire a tutor for her dyslexic daughter, a job that is creative, hours spent with a woman who has led a charmed life.
But all is not as it seems, Olivia and Tess discover when they arrive at Asquonset, the vineyard in Rhode Island. While welcoming, Natalie is not quite the mothering type, as is quickly evident in the hostility her daughter and son have toward her -- it's a hostility that Olivia must buffer. Another dose of stark reality comes in the form of Simon Burke, who runs the vineyard's day-to-day operation and sees in Olivia and Tess an unwelcome reminder of the wife and daughter he tragically lost. And then there is the cruel reality of Olivia's own life -- the mother who never wanted her, and a career that has floundered.
Natalie's story, intended for her own children, enlightens Olivia as well. The lives of these two women of different generations, parallel in so many ways, become, in The Vineyard, a powerful and moving story as the fantasy of an idealized life, complete with perfect romance, crashes headlong into reality.

Olivia Jones is a dreamer, living vicariously through the old photographs she restores. She and her daughter, Tess, cling to the fantasy that a big, happy family is out there just waiting for them. When Natalie hires Olivia to help with her memoir, a summer at Natalie's vineyard by the sea seems the perfect opportunity to live out that fantasy. But all is not as it seems.

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Editorial Reviews

Barnes & Noble Guide to New Fiction
Best-selling women's fiction writer Delinsky returns with this story of a widow's quick remarriage, her children's scorn, and the secret life lesson she reveals through the writing of her memoirs.
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Wine makers call its meritage: the commingling of several varietal wines into a product that can be marketed as a brand name, year after year. With this novel, the latest of 60-plus, veteran writer Delinsky has once again done exactly that, producing a fan-pleasing blend. At 35, Olivia Jones is a restorer of old photographs, and the mother, via a brief relationship, of a dyslexic, unhappy and bratty 10-year-old named Tess. Herself the daughter of a single mother who checked out as soon as Olivia turned 18, Olivia fantasizes about being related to Natalie Seebring, a client who is the strong-willed and manipulative matriarch of a dysfunctional family of Rhode Island wine makers. When Natalie offers to hire Olivia to be her memoirist and "personal buffer" for a summer, she jumps at the chance. Soon she is embroiled in the turmoil caused when septuagenarian widow Natalie decides to marry former vineyard manager Carl Burke. Natalie's middle-aged children object loudly, and several family employees resign in protest. Meanwhile, Olivia is attracted to Carl's son (and successor as vineyard manager), Simon, who has become a solitary workaholic since the death of his entire family four years earlier in a sailing accident. The only suspense in the slow-moving plot comes at the end, when a hurricane threatens the wine crop, coinciding with the emotional storms produced by Natalie's easily anticipated revelations about her early life; the style is undistinguished, replete with clich s and italics. Readers who prefer full-bodied novels are likely to find this story bland, thin and cloying. Those fond of literary Beaujolais nouveau, however, to be gulped down on a summer's day without critique, will enjoy this practiced blend of pop psychology, wine-making lore, learning-disability theory and sensuality. (June) Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.|
Library Journal
A dreamy single mother and photograph restorer, Olivia Jones is in need of help. She finds it in the Seebring family, owners of a Rhode Island vineyard. Through them, she finds a job (writing Mrs. Seebring's memoirs), a home (in the big house on their estate), and support for her dyslexic ten-year-old daughter. Olivia also finds a lover in the gruff yet oh-so-masculine vineyard manager, Simon. Readers will learn about vineyard management and hurricanes when the estate is threatened by severe weather. While the characters hole up in the big house for safety as the hurricane rages outside, a family secret finally spills out. Delinsky, popular author of modern romantic fiction (Lake News; Coast Road) has written another enjoyable novel. Suitable for collections where her other books are popular. [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 2/15/00.]--Carol J. Bissett, New Braunfels P.L., TX Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.\
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780743211116
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster
  • Publication date: 6/30/2000
  • Sold by: SIMON & SCHUSTER
  • Format: eBook
  • Pages: 368
  • Sales rank: 51,940
  • File size: 3 MB

Meet the Author

Barbara Delinsky
Barbara Delinsky has written more than twenty New York Times bestselling novels, with over thirty million copies in print. Her books are highly emotional, character-driven studies of marriage, parenthood, sibling rivalry and friendship. She is also the author of a breast cancer handbook. A breast cancer survivor herself, Barbara donates her author proceeds from the book to fund a research fellowship at Massachusetts General Hostipal. Visit her at www.barbaradelinsky.com.

Biography

Born Ruth Greenberg, and raised in suburban Boston, Barbara Delinsky worked as a sociology researcher in children's services and was a newspaper photographer and reporter before turning to fiction writing full-time. In point of fact, she never intended to pursue a literary career. But, in the early 1980s, a newspaper article profiling three women who successfully balanced home, family, and romance writing caught her attention. Intrigued, she spent months researching and writing her first novel. It sold -- and Delinsky was off and running.

Praised by critics and fans alike for her character driven studies of marriage, parenthood, and friendship, Delinsky is one of a small cadre of successful women writers (including Nora Roberts and Sandra Brown) who started out writing pseudonymous paperbacks for the category romance genre and muscled their way onto the bestseller lists with hardcover escapist fiction. Yet she is candid about the hard work involved and insists there's no tried-and-true formula that converts automatically to easy money. As if to prove her own point, Delinsky works from eight in the morning to about seven at night, writing in the office above the garage in her Newton, Massachusetts home; doing research; handling interviews; or -- her least favorite part of the job -- touring the country making author appearances.

Over the decades Delinsky has written dozens of novels that have landed on The New York Times bestseller list, including Twilight Whispers (1988), For My Daughters (1994), Three Wishes (1997), Flirting with Pete (2003), and Family Tree (2007). In 2001, she published her first nonfiction title, Uplift: Secrets from the Sisterhood of Breast Cancer Survivors. A cancer survivor herself, she has earmarked all the profits from the sale of this book to benefit breast cancer research.

Good To Know

When she isn't writing, one of Delinsky's favorite pastimes is kayaking.

She gets some of her best ideas in the shower. "It's a little harder to write ideas down there," she wrote to fans on her web site, "but I've been known to yell something out to my husband, who does it for me!"

The family cat, Chelsea, is named after her 1992 novel The Passions of Chelsea Kane.

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    1. Also Known As:
      Billie Douglass, Bonnie Drake; born Ruth Greenberg
    2. Hometown:
      Newton, Massachusetts
    1. Date of Birth:
      August 9, 1945
    2. Place of Birth:
      Boston, Massachusetts
    1. Education:
      B.A. in Psychology, Tufts University, 1967; M.A. in Sociology, Boston College, 1969

