It’s a wonder to behold what happens when love moves in . . .
Former child star Fiona Hume deserted the movie biz a decade ago—right after she left rehab. She landed in Baltimore, bought a dilapidated old mansion downtown, and hatched dreams of restoring it into a masterpiece, complete with a studio for herself.
She would disappear from public view and live an artist’s life.
That was the plan.
Ten years later, Fiona’s huge house is filled with junk purchased at thrift stores, haggled over at yard sales, or picked up from the side of the road. Each piece was destined for an art project . . . but all she’s got so far is a piece of twine with some antique buttons threaded down its length.
She’s thirty-two years old and still recognizable, but Fiona’s money has finally run out. She’s gotten pretty desperate, too, and in her desperation she’s willing to do almost anything for money. Almost. So it is that she comes to rent out the maid’s quarters to a local blacksmith named Josia Yeu.
Josia is everything Fiona isn’t: gregarious, peaceful, in control without controlling . . . in short, happy. As the light from the maid’s quarters begins to permeate the dank rooms of Fiona’s world, something else begins to transform as well—something inside Fiona. Something even she can see is beautiful.
|Publisher:||Nelson, Thomas, Inc.|
|Product dimensions:||5.40(w) x 8.20(h) x 1.00(d)|
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A Thing of Beauty
By LISA SAMSON
Thomas NelsonCopyright © 2015 Lisa Samson
All rights reserved.
All the Nutty Bars in the world won't make this problem go away. In July, Jessica is coming out with a tell-all autobiography giving "her side of the story once and for all." She's apparently banking on the fact that I won't enforce the gag order placed upon her during the parental divorce proceedings, and she's right. I'll have to go her one better.
I don't want to do it, but she's given me no choice. The mother I divorced when I was sixteen won't be silenced, and when she makes up her mind to do something, consider it done. I can only throw my current privacy up in the air and hope bits of it come back down when this is all over. Deborah Raines has agreed to an exclusive interview with me a week before the book's release, and that will be that.
But I need money. Because it takes some to look like you have some, and Deborah Raines and the world that watches her need to think I am doing better than ever. Nobody will follow up because nobody really cares. Kind of like that college diploma employers never ask to see.
So I do what I have to do: compose an ad and cross my fingers that someone out there will answer my call.
Four months and twenty-two hundred dollars could make all the difference.
Craigslist: Housing: Room for Rent. Mount Vernon, $550/month
Room for rent with attached, private bath. And I do mean a room. A room with a door to the hall bath cut into its wall so all the renter has to do is come in the front door, walk down the hall to the second room on the right, close the door behind him, and that will be that. And nothing more.
Kitchen usage, not okay. Hot plate, microwave, and dormitory refrigerator in the bedroom, fine.
Washing machine and dryer, not okay. Bathroom sink, tub, and shower curtain rod, fine. Better yet, find a Laundromat.
Living room. Try not to even look at it on your way back to your room. Rent is $550 a month and you know what? That's a steal in this neighborhood, so any complaining and you know where to find the door. I'm not kidding.
And if I find you anywhere else in the house or the backyard (feel free to use the front porch to sit on if you must and bring your own chair, but don't just leave it sitting there for all time), I'll personally remove you from the premises because I didn't take kung fu purely for my health and peace of mind. But a woman doesn't need peace of mind to kick somebody's ass. Preferably not yours, but I'll do it if I must and not look back.
After posting the ad designed to weed out anybody hoping to become my very best friend, and putting off any creepers with my bald-faced lie about martial arts, I lay my cell phone down on the kitchen table and begin outlining on a piece of graph paper the suitable space for a renter's feet to navigate. I am reminded of a marble maze with only one possible path, all doorways clogged, one place only, one place only. How great that would be to have a world of options stripped away, because with too much choice one can only stand still and gather as much information to make as wise a choice as possible. And there are too many choices, too much to know.
But this arrangement? I hold the graph out in front of me. This arrangement is a thing of beauty. I almost wish I was my own renter, my options stripped away. This seems like true freedom.
* * *
Fifteen minutes later I pedal beneath the dense March cloud cover spewing forth a chilled rain of paunchy droplets that splatter like paint over the lenses of my glasses and soak their chill into my bones. Bikes are nice, okay. In summer.
