Smart, witty, and delightfully offbeat, this new novel from the author of The Happy Hour Choir and Bittersweet Creek is an uplifting story about following your heart, even when it leads to the last place you'd expect…
Presley Cline has put aside dreams of Hollywood stardom and come back to Ellery, Tennessee, to work in a beauty shop. In truth, the dreams in question were more her mother's than her own. Presley may have the face and body of a movie icon, but she lacks the stomach for it. Yet a loving relationship and normal home life seem almost as unattainable as an Oscar. Being able to see and speak to dead people certainly isn't helping.
Presley's first job, beautifying "clients" at the Anderson Funeral Home, is quite a change from working on a movie set. The place is home to dozens of ghosts all hoping that Presley can help them move on--and also one very-much-alive owner, Declan Anderson. Like Presley, Declan is caught between following family expectations and his own aspirations. But with a little meddling from loved ones and locals--both living and dead--Presley is starting to see that life is too short not to be who you want to be, and the most rewarding journeys involve some unexpected detours…
Praise for Sally Kilpatrick's The Happy Hour Choir
"Kilpatrick mixes loss and devastation with hope and a little bit of Southern charm. She will leave the reader laughing through tears. This is an incredible start from a promising storyteller." —RT Book Reviews, 4.5 Stars
|Product dimensions:||5.40(w) x 8.20(h) x 1.00(d)|
About the Author
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Better Get to Livin'
By Sally Kilpatrick
KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP.Copyright © 2016 Sally Kilpatrick
All rights reserved.
Camera flashes blinded me as a cool breeze whipped across my backside. I yanked my skirt out of my thong, but the damage had been done. I pushed through the small throng of paparazzi and made a break for my car. One asked for my comment. Another asked who I was.
Why, I'm Presley Cline, F-list actress extraordinaire. Do you mean you haven't heard of me?
But of course I didn't say that because, for once in my life, I didn't want anyone to know who I was.
That second paparazzo gave me hope until the next morning when my agent, Ira, called me at an ungodly hour. He skipped the hello as he always did. "Kid, you gotta get out of town and lie low."
"Do you think I'm out of the running for the lead in the godmother movie?"
He made that noncommittal Ira sound.
"But they say all publicity is good publicity, right?"
"That's what people with only bad publicity say. Parents like for their kid movies to have good role models, and most fairy godmothers don't get caught on the wrong side of a booty call with their pants down."
Technically, it was my skirt up, but I didn't correct him.
"Ira, I don't even know where to go," I said. My most recent boyfriend, Rob the wonder accountant, had found a newer, younger girlfriend and then absconded with a majority of my funds. A quick look out the window of my apartment showed at least one suspicious person outside waiting for me to emerge.
"Go someplace quiet. Real quiet," he said with a grunt. "I should have something to tell you by New Year's."
Then he hung up on me, which wasn't that big of a surprise.
"Someplace quiet, huh?" I let the curtain fall back and looked around for a duffel bag. It looked as though I was going to be spending Christmas back home in Ellery after all, and whoever said there was no place like home for the holidays obviously didn't have a mother like mine.
"I told you not to come home until just before dawn. The paparazzi are more likely to be asleep then."
I'm such a nobody, the paparazzi shouldn't have been there. Had Ira sold me out?
I did my best to ignore the ghost in the corner, a curvy brunette with bangs. Somehow she always had a cigarette and a plume of ghostly smoke winding around her. Sometimes I could even smell the Lucky Strikes.
I continued to pack, hoping Pinup Betty, the erstwhile inhabitant of my apartment, would go away. She didn't. I'd tried everything I could think of to exorcise her, but none of it had worked.
Ghosts gravitated to me, and Pinup Betty was more stubborn than most.
According to my mother, I was born with a knot in my umbilical cord, which was also looped around my neck twice for good measure. The knot, the loop, the fact she smoked throughout the pregnancy — one or all of those things meant I was born blue and lifeless. She told me she prayed when she saw me, for the first time since she'd found out she was pregnant, not saying amen until I gave a whimper then a cry.
Those eighty-seven precious seconds must've been enough to connect me to another world because I, like the little boy in the movie, could see dead people. In fact, I was looking at Pinup Betty in spite of myself.