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One
On what had begun as just another June day in Manhattan, Susanne Seebring Malloy returned to her Upper East Side brownstone after lunch with friends to find a saffron yellow envelope in the mail. She knew it was from her mother, even without the vineyard logo in the upper left corner or her mother's elegant script in the address. Between the Asquonset, Rhode Island, postmark and the scent of Natalie's trademark freesia, there was no doubt at all.
Susanne stepped out of her Ferragamos and curled her toes in dismay. A letter from her mother was the last thing she needed. She would look at it later. She was feeling hollow enough as it was.
And whose fault was that? she asked herself, irrationally annoyed. It was Natalie's fault. Natalie had lived her life by the book, doing everything just so. She had been the most dutiful wife Susanne had ever seen -- and she had been Susanne's role model. So Susanne had become a dutiful wife herself. By the time the women's movement had taken hold, she was so busy catering to Mark and the kids that she didn't have time for a career. Now the children were grown and resented her intrusion, and Mark had staff to do the small things she used to do. She still traveled with him sometimes, but though he claimed to love having her along, he didn't truly need her there. She was window dressing. Nothing more.
She had time for a career now. She had the energy. But she was fifty-six, for goodness sake. Fifty-six was a little old to be starting a career.
So where did that leave her? she wondered, discouraged now as she took the new catalogues from the mail and settled into a chair by the window overlooking the courtyard. It left her with Neiman Marcus, Bloomingdale's, Hammacher Schlemmer, and a sense that somehow, somewhere, she had missed the boat.
She should ask her mother about that, she thought dryly -- as if Natalie would sympathize with boredom or understand restlessness. And even if she did, Natalie didn't discuss problems. She discussed clothing. She discussed wallpaper. She discussed bread-and-butter letters on engraved stationery. She was an expert on manners.
So was Susanne. But she was fed up with those things. They were dull. They were petty. They were as irrelevant as the bouillabaisse she had cooked yesterday before remembering that Mark had a dinner meeting, or the cache of hors d'oeuvres and pastries she had prepared in the past six months and frozen for the guests who never came anymore -- and speaking of food, if Natalie was sending her the menu for the vineyard's Fall Harvest Feast, Susanne would scream.
Ripe for a fight, she pushed herself out of the chair and retrieved the yellow envelope from the hall table. Mail from her mother was common. Natalie was forever sending copies of reviews of one Asquonset wine or another, and if not a review, then a personal letter of praise from a vintner in California or France -- though Susanne wasn't interested in any of it. The vineyard was her parents' pride and joy, not hers. She had spent decades trying to convince them of that. Lobbying efforts to get her involved, like most else in her life, had grown old.
But this envelope was different. It was of the same heavy stock that Natalie favored, but its color -- deep yellow with dark blue ink -- was a far cry from the classic ivory with burgundy ink of usual Asquonset mailings. And it wasn't addressed to Susanne alone. It was addressed to Mr. and Mrs. Mark Malloy in a calligrapher's script that, too, was a deviation from Asquonset style.
Uneasy, Susanne held the envelope for a moment, thinking that something had been going on with Natalie the last few times they talked. Her words had been optimistic ones, focusing on how Asquonset was recovering from Alexander's death, but she had seemed...troubled. More than once, Susanne sensed there was something Natalie wasn't saying, and since Susanne didn't want to be involved in vineyard business, she didn't prod. She simply decided that being troubled was part of the mourning process. Suddenly, now, she wondered if there was a connection between this envelope and that tension.
Opening the flap, she pulled a matching yellow card from inside.
PLEASE JOIN US
FOR A CELEBRATION OF OUR WEDDING
LABOR DAY SUNDAY AT 4 P.M.
THE GREAT HOUSE
ASQUONSET VINEYARD AND WINERY

NATALIE SEEBRING AND CARL BURKE

Susanne frowned. She read the words again.
Wedding?
Stunned, she read the invitation a third time, but the words didn't change. Natalie remarrying? It didn't make sense. Natalie marrying Carl? That made even less sense. Carl Burke had been the vineyard manager for thirty-five years. He was an employee, an earthy man of meager means, nowhere near on a par with Alexander Seebring -- Susanne's father -- Natalie's husband of fifty-eight years, dead barely six months.
Oh yes. Susanne knew that Carl had been a big help to Natalie in the last few months. Natalie mentioned him often -- more often of late. But talking about the man was one thing; marrying him was something else entirely.
Was this a joke? Not likely. Even if Natalie were a comic, which she wasn't, she wouldn't do anything as tasteless as this.
Susanne turned the card over, looking for a word of explanation from her mother, but there was none.
Reading the words a fourth time, having no choice but to take them as real, she was deeply hurt. Mothers didn't do things like this, she told herself. They didn't break momentous news to their daughters in a formal invitation -- not unless they were estranged, and Natalie and Susanne weren't. They talked on the phone once a week. They saw each other every month or so. Granted, they didn't confide in each other. That wasn't the nature of their relationship. But even in spite of that, it didn't make sense to Susanne that Natalie wouldn't have forewarned her about Carl -- unless Natalie had forewarned her, in her own evasive way, through those frequent mentions of Carl.
Perhaps Susanne had missed that, but she certainly hadn't missed mention of a wedding. There hadn't been one. For all outward purposes, Natalie was still in mourning.
Susanne read the invitation a final time. Still stunned, still disbelieving, she picked up the phone.

In the foyer of a small brick Colonial in Washington, D.C.'s, Woodley Park, a yellow envelope identical to the one his sister had received lay in the heap on the floor under the mail slot when Greg Seebring arrived home that same afternoon. He didn't see it at first. All he saw was the heap itself, which was far too big to represent a single day's mail. He had been gone for three. He guessed he was looking at mail from all three, but where was his wife?
"Jill?" he called. Loosening his tie, he went looking. She wasn't in the living room, kitchen, or den. He went up the stairs, but the two bedrooms there were empty, too. Confused, he stood at the top of the banister and tried to recall whether she had anything planned. If so, she hadn't told him. Not that they'd talked during his trip. He'd been on the go the whole time, leaving the hotel early and returning late, too talked out to pick up the phone. He had felt really good about catching an early plane home. He had thought she would be pleased.
Pleased, indeed. She wasn't even here.
He should have called.
But hell, she hadn't called him, either.
Feeling suddenly exhausted, he went down the stairs for his bag. As soon as he lifted it, though, he set it back down and, taking only his laptop, scooped up the mail. Again, it seemed like too much.
He wondered if Jill had gone to see her mother. She had been considering that for a while.
Dumping the lot on the kitchen counter, he hooked the laptop to the phone and booted it up. While he waited, he pushed junk mail one way and bills another. Most of what remained was identifiable by a return address. There was an envelope from the Committee to Elect Michael Bonner, a friend of his who was running for the U.S. Senate and surely wanted money. There was one from a college friend of Jill's, and another postmarked Akron, Ohio, where Jill's mother lived, perhaps mailed before Jill had decided to visit. There was one with a more familiar postmark and an even more familiar scent.
Lifting the yellow envelope, he pictured his mother. Strong. Gracious. Daffodil-bright, if aloof.
But the vineyard colors were ivory with burgundy. She always used them. Asquonset was her identity.
The envelope had the weight of an invitation. No surprise there; partying was Natalie's specialty. But then, Alexander Seebring had loved a big bash, and who could begrudge him? No gentleman farmer, this man. Many a day he had walked the vineyard in his jeans and denim shirt alongside his manager. If not that, he was traveling to spread the Asquonset name, and the hard work had paid off. After years of struggle, he had Asquonset turning a tidy profit. He had earned the right to party.
Natalie knew how to oblige. She was in her element directing caterers, florists, and musicians. There had always been two festivals at Asquonset each year -- one to welcome spring, one to celebrate the harvest. The spring party had been skipped this year, coming as it would have so soon after Al's death. Apparently, though, Natalie was chafing at the bit. She hated wearing black -- didn't have a single black dress in her wardrobe, had actually had to go out and buy one for the funeral.
So, barely six months later, she was returning to form. Greg wasn't sure he approved. It seemed wrong, what with her husband of so many years -- his father -- still fresh in his grave, and the future of Asquonset up in the air.
Natalie wanted Greg to run it. She hadn't said that in as many words, but he had given her his answer anyway: No. No way. Out of the question.
He wondered if she had found a buyer -- wondered, suddenly, whether this party was to introduce whoever it was. But she would have told him first. Then again, maybe not. He had made his feelings about the vineyard more than clear. He was a pollster. He was on the road working with clients three weeks out of four. He had his own business to run, and he did it well. Making wine had been his father's passion. It wasn't Greg's.
Not that he was exactly an impartial observer. If Natalie sold Asquonset, there would be money coming in, half of which eventually would be his. In that sense, it behooved him to check out a potential buyer. He didn't want his mother letting the vineyard go for anything less than it was worth.
Dropping the envelope on the counter, he pulled up the laptop and typed in his password.
But that envelope seemed to command his attention. Curious to know what Natalie had in mind, he picked it up again, slit it open, and pulled out a card.
PLEASE JOIN US
FOR A CELEBRATION OF OUR WEDDING
LABOR DAY SUNDAY AT 4 P.M.
THE GREAT HOUSE
ASQUONSET VINEYARD AND WINERY