A pile of trash in the alleyway that runs down the middle of the next block tickles my peripheral vision, and I make a quick left. Checkin' it out, checkin' it out. You never know when you're going to find it. It. And don't tell me it can't be found in a pile of trash. I know better. The universe has a different set of values than we do. Case in point: the digestive system. It has a beauty all its own and doesn't care what anybody thinks about it.
Sifting through pieces of scrap wood, a couple of outdated countertop appliances, old towels, and just plain old junk, I expose piece upon piece, hope in my heart. Something glimmers down on the pavement, something small. A ring, perhaps? A diamond? Or maybe just something humble, a department store piece of costume jewelry.
"Hey, you right there! What are you doing?"
A woman stands silhouetted by the light at the entrance to the alley ten feet away. Her hands press into her hips and her high black heels stab into the cobblestone paving.
"You hear me?" she says with a shake of her blond bob.
"I just saw the trash. I'm an artist and—"
She bends down and picks up a bottle lying by a blue compact car. "Get out of here. This is private property."
It isn't. It's on the street, but it's not worth fighting over. The sparkle was only a piece of crushed soda can. I get on my bike and continue down the alley, away from the woman.
"Don't come back!" she cries, her words forcing themselves against my back as I speed up. There are other piles to find. More than there should be. The bottle whizzes past my head.
But I am shaking. Every time I go out, I think it might feel different. And every time it doesn't. Some days it's easier to ignore it than others.
I sleep for the rest of the day as the responses to my ad pile up in my e-mail's inbox.
* * *
The next day I lock up my Schwinn to the bike rack at Begonia's Coffee Bizarre for my weekly outing, committing myself to warmth and human interaction. Not that the lady in the alley didn't have her certain brand of charminess. But here I remember what moving about life feels like. In the same manner as everybody else who's just doing her thing, I still have the skills necessary to frequent a coffee shop. I'm still capable of interviewing potential housemates.
After setting my tote on the lime-green ice-cream-shop table at the very back corner, I wipe my glasses clean on the hem of my black pullover, a hairy number that could easily be mistaken for a werewolf attack. I pull a hair tie from around my wrist and twist back into a bun hair that can only be described as a nondescript brown, okay, because nobody wants their locks to be compared to the water left in the bucket after a good mop of the basement floor. If you choose to picture it that way, however, you're close.
After all of this activity, I'm still freezing.
That's what they don't tell you in Hollywood when they expect you to look like a Halloween skeleton. They don't tell you how cold it is to be skinny. And they don't tell you how even once you leave that life behind, you can never, ever look at food the same way. Oh, you don't have to think of it as the enemy for the rest of your life, but you do have to remind yourself every time you pour yourself a glass of chocolate milk that it isn't.
When she bought the shop, Randi, the owner of this fine establishment, felt that Randi's Coffee Bizarre didn't have the same ring as Begonia's. So she kept it with no intention on opening day or any day, including today, of ever being called Begonia. I can't imagine any human less of a Begonia than Randi, who, dressed in leather—basically—and wearing a bright-red-and-black beehive hairdo, leans against the back counter. She glances up from the puzzle book she holds and peers over a pair of chrome reading glasses that would more accurately be described as goggles.
"Morning, Fia." Her musical voice greets me and she starts in on my latte, now on the menu as the Morning Buster, a twenty-four-ounce mug holding half-and-half, five shots of espresso, and two pumps each of caramel, chocolate, white chocolate, and coconut syrups.
This concoction made the front page of the Star ten years ago.
"Hi, Randi." I perch on one of the chairs at the counter. Randi takes no mind of my sweater.
"Miserable day, you know?" Randi asks. "Did you walk?"
"I finally got my bike out of the shop."
"Poor old thing."
"Poor stupid thing is more like it. Out of the past eight weeks, I was able to use her a whopping three days."
The bike shop guys are swamped now that pedaling is hip.
The steam wand sounds like it's sucking the brains out of the whole milk she poured into the stainless pitcher, so much so that I wonder if I'll end up in its vortex. "Is that thing louder than usual?"
"Yep. Costs two-fifty to fix and it still works, so ... But about your bike. You might want to get something new, sister."
"And boring. I like that ruby ring you're wearing."
"My aunt's. Well, yeah, boring. That's usually the way it works, Fia. Reliable rarely comes in a flashy package."