"What're you looking at?"
"Just thinking about how happy I'm going to be to leave you behind," I said.
"Maybe I'll come with you. I'm getting bored of sitting around here waiting for something to happen." She took a drag on her cigarette. I braced myself for a coughing fit, but it didn't come. At least the ghostly smoke only carried the faintest whiff of the real thing.
"Don't even think about it," I said. "You got me into enough trouble with your so-called advice."
She waved away my concern. "It'll turn out all right in the end. You'll see. As long as you gave him a night to remember, then you'll get that part. It's not like things have changed that much since the forties."
Not that I was about to admit it to Betty, but I hadn't given Carlos anything to remember other than the memory of me running out of his house like my hair was on fire. Now the whole world was accusing me of something I hadn't done.
I zipped up my duffel bag. No need to pack too much because I'd be back before the new year. "Bye, Betty. Don't do anything I wouldn't do."
She grunted and went back to staring at the ceiling as I closed the door behind me.
Three weeks. I could stand anything for three weeks — even my mother.CHAPTER 2
Folks around town have always speculated that the Anderson men lived forever due to an overexposure to embalming fluids. Since great-granddaddy Seamus lived to be over a hundred, I couldn't prove them wrong. Sure, my father didn't make it that long, but there always has to be one, right? With the distinct possibility of dull decades stretching out before me, I did have to question my quality of life. After all, I was standing in the city cemetery at dusk on the night of the Ellery Christmas parade.
Christmas carols and jingle bells echoed over the graves, and I had a sudden and intense longing for a greasy cheeseburger from Burger Paradise. I could blame Grandpa Floyd for that one. After every burial, he'd do two things: go get a hamburger and kiss Grandma full on the lips the minute he got back. He said there was nothing like putting a body in the ground to make a man suddenly aware of his own mortality.
"¡Oye, Jefe! This look good?"
I looked away from the Anderson plot to where Manny leaned out the backhoe's cab.
"Perfect-o, Manny-o," I said. He grinned at my mauled southern Spanish. We both knew I could do better, but it was my way of telling him he was forgiven for last week's incident of driving a backhoe while intoxicated and thus knocking over two grave markers. Caroline, my stepmother and our boss, wanted to garnish his paycheck to get back the money his stunt had cost. So far, I'd been able to hold her back. After all, Manny was Armando's nephew and still reeling from the sudden loss of his wife. Cemeteries freaked him out, which was rather unfortunate for someone whose third job was digging graves.
Our most recent grave filled, Manny drove the backhoe up on the flatbed and hightailed it out of the cemetery. I reached into my pocket for a cigarette only to remember I'd quit. Again. I couldn't even look at puffs of my breath and pretend they were smoke because it was pretty warm for early December. Hell, it was the warmest December I could remember, and I couldn't get out of my monkey suit fast enough. Only my father's discipline reminded me that I was not to take off my suit coat until I was safely home and thus off duty.
"We have a certain reputation to maintain, son," he used to say. "A momentary discomfort on your part is worth making sure you do the job right."
Doing the job right. I snorted. Manny and I would've been gone already if I hadn't let the Latham family have such a late graveside service. They'd been holding off as long as they could in the hopes that a relative from Seattle would be able to make it despite a canceled flight. Dad or Sean would've easily talked them out of such foolishness with words like decorum or extra fees after three. But I was the soft touch. My traitorous tongue told them we would be happy to hold the service a little later and that, perhaps, a twilight service would be a touching and beautiful way to remember someone who worked the night shift.
What a load of horseshit.
Not only would I do just about anything to make people feel better, but I also didn't feel the need to always pass on extra fees due to extenuating circumstances, which explained why, at least according to Caroline, I was running Anderson's Funeral Home into the ground. To top it all off, she was still ticked at me for laughing at her unintentional pun.
What she didn't know, in this case, certainly wouldn't hurt her. I was awfully close to paying off the loan from the chapel we'd added on a few years back. Sean, my younger brother, was supposed to be home any day now, fully graduated from Gupton-Jones and ready to take my place as soon as he dragged his punk-ass self back from Atlanta. After I gave her the loan pay-off for Christmas, I would still have enough to buy the old McHaney place on Maple Avenue, a great way to start my second career renovating houses. Yep, it was going to be a pretty merry Christmas.