NATALIE SEEBRING AND CARL BURKE

He stared blankly at the card.
A wedding? His mother and Carl?
His mother and Carl? Where had that come from?
Natalie was seventy-six. Maybe she was losing it, he thought, shaking his head. And what about Carl? He had to be a few years older than that. What was in his mind?
Carl had been at the vineyard forever. Alexander had considered him a friend. But a friend wouldn't snatch up a man's widow less than six months after his death, any more than a man's widow would turn right around and marry the nearest thing in pants.
Understandably, Natalie would be leaning on Carl more, now that Alexander was gone. Greg hadn't thought anything of the fact that lately she was mentioning Carl more often. In hindsight, he realized that those mentions were always in praise. It looked like Greg had missed the point.
Was it romance? Sex? Weren't they a little old? Greg was forty, and losing interest fast. Sex required effort, if you wanted to do it right. So maybe they didn't do it the way he did. Hell, he was embarrassed thinking of his mother doing it at all. But...with Carl? Carl was an old coot!
Maybe he was a clever one, though. Maybe he had his eye on the vineyard. Hadn't he retired and passed the reins on to his own son? That supposedly had been Alexander's doing, but Carl had been vineyard manager too long not to have a say in who took over. So maybe Carl wanted Simon to have the vineyard. Maybe marrying Natalie was his way of ensuring it.
Greg had to call Natalie, but Lord, he hated doing that. What could he say -- I don't want the vineyard, but I don't want Simon having it either?
Maybe he should call Susanne first. She saw Natalie more often than he did. She might know what was going on.
Lord, he hated doing that, too. Susanne was sixteen years his senior. They shared a mother, but they had never been close.
Swearing under his breath, he loosened his collar button. He didn't need this. He needed a vacation, actually had one planned. So going to Asquonset on Labor Day weekend was out of the question. He was going north, all the way to Ontario for a fishing trip. Already had it booked.
Not that Jill was pleased. Given a choice, she'd take Asquonset. She liked it there. At least, he thought she did. Hard to say lately. She was going through something. She had been quieter than usual. Could she be having a midlife crisis? he wondered. At thirty-eight?
He didn't want to think about his wife falling apart, but it beat thinking about Natalie marrying Carl. He would deal with them later. Crossing the kitchen, he opened the door to the garage. Jill's car was gone, which meant it was probably parked at the airport. Definitely visiting her mother, he decided. Then he had a thought. Hoping for a glimpse of what was bugging her -- thinking that the letter from her mother might hold a clue -- knowing that he could always say he had accidentally slit it open along with the rest of the mail -- he opened it and pulled out a neatly folded sheet.
"Dear Greg..."
Dear Greg. It was not from his mother-in-law to Jill. It was to him. He looked quickly at the address. Not to Jill at all. To him. From Jill.
Feeling a sudden foreboding, he began reading.
* * *