She's right about that.
"If ever." I rest my chin in my hand and can't help but sigh. I'm not looking forward to the next hour. "So, okay, I've got people coming in to see me about the spare bedroom. Hopefully it will throw some business your way. And speaking of that, I know my tab is getting really long. I was wondering if there's anything I can do in exchange."
"Sure." Randi sets down four shot glasses beneath the four spouts of her red machine and pushes the buttons. The grinder metes out punishment on the beans, and who knew specialty coffee drinks came about through such violence? "So, are you looking for a male or a female boarder?"
"Hopefully male. I don't need a girlfriend."
"Guys are big and loud, though."
"Well then, he had better take off his shoes when he comes in the door. I really don't want to know he's there if at all possible."
"Hmm." She frowns. "Men are also more demanding, and he might feel like he has a right to have more of a say than he does. Like, his word should be 60 percent and yours only 40 or something."
Randi had two marriages go kaput and it's clear she has little hope for a third. "Better that than painting our nails together or having to ask if he wants in on the carryout order I want to make every single time. That would be a nightmare."
"I'll grant you that. Women can be a giant pain in the butt too," she says.
"Well, I am interviewing one woman this morning, however, because you just never know."
"What did you have in mind regarding your tab?" Randi asks as a sudden parting in the clouds sends in a ray of sun through the plate-glass front window to spotlight her hair. That is some red red, ladies and gentlemen.
"Some kind of mural in the hallway?" I suggest, almost praying for her to screw up her face in disgust at the suggestion.
Randi nods. "Like maybe a woman at an interview desk, men lined up for the privilege of being her roommate?"
I should ask her to beehive my hair before the first interviewee arrives. "Yep. Only the thought of that makes me want to throw up a little."
"Even after all the dates you go on, Fia?" She dumps the espresso into a large cylindrical mug with the words Love Is All You Need and a toothy cartoon rendering of the Beatles on the side. "Please."
"It's only because TV has gotten so bad lately. Especially if you don't have cable."
Randi begins pumping the sugary syrups into the mug. "I hear that. So how many interviewees do you have lined up?"
"Four. In fifteen-minute increments beginning at ten."
"Not going for the person who has a steady day job, I see." Randi's personal aesthetic bears no testimony to her practicality.
"Didn't think about that."
"Someone like me would never be able to make it to the interview. Well"—she pours the milk into the mug—"you can always schedule some more. And maybe you'll find someone today. There's always that."
"Yeah. Maybe I'll luck out."
She stirs the concoction with a tall teaspoon. "You know the way I think."
"'Everything happens for a reason, sister.'" I quote her, taking the drink as it's offered. I sip, feeling hopeful I might actually warm up. "And while I don't necessarily agree with your spiritual philosophy, I always appreciate your lattes."
"Well, if it has to be one or the other ..."
A brass bell with the etchings of a Chinese dragon parading in a circle around it bounces like a Ping-Pong ball against the surface of the bright-yellow door as two metalheads enter. Dressed in their metalhead uniform of faded jeans heavily frayed at the bottom, band T-shirts (Slipknot for him, Between the Buried and Me for her), and, in the case of the boy, black Vans, and the girl, Doc Martens, they choose the table closest to the bathrooms.
"Hey, Phoebe. Hey, Brian," Randi says as they set up gamer devices.
I drift back to my table, sipping as I go. I started feeling old last year, the very first realization that I wasn't one of the younger crowd, and could no longer be misconstrued to be such, occurring at the Fourth of July fireworks when a couple walked past me with their hands in each other's back pockets and I wanted to gag.
But even that memory cannot hide that the latte is starting to work its homey magic and overtake the chill of the bike ride. It's hard not to feel cozy here in a place that's half genie bottle, half fifties ski chalet, with a wave of a fairy princess wand added in for good measure.
Throw in a little Mother Earth while you're at it too.
And there's never a speck of dust on all Randi's bric-a-brac. You have to respect a woman who's able to keep up on all her bric-a-brac.
So then. Five minutes until ... I open up my graph paper pad and spot the first name on the list ... a Mr. Weisenheim should appear. You can't make this stuff up, folks. After that, Ellen Reinbacher, then Bartholomew Hipschman.