In a garage studio behind an old white Victorian on a narrow side street in Cambridge, Massachusetts, Olivia Jones was daydreaming at work. She did it often. It was one of the perks of her job.
She restored old photographs, a skill that required patience, a sharp eye, and a steady hand. She had all three, along with an imagination that could take her inside the world of almost any picture. Even now, as she dotted varying shades of gray ink to restore a faded face, she was inside the frame with a family of migrant workers living in California in the early thirties. The Depression had taken hold. Life was hard, food scarce. Children worked with their parents and grandparents, hour after hour, in whatever fields needed picking. They began the day dirty and ended it more so. Their faces were somber, their cheeks gaunt, their eyes large and haunting.
They sat close together on the porch of a weathered shack. Moving around them, Olivia went inside. The place was small but functional. Bedding lay against nearly every wall, with a woodstove and a few chairs in the center. The air held the smell of dust and hard work, but there was more. On a heavy table nearby sat a loaf of fresh-baked bread, aromatic and warm. A stew cooked on the woodstove. One shelf held an assortment of cracked pottery and tin cups and plates. There would be clinking when the family ate. She could hear it now.
Returning to the porch, she was drawn in with an open arm, reconnected to this group as they were connected to one another. Everyone touched -- a hand, an arm, a shoulder, a cheek. They were nine people spanning three generations, surviving the bleakness of their lives by taking comfort in family. They had nothing by way of material goods, only one another.
Olivia was thirty-five. She had a ten-year-old daughter, a job, an apartment with a TV and VCR, a computer, and a washer and dryer. She had a car. She had a Patagonia vest, L.L.Bean clogs, and a Nikon that was old enough and sturdy enough to fetch a pretty penny.
But boy, did she envy that migrant family its closeness.
"Those were hard times," came a gruff voice by her shoulder.
She looked up to see her boss, Otis Thurman, scowling at the photograph. It was one of several that had been newly uncovered, believed to be the work of Dorothea Lange. The Metropolitan Museum in New York had commissioned him to restore them. Olivia was doing the work.
"They were simpler times," she said.
He grunted. "You want 'em? Take 'em. I'm leaving. Lock up when you go." He walked off with less shuffle than another man of seventy-five might have, but then, Otis had his moods to keep him sharp. He had been in something of a snit all day, but after five years in his employ, Olivia knew not to take it personally. Otis was a frustrated Picasso, a would-be painter who would never be as good at creation as he was at restoration. But hope died hard, even at his age. He was returning to his canvas and oil full-time -- seven weeks away from retirement and counting.
He was looking forward to it. Olivia was not.
He kept announcing the hours. Olivia tried not to hear.
We're a good team, she argued. I'm too old, he replied.
And that was what intrigued her about this migrant family. The old man in the photograph was grizzled enough to make Otis look young, but he was still there, still productive, still part of that larger group.
Things were different nowadays. People burned out, and no wonder. They were up on the high wire of life alone with no net.
Olivia worried about Otis retiring, pictured him sitting alone day after day, with art tools that he couldn't use to his own high standards and no one to bully. He wasn't going to be happy.
Wrong, Olivia. He had friends all over the art community and plenty of money saved up. He would be delighted. She was the one in trouble.
She had finally found her niche. Restoring old photographs was a natural for someone with a knowledge of cameras and an eye for art -- and she had both, though it had taken her awhile to see it. Trial and error was the story of her life. She had waitressed. She had done telemarketing. She had sold clothes. Selling cameras had come after that, along with the discovery that she loved taking pictures. Then had come Tess. Then brief stints apprenticing with a professional photographer and freelancing for a museum that wanted pictures of its shows. Then Otis.
For the first time in her life, Olivia truly loved her work. She was better at photo restoration than she had been at anything else, and could lose herself for hours in prints from the past, smelling the age, feeling the grandeur. For Olivia, the world of yesterday was more romantic than today. She would have liked to have lived back then.
Given that she couldn't, she liked working for Otis, and the feeling was mutual. Few people in her life had put up with her for five years. Granted, she indulged him his moods, and even he acknowledged that she did the job better than the long line of assistants before her.
Still, he genuinely liked her. The eight-by-ten tacked to the wall proved it. He had taken it last week when she had shown up at work with her hair cut painfully short. She had chopped it off herself in a fit of disgust, irritated with long hair in the sweltering heat. Immediately she had regretted it. A barber had neatened things up a bit, but she had gone on to work wearing a big straw hat -- which Otis had promptly removed.
Bless his soul, he said that he liked her hair short, said that it made her look lighthearted and fun -- and then he proceeded to catch just that on film. She was standing in front of a plain concrete wall, wearing a long tank dress, toes peeking from sandals, hair boyish. Feeling exposed and awkward, as unused to being on that side of the camera as she was embarrassed about her hair, she had wrapped her arms around her middle and tucked in her chin.
Otis had used light, angle, and focus to make her look willowy rather than thin, spirited rather than self-conscious. He had made the shiny strands of that short, sandy hair look stylish, and the maroon polish on her toenails look exotic. He had made her brown eyes large in a delicate face. Somehow, he had made her look pretty.
When her eyes slid from that photograph to another tacked nearby, her smile widened. Tess was with her in that one, nine years old the summer before. They were dressed as a pair of dance hall girls in a Dodge City saloon in the days of the wild, wild West. Otis had condemned the picture as the lowest form of commercial photography, but they'd had a ball dressing up. They talked about going for an Elizabethan look this summer -- assuming they could afford another weekend at the shore. Money was tighter now, without child support. The reality of that was just sinking in.
Jared Stark had let her down in every imaginable way. He was supposed to have loved her. Barring that, he was supposed to have loved their child. At the very least, he was supposed to have helped keep that child sheltered and clothed. So, what had he done? He had died.
A timer rang. Setting aside the anger that had displaced grief, Olivia silenced it. Tess was the love of her life, and school was nearly out for the day. Recapping her inks, she washed her brushes and carefully placed the maybe-Lange photographs in the vault. She neatened the office, filled her briefcase with paperwork to do at home, and opened the door in time to greet the mailman.
Otis's personal letters and bills went in one pile, those addressed to the studio went in another. Among the larger pieces there was a supermarket flyer, a mailing from the American Institute for Conservation of Historic and Artistic Works, and the week's Time. At the bottom of the pile was a large manila pack.
One look at its sender and Olivia felt a wave of pleasure. The mailing label was ivory with a burgundy logo that depicted, in a single minimalist line, a bunch of grapes spilling from a wineglass. Beneath it was the stylized script -- so familiar now -- that read Asquonset Vineyard and Winery, Asquonset, Rhode Island. The address was handwritten in the more traditional but no less familiar style of Natalie Seebring.
Holding the large envelope to her nose, Olivia closed her eyes and inhaled. She knew that freesia scent now as well as she knew the handwriting. It was elegant, conjuring images of prosperity and warmth. She basked in it for a minute, then crossed to the large table where the last batch of Seebring photographs lay. They were from the early fifties and had needed varying degrees of repair, but they were ready for return. Now there was a new pack. Natalie's timing was perfect.
Olivia had never met the woman, but she felt she knew her well. Photographs told stories, and what they didn't tell, Olivia easily made up. Natalie had been a beautiful child in the twenties, a striking teenager in the thirties. In the forties she had been the blushing bride of a dashing soldier, and in the fifties, the smiling mother of two adoring children. According to her photographs, she dressed well and lived in style. Whether a parlor with an exquisite Oriental rug in the foreground, an elegantly upholstered settee at midrange, and original art on the wall behind, or a garden surrounded by lush shrubbery that screamed of color even in black-and-white, the backgrounds of the pictures she sent were entirely consistent with the image of a successful wine-making family.
No downtrodden migrant crew this one. Of course, these pictures didn't have the artistic import of one taken by Dorothea Lange, but Olivia had followed the growth of this family for months and was totally involved. The appeal here was prosperity and ease. She had fantasized about being a Seebring more times than she could count.
Her own story was light-years different from anything she had seen in the Seebring pictures. She had never met her father. Her mother didn't even know who he was. Olivia had been the product of a one-night stand on a liquor-blurred New Year's Eve in an alley off Manhattan's Times Square. Carol Jones, her mother, had been seventeen at the time.
Feminists might have called it rape, but months later, when Carol finally realized she was pregnant, she was rebellious enough and defiant enough to tell her parents it was love. For those pious folk, the pregnancy was one defiant act too many. They disowned her. She retaliated, predictably rebellious and defiant, by leaving home with nothing of her heritage but her name -- Jones.
A lot of good that did Olivia. There were pages of Jones listings in every telephone directory. There were pages and pages of them in New York. And now, not only couldn't she find her grandparents, she couldn't find her mother either. Moving from place to place herself, Olivia had left a trail of bread crumbs to rival Hansel and Gretel, but no relative ever came looking. Apparently, no relative cared -- and it was their loss. Olivia might be no prize, but Tess was. Tess was a gem.
Unfortunately, the loss went two ways. This gap in her history meant that Olivia and Tess went without extended family. It was just the two of them -- just the two of them against the world. That wasn't so bad, though; Olivia had come to terms with it. She could cope.
It didn't mean she couldn't dream, of course, and lately she dreamed she was related to Natalie Seebring. Being grandmother and granddaughter was pushing it a little, but there was a woman in some of the early Asquonset pictures who, given a marginal resemblance to Carol, could be Olivia's grandmother. Olivia hadn't seen the woman in any of Asquonset's postwar pictures, but there were easy explanations for that. She might have been a WAC who had fallen for a serviceman and ended up in New York. Her husband might have been a rigid military type who wanted things done his way, or he might have been irrationally jealous, forbidding her contact with her family. Hence, her absence in photographs.
But if she was Natalie's sister, then Natalie would be Olivia's great-aunt. Even if she were only a cousin, the blood bond would be there.
Olivia glanced at the clock. She had to go get Tess. Time was growing short.
But the lure of this new package was too great to resist. Opening the clasp, she peeked inside. The scent of freesia was stronger now. She pushed aside a cover letter and saw several dozen photographs. Most were eight-by-tens in black-and-white. Under them was a bright yellow envelope.
Curious, she pulled it out. Otis's name and address were on the front, written not in Natalie's freehand but in a calligrapher's script. She was giving a party, Olivia decided -- and immediately vowed to go as Otis's date. She didn't care if people snickered behind their hands. She wanted to see Asquonset. She wanted to meet Natalie.
She laid the invitation on Otis's desk with his personal mail -- then quickly took it back and returned it to the mailer with the pictures. He wouldn't be in again until tomorrow. She liked the idea of having the invitation in her own house for a night.
Tucking the package into her briefcase, she checked the office a final time, then let herself out and locked the door. Natalie's new batch of pictures would be the treat she gave herself that night when everything else was done.
Savoring the anticipation, she half walked, half ran through narrow streets hemmed in by tightly packed houses, trees, and parked cars. The June air was stagnant and warm. She arrived at Tess's school in a sweat, a full ten minutes late.
Most of the children had gone. A few stragglers remained on the playground, but they were immersed in themselves. Tess stood alone at a corner of the school yard with a shoulder weighted down by her backpack, one foot turned in, her glasses halfway down her nose, and a desolate look on her face.

Copyright © 2000 by Barbara Delinsky
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First Chapter

Chapter One

On what had begun as just another June day in Manhattan, Susanne Seebring Malloy returned to her Upper East Side brownstone after lunch with friends to find a saffron yellow envelope in the mail. She knew it was from her mother, even without the vineyard logo in the upper left corner or her mother's elegant script in the address. Between the Asquonset, Rhode Island, postmark and the scent of Natalie's trademark freesia, there was no doubt at all.

Susanne stepped out of her Ferragamos and curled her toes in dismay. A letter from her mother was the last thing she needed. She would look at it later. She was feeling hollow enough as it was.

And whose fault was that? she asked herself, irrationally annoyed. It was Natalie's fault. Natalie had lived her life by the book, doing everything just so. She had been the most dutiful wife Susanne had ever seen — and she had been Susanne's role model. So Susanne had become a dutiful wife herself. By the time the women's movement had taken hold, she was so busy catering to Mark and the kids that she didn't have time for a career. Now the children were grown and resented her intrusion, and Mark had staff to do the small things she used to do. She still traveled with him sometimes, but though he claimed to love having her along, he didn't truly need her there. She was window dressing. Nothing more.

She had time for a career now. She had the energy. But she was fifty-six, for goodness sake. Fifty-six was a little old to be starting a career.

So where did that leave her? she wondered, discouraged now as she took the new catalogues from the mail and settled into a chair by the window overlooking the courtyard. It left her with Neiman Marcus, Blooming-dale's, Hammacher Schlemmer, and a sense that somehow, somewhere, she had missed the boat.