What? Did someone kick a bus of German tourists to the curb or something? Then again, this is Baltimore.
Another man, scheduled for ten forty-five, was basically unintelligible when he left a voice mail. But as long as his rent money jumps the fences between his account and mine, I couldn't give a rat's ass whether I can understand what he's saying.
And that's it. I just need one out of four to work out. Good odds.
"Fiona," Randi calls. "Make it loud enough and entertaining enough and don't mind my eavesdropping, and we'll call the tab clear."
"You got it, Ms. Begonia."
Make these interviews a good scene for an eager viewer? That I can do.
The dragon bell slams against the door, and a man lumbers in wearing a black suit and a red silk tie with matching pocket scarf. His eyes, set deeply beneath hooded lids and fine gray brows, dart and come to rest on me. If that isn't a wig, well, okay, but then he's pretty bold to wear his pet ferret as a hat to a place that sells food.
Randi sighs, picks up her puzzle book, and leans back against the counter. But I see that little grin lift the corners of her full lips.
This should be a piece of cake.
I wave Mr. Weisenheim toward my table.
* * *
After a particularly annoying interview with self-professed genius Ellen Reinbacher, Bartholomew Hipschman fails to show, so my second latte and I sit at one of the counter stools, and I doodle while Randi pencils in her Sudoku book.
"So, Fia," she says, looking down through the reading glasses held up by her nostrils, pencil poised like a harpoon over the puzzle. "Why are you renting out a room in the first place? Has it gotten that bad?"
"Jessica, I guess."
She turns her eyes up to me. "Really? Why would she want you to rent out a room?"
"Oh, she's never said anything about that one way or the other. I'm being forced into a preemptive strike."
"Over what?" Randi raises an eyebrow. "What's the dish?"
Randi is always interested in this gossip, not because any parents of mine are a concern of hers. That would be lovely if that were the case and maybe it is, but I'll never be able to know because Jessica and Brandon are movie stars.
"Both Jessica and Brandon called two nights ago," I say.
Randi holds up a finger, then picks up tongs and digs in the pastry case for a cheese Danish with chocolate drizzled across the top. She drops it on one of the many mismatched plates she finds at Sunday yard sales and sets it in front of me. "Spill it. That Danish comes from Peacock's so it better be good."
Oh. It's one of the most expensive bakeries in Canton. But this is Greektown. She could have gotten some serious baklava from Greektown Bakery for half the price.
But I don't say this because Randi loathes the fact that I eat sweets from the rising of the sun to the setting of the same and look about as robust as a punk rocker, and she does the same and looks as maternally built, despite the leather, as the Italian-Catholic lady at the dry cleaner next door who had eleven children back when she was doing that sort of thing.
I lower my voice. "Jessica called to say they're getting a divorce again, but not really."
Excerpted from A Thing of Beauty by LISA SAMSON. Copyright © 2015 Lisa Samson. Excerpted by permission of Thomas Nelson.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
I thoroughly enjoyed the author's writing style, but felt the story itself was somewhat boring. I wanted to know why Fiona's father did a certain thing in the past and how Fiona's mother would react to being confronted in the present, but I feel like the answers were over-simplified. Overall, not my type of novel, but I'd give the author another chance.
TAKING BACK CONTROL GROWING UP AS A CHILD STAR, FIONA, HAD TO DEAL WITH ALOT OF STUFF EARLY ON IN LIFE. WITH BOTH PARENTS AS ACTORS, FIONA FOUND HERSELF ALWAYS TAKING A BACK SEAT THEIR WORK. FINALLY, HAVING HAD ENOUGH OF THAT, FIONA DECIDES TO DIVORCE HER PARENTS. SHE SETS OUT TO LIVE HER LIFE HER WAY AND NOT IN THE SHADOWS OF HER PARENTS. UPON DOING SO, FIONA BUYS A MASSIVE HOUSE AND STARTS COLLECTING THINGS, OR HOARDING THINGS IN SOME PEOPLE OPINIONS. BUT REST ASURE, SHE HAS A PLAN FOR EVERY PIECE THAT ENTERS THE HOUSE. SHE JUST HAS NOT GOTTEN AROUND TO IT YET. BUT, WHEN SHE RENTS OUT A ROOM TO A STRANGER THINGS START TO FALL IN PLACE. AND FIONA BEGINS TO PUT HER LIFE BACK TOGETHER. AND IN THE PROCESS FIONA IS ABLE TO MEND THE RELATIONSHIPS WITH HER PARENTS. THIS WAS MY FIRST BOOK BY LISA SAMSON, AND I MUST SAY THAT I REALLY DID ENJOY READING IT. I WOULD NOT HESITATE TO RECOMMEND THIS BOOK. ENJOY.....