She should ask her mother about that, she thought dryly — as if Natalie would sympathize with boredom or understand restlessness. And even if she did, Natalie didn't discuss problems. She discussed clothing. She discussed wallpaper. She discussed bread-and-butter letters on engraved stationery. She was an expert on manners.

So was Susanne. But she was fed up with those things. They were dull. They were petty. They were as irrelevant as the bouillabaisse she had cooked yesterday before remembering that Mark had a dinner meeting, or the cache of hors d'oeuvres and pastries she had prepared in the past six months and frozen for the guests who never came anymore — and speaking of food, if Natalie was sending her the menu for the vineyard's Fall Harvest Feast, Susanne would scream.

Ripe for a fight, she pushed herself out of the chair and retrieved the yellow envelope from the hall table. Mail from her mother was common. Natalie was forever sending copies of reviews of one Asquonset wine or another, and if not a review, then a personal letter of praise from a vintner in California or France — though Susanne wasn't interested in any of it. The vineyard was her parents' pride and joy, not hers. She had spent decades trying to convince them of that. Lobbying efforts to get her involved, like most else in her life, had grown old.

But this envelope was different. It was of the same heavy stock that Natalie favored, but its color — deep yellow with dark blue ink — was a far cry from the classic ivory with burgundy ink of usual Asquonset mailings. And it wasn't addressed to Susanne alone. It was addressed to Mr. and Mrs. Mark Malloy in a calligrapher's script that, too, was a deviation from Asquonset style.

Uneasy, Susanne held the envelope for a moment, thinking that something had been going on with Natalie the last few times they talked. Her words had been optimistic ones, focusing on how Asquonset was recovering from Alexander's death, but she had seemed...troubled. More than once, Susanne sensed there was something Natalie wasn't saying, and since Susanne didn't want to be involved in vineyard business, she didn't prod. She simply decided that being troubled was part of the mourning process. Suddenly, now, she wondered if there was a connection between this envelope and that tension.

Opening the flap, she pulled a matching yellow card from inside.

PLEASE JOIN US
FOR A CELEBRATION OF OUR WEDDING
LABOR DAY SUNDAY AT 4 P.M.
THE GREAT HOUSE
ASQUONSET VINEYARD AND WINERY

NATALIE SEEBRING AND CARL BURKE

Susanne frowned. She read the words again.

Wedding?

Stunned, she read the invitation a third time, but the words didn't change. Natalie remarrying? It didn't make sense. Natalie marrying Carl? That made even less sense. Carl Burke had been the vineyard manager for thirty-five years. He was an employee, an earthy man of meager means, nowhere near on a par with Alexander Seebring — Susanne's father — Natalie's husband of fifty-eight years, dead barely six months.

Oh yes. Susanne knew that Carl had been a big help to Natalie in the last few months. Natalie mentioned him often — more often of late. But talking about the man was one thing; marrying him was something else entirely.

Was this a joke? Not likely. Even if Natalie were a comic, which she wasn't, she wouldn't do anything as tasteless as this.

Susanne turned the card over, looking for a word of explanation from her mother, but there was none.

Reading the words a fourth time, having no choice but to take them as real, she was deeply hurt. Mothers didn't do things like this, she told herself. They didn't break momentous news to their daughters in a formal invitation — not unless they were estranged, and Natalie and Susanne weren't. They talked on the phone once a week. They saw each other every month or so. Granted, they didn't confide in each other. That wasn't the nature of their relationship. But even in spite of that, it didn't make sense to Susanne that Natalie wouldn't have forewarned her about Carl — unless Natalie had forewarned her, in her own evasive way, through those frequent mentions of Carl.

Perhaps Susanne had missed that, but she certainly hadn't missed mention of a wedding. There hadn't been one. For all outward purposes, Natalie was still in mourning.

Susanne read the invitation a final time. Still stunned, still disbelieving, she picked up the phone.

In the foyer of a small brick Colonial in Washington, D.C.'s, Woodley Park, a yellow envelope identical to the one his sister had received lay in the heap on the floor under the mail slot when Greg Seebring arrived home that same afternoon. He didn't see it at first. All he saw was the heap itself, which was far too big to represent a single day's mail. He had been gone for three. He guessed he was looking at mail from all three, but where was his wife?

"Jill?" he called. Loosening his tie, he went looking. She wasn't in the living room, kitchen, or den. He went up the stairs, but the two bedrooms there were empty, too. Confused, he stood at the top of the banister and tried to recall whether she had anything planned. If so, she hadn't told him. Not that they'd talked during his trip. He'd been on the go the whole time, leaving the hotel early and returning late, too talked out to pick up the phone. He had felt really good about catching an early plane home. He had thought she would be pleased.

Pleased, indeed. She wasn't even here.

He should have called.

But hell, she hadn't called him, either.

Feeling suddenly exhausted, he went down the stairs for his bag. As soon as he lifted it, though, he set it back down and, taking only his laptop, scooped up the mail. Again, it seemed like too much.

He wondered if Jill had gone to see her mother. She had been considering that for a while.

Dumping the lot on the kitchen counter, he hooked the laptop to the phone and booted it up. While he waited, he pushed junk mail one way and bills another. Most of what remained was identifiable by a return address. There was an envelope from the Committee to Elect Michael Bonner, a friend of his who was running for the U.S. Senate and surely wanted money. There was one from a college friend of Jill's, and another postmarked Akron, Ohio, where Jill's mother lived, perhaps mailed before Jill had decided to visit. There was one with a more familiar postmark and an even more familiar scent.

Lifting the yellow envelope, he pictured his mother. Strong. Gracious. Daffodil-bright, if aloof.

But the vineyard colors were ivory with burgundy. She always used them. Asquonset was her identity.

The envelope had the weight of an invitation. No surprise there; partying was Natalie's specialty. But then, Alexander Seebring had loved a big bash, and who could begrudge him? No gentleman farmer, this man. Many a day he had walked the vineyard in his jeans and denim shirt alongside his manager. If not that, he was traveling to spread the Asquonset name, and the hard work had paid off. After years of struggle, he had Asquonset turning a tidy profit. He had earned the right to party.

Natalie knew how to oblige. She was in her element directing caterers, florists, and musicians. There had always been two festivals at Asquonset each year — one to welcome spring, one to celebrate the harvest. The spring party had been skipped this year, coming as it would have so soon after Al's death. Apparently, though, Natalie was chafing at the bit. She hated wearing black — didn't have a single black dress in her wardrobe, had actually had to go out and buy one for the funeral.

So, barely six months later, she was returning to form. Greg wasn't sure he approved. It seemed wrong, what with her husband of so many years — his father — still fresh in his grave, and the future of Asquonset up in the air.

Natalie wanted Greg to run it. She hadn't said that in as many words, but he had given her his answer anyway: No. No way. Out of the question.

He wondered if she had found a buyer — wondered, suddenly, whether this party was to introduce whoever it was. But she would have told him first. Then again, maybe not. He had made his feelings about the vineyard more than clear. He was a pollster. He was on the road working with clients three weeks out of four. He had his own business to run, and he did it well. Making wine had been his father's passion. It wasn't Greg's.

Not that he was exactly an impartial observer. If Natalie sold Asquonset, there would be money coming in, half of which eventually would be his. In that sense, it behooved him to check out a potential buyer. He didn't want his mother letting the vineyard go for anything less than it was worth.

Dropping the envelope on the counter, he pulled up the laptop and typed in his password.

But that envelope seemed to command his attention. Curious to know what Natalie had in mind, he picked it up again, slit it open, and pulled out a card.

PLEASE JOIN US
FOR A CELEBRATION OF OUR WEDDING
LABOR DAY SUNDAY AT 4 P.M.
THE GREAT HOUSE
ASQUONSET VINEYARD AND WINERY

NATALIE SEEBRING AND CARL BURKE

He stared blankly at the card.

A wedding? His mother and Carl?

His mother and Carl? Where had that come from?

Natalie was seventy-six. Maybe she was losing it, he thought, shaking his head. And what about Carl? He had to be a few years older than that. What was in his mind?

Carl had been at the vineyard forever. Alexander had considered him a friend. But a friend wouldn't snatch up a man's widow less than six months after his death, any more than a man's widow would turn right around and marry the nearest thing in pants.

Understandably, Natalie would be leaning on Carl more, now that Alexander was gone. Greg hadn't thought anything of the fact that lately she was mentioning Carl more often. In hindsight, he realized that those mentions were always in praise. It looked like Greg had missed the point.

Was it romance? Sex? Weren't they a little old? Greg was forty, and losing interest fast. Sex required effort, if you wanted to do it right. So maybe they didn't do it the way he did. Hell, he was embarrassed thinking of his mother doing it at all. But...with Carl? Carl was an old coot!

Maybe he was a clever one, though. Maybe he had his eye on the vineyard. Hadn't he retired and passed the reins on to his own son? That supposedly had been Alexander's doing, but Carl had been vineyard manager too long not to have a say in who took over. So maybe Carl wanted Simon to have the vineyard. Maybe marrying Natalie was his way of ensuring it.

Greg had to call Natalie, but Lord, he hated doing that. What could he say — I don't want the vineyard, but I don't want Simon having it either?

Maybe he should call Susanne first. She saw Natalie more often than he did. She might know what was going on.

Lord, he hated doing that, too. Susanne was sixteen years his senior. They shared a mother, but they had never been close.

Swearing under his breath, he loosened his collar button. He didn't need this. He needed a vacation, actually had one planned. So going to Asquonset on Labor Day weekend was out of the question. He was going north, all the way to Ontario for a fishing trip. Already had it booked.

Not that Jill was pleased. Given a choice, she'd take Asquonset. She liked it there. At least, he thought she did. Hard to say lately. She was going through something. She had been quieter than usual. Could she be having a midlife crisis? he wondered. At thirty-eight?

He didn't want to think about his wife falling apart, but it beat thinking about Natalie marrying Carl. He would deal with them later. Crossing the kitchen, he opened the door to the garage. Jill's car was gone, which meant it was probably parked at the airport. Definitely visiting her mother, he decided. Then he had a thought. Hoping for a glimpse of what was bugging her — thinking that the letter from her mother might hold a clue — knowing that he could always say he had accidentally slit it open along with the rest of the mail — he opened it and pulled out a neatly folded sheet.

"Dear Greg..."

Dear Greg. It was not from his mother-in-law to Jill. It was to him. He looked quickly at the address. Not to Jill at all. To him. From Jill.

Feeling a sudden foreboding, he began reading.

In a garage studio behind an old white Victorian on a narrow side street in Cambridge, Massachusetts, Olivia Jones was daydreaming at work. She did it often. It was one of the perks of her job.

She restored old photographs, a skill that required patience, a sharp eye, and a steady hand. She had all three, along with an imagination that could take her inside the world of almost any picture. Even now, as she dotted varying shades of gray ink to restore a faded face, she was inside the frame with a family of migrant workers living in California in the early thirties. The Depression had taken hold. Life was hard, food scarce. Children worked with their parents and grandparents, hour after hour, in whatever fields needed picking. They began the day dirty and ended it more so. Their faces were somber, their cheeks gaunt, their eyes large and haunting.

They sat close together on the porch of a weathered shack. Moving around them, Olivia went inside. The place was small but functional. Bedding lay against nearly every wall, with a woodstove and a few chairs in the center. The air held the smell of dust and hard work, but there was more. On a heavy table nearby sat a loaf of fresh-baked bread, aromatic and warm. A stew cooked on the woodstove. One shelf held an assortment of cracked pottery and tin cups and plates. There would be clinking when the family ate. She could hear it now.

Returning to the porch, she was drawn in with an open arm, reconnected to this group as they were connected to one another. Everyone touched — a hand, an arm, a shoulder, a cheek. They were nine people spanning three generations, surviving the bleakness of their lives by taking comfort in family. They had nothing by way of material goods, only one another.

Olivia was thirty-five. She had a ten-year-old daughter, a job, an apartment with a TV and VCR, a computer, and a washer and dryer. She had a car. She had a Patagonia vest, L.L.Bean clogs, and a Nikon that was old enough and sturdy enough to fetch a pretty penny.

But boy, did she envy that migrant family its closeness.

"Those were hard times," came a gruff voice by her shoulder.

She looked up to see her boss, Otis Thurman, scowling at the photograph. It was one of several that had been newly uncovered, believed to be the work of Dorothea Lange. The Metropolitan Museum in New York had commissioned him to restore them. Olivia was doing the work.

"They were simpler times," she said.

He grunted. "You want 'em? Take 'em. I'm leaving. Lock up when you go." He walked off with less shuffle than another man of seventy-five might have, but then, Otis had his moods to keep him sharp. He had been in something of a snit all day, but after five years in his employ, Olivia knew not to take it personally. Otis was a frustrated Picasso, a would-be painter who would never be as good at creation as he was at restoration. But hope died hard, even at his age. He was returning to his canvas and oil full-time — seven weeks away from retirement and counting.

He was looking forward to it. Olivia was not.

He kept announcing the hours. Olivia tried not to hear.

We're a good team, she argued. I'm too old, he replied.

And that was what intrigued her about this migrant family. The old man in the photograph was grizzled enough to make Otis look young, but he was still there, still productive, still part of that larger group.

Things were different nowadays. People burned out, and no wonder. They were up on the high wire of life alone with no net.

Olivia worried about Otis retiring, pictured him sitting alone day after day, with art tools that he couldn't use to his own high standards and no one to bully. He wasn't going to be happy.

Wrong, Olivia. He had friends all over the art community and plenty of money saved up. He would be delighted. She was the one in trouble.

She had finally found her niche. Restoring old photographs was a natural for someone with a knowledge of cameras and an eye for art — and she had both, though it had taken her awhile to see it. Trial and error was the story of her life. She had waitressed. She had done telemarketing. She had sold clothes. Selling cameras had come after that, along with the discovery that she loved taking pictures. Then had come Tess. Then brief stints apprenticing with a professional photographer and freelancing for a museum that wanted pictures of its shows. Then Otis.

For the first time in her life, Olivia truly loved her work. She was better at photo restoration than she had been at anything else, and could lose herself for hours in prints from the past, smelling the age, feeling the grandeur. For Olivia, the world of yesterday was more romantic than today. She would have liked to have lived back then.

Given that she couldn't, she liked working for Otis, and the feeling was mutual. Few people in her life had put up with her for five years. Granted, she indulged him his moods, and even he acknowledged that she did the job better than the long line of assistants before her.

Still, he genuinely liked her. The eight-by-ten tacked to the wall proved it. He had taken it last week when she had shown up at work with her hair cut painfully short. She had chopped it off herself in a fit of disgust, irritated with long hair in the sweltering heat. Immediately she had regretted it. A barber had neatened things up a bit, but she had gone on to work wearing a big straw hat — which Otis had promptly removed.

Bless his soul, he said that he liked her hair short, said that it made her look lighthearted and fun — and then he proceeded to catch just that on film. She was standing in front of a plain concrete wall, wearing a long tank dress, toes peeking from sandals, hair boyish. Feeling exposed and awkward, as unused to being on that side of the camera as she was embarrassed about her hair, she had wrapped her arms around her middle and tucked in her chin.

Otis had used light, angle, and focus to make her look willowy rather than thin, spirited rather than self-conscious. He had made the shiny strands of that short, sandy hair look stylish, and the maroon polish on her toenails look exotic. He had made her brown eyes large in a delicate face. Somehow, he had made her look pretty.

When her eyes slid from that photograph to another tacked nearby, her smile widened. Tess was with her in that one, nine years old the summer before. They were dressed as a pair of dance hall girls in a Dodge City saloon in the days of the wild, wild West. Otis had condemned the picture as the lowest form of commercial photography, but they'd had a ball dressing up. They talked about going for an Elizabethan look this summer — assuming they could afford another weekend at the shore. Money was tighter now, without child support. The reality of that was just sinking in.