Almost as soon as Lisa Samson's newest book A Thing of Beauty arrived I began reading. While I cooked dinner, after we finished, in the bathtub, and turned the last page at 1:30am. Today was a wash. Had to take a nap. I credit it with Lisa's talent for portraying unique people in a very engaging manner. This story centers around a young woman called Fiona, who's a former child star. She was involved in a horrendous situation as a young girl which was ignored by her parents (namely her mother) which in turn led to Fiona divorcing her parents. Doesn't this ring a bell with something that happened in real life with a celebrity? Anyway, I was drawn in immediately. Enjoyed all of the characters, and so appreciated that Fiona was surrounded by people who really loved her, that is, after she left the life of being a celebrity. The ending is charming, and without giving anything away, the whole story is a joy. All the pieces fit, even the tendency of Fiona to be a hoarder. She tried to fix things that weren't in her power to repair. Not always easy going with her, but full of gentleness and grace. (i received this book free to review from booklookbloggers)
<i>I received this book via Booklook Bloggers in exchange of an honest review.</i> To start off this review, I'd like to clarify that I'm not a huge Christian reader as me being a non-Christian. Despite that, I still would like to try out more of the genre, hence me requesting <i>A Thing of Beauty</i> . Honestly, I quite enjoyed it! The story is about Fiona aka Fia who was previously an Oscar-winning actress but then quitted her job after experiencing something bad. Not having any job, she found herself short on money and was needed to do an interview in order to prove to the whole world that she's doing good. In reality, she was surrounded physically by loads of junks and was unsure what to do with her life. Later she rented out a room and met Josia, an optimistic blacksmith. It started off unclear and I was immediately thrown into a situation where I know nothing about. Slowly I got to know about Fia's life and her meeting all the people. It's refreshing to read about Fia as I'd never read a book where the main character was once an actress. I liked the plot and the message within it. I liked the characters but there weren't much background story or character development for the side characters such as Josia. Speaking of Josia, I found him to be too good to be true as if his existence was a miracle. On the other hand, Fia certainly grew a lot throughout the story. She wasn't the most relatable character of all times but she's a character that you'll be willing to root for. From what I've read from the reviews, people generally gave it a low rating due to the language used as it being a Christian fiction. I have no problem whatsoever with the writing style because it didn't slow me down while reading. The pacing was well-done but it kind of rushed in the later half of the book. In conclusion, an enjoyable and refreshing reading experience for me. I wouldn't recommend it to Christian readers as it might not be their cup of tea. But still, it's worth my time reading it.
Everyone is a thing of beauty. Lisa Samson’s novels probably aren’t for everyone. Her characters range from quirky to flawed to mystical. She’s not afraid to cover hard topics or to challenge our behavior while weaving a compelling story. She allows her characters to use real and unsavory language where it fits them, but never in a gratuitous way. She’s gotten hate mail for it. I can’t say I’ve always loved her stories. But I’ve loved enough of them deeply enough to grab her newest offering whenever it comes out. A Thing of Beauty was no exception, and I received a review copy through BookLookBloggers. This one I loved. Fiona is a former child star who has been scarred by sexual abuse. She has divorced the parents who didn’t protect her, moved across the country and become a hoarder of junk. It’s junk she imagines repurposing into beautiful art, but she never quite gets around to doing so. As Fiona describes her current state: “I want somebody to write this book: the three steps you need to take before you’re ready to take any step at all. But so far I haven’t found anything like it.” A Thing of Beauty is a story that is paradoxically filled with hope. Hope for healing that comes through the love of people who believe in you, even when you don’t believe in yourself. Hope that each small step makes a difference. Hope that some relationships can be mended and that there is freedom in recognizing those that can’t. This book was itself a thing of beauty—a hope-filled promise that life can be different; a gentle call to recover our lives and to help others recover theirs; a reminder that God is at work and we are deeply loved.