Jared Stark had let her down in every imaginable way. He was supposed to have loved her. Barring that, he was supposed to have loved their child. At the very least, he was supposed to have helped keep that child sheltered and clothed. So, what had he done? He had died.

A timer rang. Setting aside the anger that had displaced grief, Olivia silenced it. Tess was the love of her life, and school was nearly out for the day. Recapping her inks, she washed her brushes and carefully placed the maybe-Lange photographs in the vault. She neatened the office, filled her briefcase with paperwork to do at home, and opened the door in time to greet the mailman.

Otis's personal letters and bills went in one pile, those addressed to the studio went in another. Among the larger pieces there was a supermarket flyer, a mailing from the American Institute for Conservation of Historic and Artistic Works, and the week's Time. At the bottom of the pile was a large manila pack.

One look at its sender and Olivia felt a wave of pleasure. The mailing label was ivory with a burgundy logo that depicted, in a single minimalist line, a bunch of grapes spilling from a wineglass. Beneath it was the stylized script — so familiar now — that read Asquonset Vineyard and Winery, Asquonset, Rhode Island. The address was handwritten in the more traditional but no less familiar style of Natalie Seebring.

Holding the large envelope to her nose, Olivia closed her eyes and inhaled. She knew that freesia scent now as well as she knew the handwriting. It was elegant, conjuring images of prosperity and warmth. She basked in it for a minute, then crossed to the large table where the last batch of Seebring photographs lay. They were from the early fifties and had needed varying degrees of repair, but they were ready for return. Now there was a new pack. Natalie's timing was perfect.

Olivia had never met the woman, but she felt she knew her well. Photographs told stories, and what they didn't tell, Olivia easily made up. Natalie had been a beautiful child in the twenties, a striking teenager in the thirties. In the forties she had been the blushing bride of a dashing soldier, and in the fifties, the smiling mother of two adoring children. According to her photographs, she dressed well and lived in style. Whether a parlor with an exquisite Oriental rug in the foreground, an elegantly upholstered settee at midrange, and original art on the wall behind, or a garden surrounded by lush shrubbery that screamed of color even in black-and-white, the backgrounds of the pictures she sent were entirely consistent with the image of a successful wine-making family.

No downtrodden migrant crew this one. Of course, these pictures didn't have the artistic import of one taken by Dorothea Lange, but Olivia had followed the growth of this family for months and was totally involved. The appeal here was prosperity and ease. She had fantasized about being a Seebring more times than she could count.

Her own story was light-years different from anything she had seen in the Seebring pictures. She had never met her father. Her mother didn't even know who he was. Olivia had been the product of a one-night stand on a liquor-blurred New Year's Eve in an alley off Manhattan's Times Square. Carol Jones, her mother, had been seventeen at the time.

Feminists might have called it rape, but months later, when Carol finally realized she was pregnant, she was rebellious enough and defiant enough to tell her parents it was love. For those pious folk, the pregnancy was one defiant act too many. They disowned her. She retaliated, predictably rebellious and defiant, by leaving home with nothing of her heritage but her name — Jones.

A lot of good that did Olivia. There were pages of Jones listings in every telephone directory. There were pages and pages of them in New York. And now, not only couldn't she find her grandparents, she couldn't find her mother either. Moving from place to place herself, Olivia had left a trail of bread crumbs to rival Hansel and Gretel, but no relative ever came looking. Apparently, no relative cared — and it was their loss. Olivia might be no prize, but Tess was. Tess was a gem.

Unfortunately, the loss went two ways. This gap in her history meant that Olivia and Tess went without extended family. It was just the two of them — just the two of them against the world. That wasn't so bad, though; Olivia had come to terms with it. She could cope.

It didn't mean she couldn't dream, of course, and lately she dreamed she was related to Natalie Seebring. Being grandmother and granddaughter was pushing it a little, but there was a woman in some of the early Asquonset pictures who, given a marginal resemblance to Carol, could be Olivia's grandmother. Olivia hadn't seen the woman in any of Asquonset's postwar pictures, but there were easy explanations for that. She might have been a WAC who had fallen for a serviceman and ended up in New York. Her husband might have been a rigid military type who wanted things done his way, or he might have been irrationally jealous, forbidding her contact with her family. Hence, her absence in photographs.

But if she was Natalie's sister, then Natalie would be Olivia's great-aunt. Even if she were only a cousin, the blood bond would be there.

Olivia glanced at the clock. She had to go get Tess. Time was growing short.

But the lure of this new package was too great to resist. Opening the clasp, she peeked inside. The scent of freesia was stronger now. She pushed aside a cover letter and saw several dozen photographs. Most were eight-by-tens in black-and-white. Under them was a bright yellow envelope.

Curious, she pulled it out. Otis's name and address were on the front, written not in Natalie's freehand but in a calligrapher's script. She was giving a party, Olivia decided — and immediately vowed to go as Otis's date. She didn't care if people snickered behind their hands. She wanted to see Asquonset. She wanted to meet Natalie.

She laid the invitation on Otis's desk with his personal mail — then quickly took it back and returned it to the mailer with the pictures. He wouldn't be in again until tomorrow. She liked the idea of having the invitation in her own house for a night.

Tucking the package into her briefcase, she checked the office a final time, then let herself out and locked the door. Natalie's new batch of pictures would be the treat she gave herself that night when everything else was done.

Savoring the anticipation, she half walked, half ran through narrow streets hemmed in by tightly packed houses, trees, and parked cars. The June air was stagnant and warm. She arrived at Tess's school in a sweat, a full ten minutes late.

Most of the children had gone. A few stragglers remained on the playground, but they were immersed in themselves. Tess stood alone at a corner of the school yard with a shoulder weighted down by her backpack, one foot turned in, her glasses halfway down her nose, and a desolate look on her face.

Copyright © 2001 by Barbara Delinsky

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Reading Group Guide


A Reading Group Guide for The Vineyard by Barbara Delinsky

1.) Natalie's story is interwoven throughout the novel in the form of recollections -- memories that later come into question when her children read her story. Discuss the power of personal memories; how can they vary so drastically from one family member to another? Can you always trust your memories -- or do we all revise and alter our memories one way or another?

2.) Which qualities make Olivia a good person to help Natalie write her memoirs? Her natural curiosity? Her fascination with the intricacies of family dynamics? Does the absence of Olivia's own family history help or hinder this process?

3.) At first, Tess and Simon find themselves at odds with one another. Is this because Tess reminds Simon of the daughter he lost? Does Tess sense and subsequently feel threatened by the growing attraction between Olivia and Simon? Are Tess and Simon more alike then different -- outsiders in a world filled with people who do not understand their pain?

4.) How is Olivia affected by her realization that the Seebrings aren't the perfect family she envisioned? Is Olivia disappointed by the choices Natalie made to save the vineyard? How practical were Olivia's expectations when she arrived at the vineyard? Is she realistic when she hopes that the Seebrings might become a pseudo-family?

5.) Natalie and Olivia discuss the legitimacy of the expression "blood is thicker than water." (ms. p. 273) Do you agree or disagree with this sentiment? Is it possible to forge a family-like bond with friends when one does not have a family of their own? In the end, are family bonds stronger because they are permanent and enduring -- or does the process of choosing to be close to someone strengthen the bonds of friendship?

6.) Discuss Natalie and Carl's lifelong love affair, and their ability to set aside their feelings for almost sixty years. Does their shared love for the vineyard exceed even their feelings for one another? Did the fact that they were able to live their lives side by side -- if only as employee/employer rather than husband and wife -- make their choice easier or harder?

7.) Discuss the importance of the vineyard as a lifeline between everyone associated with the winery. Who loves the vineyard the most? Discuss how the vineyard becomes a character in its own right: its changing moods and its need to be loved and cared for if it's to thrive. Did the detailed information about grape growing for wine add to the pleasure of your reading experience?

8.) Who paid the ultimate price for Natalie and Alexander's "marriage-of-convenience?" Natalie and Carl, who had to give up their love to save Asquonset? Alexander, who spent his life married to someone whose heart was taken by another? Greg and Susanne, whose needs were often overlooked for the sake of the winery?

9.) Compare Natalie to Olivia's own absentee mother, and how each mother's parenting style affected her children. Which is more painful: having a mother who is physically present in one's life, yet emotionally remote, or having a mother who disappears altogether? Is Olivia's discovery of her mother's death tragic or liberating for her?

10.) The major turning point in Simon's relationship with Olivia and Tess occurs when Buck gives birth to her kittens. Does this birth symbolize Simon's rebirth as a man, and his renewed hope for the future? Why is his first instinct to share this event with Olivia and Tess?

11.) Discuss the role of women in The Vineyard. How did Natalie's gender affect the course of her life and the decisions she made? How did being a women help her? Did it make her life easier or more difficult? Would Natalie have been as happy if she'd also been the face of the vineyard as well as its brains and backbone, or was that job better left to Alexander?

12.) Do you agree with Natalie's decision to keep Brad's true parentage a secret? How would the course of Natalie and Carl's lives have changed had Carl known all along that he was Brad's true father?

13.) Carl and Simon enjoy an enduring, if quiet, bond as father and son. Did you want them to be more demonstrative toward one another, or does their relationship suit their personalities? How do you think their relationship was affected by the loss of their wives in the sailing accident?

14.) Discuss Olivia's reaction to the death of her mother. Were you surprised by her relative composure, or did you expect a more volatile response? How did having the Seebring women near her for comfort affect Olivia's reaction? What did the blank diary owned by Olivia's mother symbolize?

15.) Discuss the power of viewing history through the eyes of someone who lived it. How are personal memoirs different from straight historical accounts? Which ones are more accurate? Which ones are more interesting?

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 37 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(17)

4 Star

(10)

3 Star

(5)

2 Star

(3)

1 Star

(2)

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 37 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted February 2, 2003

    A Really Really Good Read!!

    I really liked this book a lot and found that it moved along really well and I wanted to keep reading to see how things worked out for these great people. The characters were people I admired. The main voice in the book Natalie was a woman of great strength and conviction.

    4 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted December 9, 2008

    more from this reviewer

    Excellent family drama

    Olivia Jones accompanied by her nine-year old troubled daughter Tess agrees to write the memoirs of Natalie Seeburg, owner of the Asquoniet Vineyard and Winery in Rhode Island. Olivia stuns her adult children, Swanne and Greg when she announces her intention to marry Carl Burke, the long-term manager of the winery although their beloved father has been dead only six months. <P>Because she struggles to tell about her feelings, Natalie hired Olivia to help her tell the truth to her children in order to gain their blessing for her wedding. Olivia is unaware that she is entering a major family feud. However, she quickly comes to lover her employer, who makes her and her daughter feel like part of an extended family. Carl¿s son Simon makes Olivia want to believe in fairy tales, but she fears that he will desert her like everyone else in her life has done. Olivia, the Seebrings, and the Burkes have many personal obstacles to overcome if they are to learn what true loving means. <P>Because of the width of the talent, no one can predict what the next Barbara Delinsky book will be especially since the great author never repeats herself. Her novels are always different as writing style and the characters are unique to one tale only. THE VINEYARD is Barbara Delinsky at her best, delivering a first class family drama filled with a heartwarming and gut-wrenching story line. The passion and uncertainty of caring for another person and the vineyard, which seems at times like a person, feels true to life in what is certain to be the writer¿s latest bestseller. <P>Harriet Klausner

    4 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 23, 2004

    'Feel-good' book that makes you long for family

    Have been looking for a 'new' author to read, and found one. Truly couldn't put it down....kept delaying finishing, as didn't want to lose my new 'best friend' book. Characters were so real, and story keeps you involved and interested, without need of 4-letter words or graphic sex.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 29, 2009

    Disappointing CD version

    The story was good, however this was an abridged version and too much of the story was removed. The worst part was when one of the characters referred to a part of 'her story' that 'I already told you' and she never had on the cd version. I went to the library, borrowed the book, and looked it up. Skip the CD's and read the book.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 19, 2006

    High Hopes

    The vineyard is well presented by Lauren Mufson, whos voice is perfect for the character of Olivia. Barbara Delinsky is a fantastic writer and I hope everyone enjoys this book (tape) as much as I did. Kit

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 22, 2002

    I Strongly Recommend This One!!!

    I normally read historical fiction and read this one just as a change. It was a GREAT book; my first of Barbara Delinsky's books. I am now on my second and may take a much longer break from my normal fiction haunts than planned.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 6, 2000

    Not up to Delinsky's former works

    Research on grape growing, the wine industry and dislexia was thorough. However, the story line, too heavily weighted with romance, became tiresome. It took me a week, as opposed to, maybe, two to three days to read this book, which happens when I don't find a work challening. All in all, I thought this book was more characteristic of Danielle Steel than Barbara Delinsky.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 23, 2012

    Halotuft

    "Never mind." he says. He tears down the den, eats the prey, and heads home.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted December 22, 2012

    Yvonne

    *hisses and claws Sarah's face.*

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted December 22, 2012

    Sarah

    The skinny big boobed blonde sat waiting for hunter.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted August 23, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    Enjoyed it

    Although it was slightly predictable, it was still a good read. I would compare it to a really good Hallmark movie and I love Hallmark movies! The characters were all quite believable and it made me wish I owned a vineyard...and if the hunky guy came with it too then kudos x 2 :)

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted December 27, 2009

    Interesting light reading

    I have enjoyed listening to the book while I travel in my car.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted November 11, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Good listen

    Good story line and moves quickly enough to not get bored.

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  • Posted August 29, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Not BD's Best Effort

    (Audio Book version)

    Predictable plotting, characters from Central Casting and rather contrived conflict. The minor characters are more interesting and I kept wanting to hear more about them! The information on the vineyard and wines was accurate but such a small part of the novel, I was disappointed. This novel is fine for mere escapism but is a potato chip and not a meal.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted November 16, 2001

    One of her better books

    Wonderful reading until the last page. Didn't want to end the book. The characters seemed like family and you didnt want the book to end. I would love to see a sequal to this book. Didn't know how the book was going to end until the end. I would definitely recommend this book to others.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted July 18, 2001

    I Fell In Love

    I fell in love with this story. I am going to wait until next year and read it again.I checked the book out of the library and read it. It was so good I went and bought my own copy for my home library. What does that tell you. It's good.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted August 5, 2000

    EXCITING!!

    Once I began this book, I just could not put it down!! I am 18 years old and have been a reader since my early teenage years. I can honestly say that this is one of the most well put together and flowing books that I have had the privilage to read. Not only was it well written, the reader was given knowledge about the operation of growing grapes and producing wine. At certain spots in the book, I think I could almost taste the bittersweetness of a grape in my mouth. It was that well written. It seemed that the characters were real people who actually live in Rhode Island and do own a vineyard. I just can't explain how REAL this book actually seemed. Anyway, it was wonderful and exciting and one of my favorite reads.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted July 4, 2000

    wonderful summer reading

    This was a truly spirited book. The reader can sense the feelings when delving into the personalities in each character. The author helps you to visualize the people and places in this book in a wonderfully written style.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted June 19, 2000

    The Best Yet!!!

    The Vineyard is perhaps the best Barbara Delinsky has written. The story of a mother striving to provide the best for her dyslexic child is admirable in today's world. Also, the struggle of another mother to help her children understand her needs as she has sacrificied so much in her life was a wonderful story that one could easily see actually happening! I couldn't put this book down.....I hated to see it end, but was delighted at the end of the story!!! As friends and I discussed this book, we all felt it her best yet and we cannot wait for her next!

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted June 8, 2010

    No text was provided for this review.

See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 37 Customer Reviews

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