Across the street from the old cemetery, I saw Manny pull his truck — complete with the offending backhoe — over to the only Mexican restaurant in town. He had made it to El Nopalito for his medicinal shot of tequila, but I wouldn't have to worry about him because his sister would make sure he didn't drive under the influence.
Manny swore up and down he could feel the ghosts while he was in the graveyard, which made his job as assistant to the cemetery sexton unfortunate. I called bullshit. Why would a ghost hang around a cemetery? What fun would that be? Not that I believed in ghosts because I didn't. I wasn't entirely sure I believed in heaven or hell or a god who sent people to one place or another. Best I could tell, you got what you got. All the rest was science we hadn't figured out yet.
Declan, my boy, life holds too much mystery to be explained by science alone. There are some things you have to take on faith.
Shut up, Dad.
I turned to my father's monument. I knew his voice was only in my head just as I knew I'd paused here at his grave and would have a hard time leaving it. Here in the quiet of the cemetery I could feel that connection with him and Grandpa Floyd and even Great-Grandpa Seamus — the old Colonel who'd started the whole family business.
"For once, Dad, we aren't in a mell of a hess," I said. "I'm about to pay off the loan, you know. I'm going to keep my promise to you and find a way to go into business with Uncle El. I won't be designing houses, but I'll get to fix them up."
All that's left is for you to find a good woman.
Where had that come from? It had to be my mind playing tricks on me because it sounded like something Dad would say. I wasn't about to repeat his mistakes, though. My mother hadn't been cut out for being the funeral director's wife, and she'd gone to her rest a long time before my father. I couldn't quite look at her grave since she hadn't loved me or my brother enough to stick around.
The throaty sounds of a muscle car made me look up, and I saw a classic Firebird roar down MLK beside me. Suddenly, it seemed silly to be standing in a graveyard talking to a headstone so I started picking my way through the unevenly laid out graves just as the security light hummed to life.
I had been hanging out in a cemetery after dark in a suit that was too hot for comfort because I didn't want to go home — now how sad was that?
Pretty sad, but I didn't plan to be sad much longer.
I actually started whistling as I rounded the shiny black hearse and climbed inside. As of Christmas, I was going to be free, but until then I would keep my promise.
Because an Anderson always keeps his promise.CHAPTER 3
So much for keeping my promises. Guilt had hit me hard somewhere around Amarillo, and it hadn't let up the rest of the way to Tennessee.
I'd told myself — and LuEllen — that I wasn't coming home until I'd made it big. Now here I was driving her vintage Firebird right through town.
Oh, you've made it big all right.
That picture with my skirt caught in my undies as I left a certain producer's beach house in the middle of the night had gone viral. To make matters worse, I shouldn't have gone over there in the first place because — at least according to some media outlets — the part had been mine to lose.
I really, really want that part.
Finally, after years of playing a corpse or mouthy hooker or sexy dancer, I'd found a role I wanted to play. Leave it to me to succumb to the casting couch for a chance to play a fairy godmother. Leave it to me to chicken out at the last minute but to still be caught by the paparazzi, thus making it look like I had actually done the one thing I'd sworn I'd never do.
Ira, for his part, had been subtly suggesting for years that I should at least flirt with various Hollywood power players, but it was Betty who'd told it to me straight: "Honey, you ain't gonna get nowhere unless you go over there and make it happen for yourself. And by make it happen, I mean bang him."
And that's what you get for listening to a less-than-subtle ghost whose idols are Ava Gardner and Lana Turner.
I couldn't tell my therapist about Betty, so I told her about Rob the Accounting Wiz instead. She, at the last session I could afford, had suggested my boyfriend's betrayal had created within me a desperation that might lead me to make poor decisions.
Understatement of the century right there.
I had panicked when I saw I had no money, and Betty's advice started making sense for the first time ever. But going over and over again how I'd come to that spot on a moonlit beach with my skirt tucked into my thong wasn't accomplishing anything.
"Face it, Presley, you're screwed." And then I laughed because I hadn't even gone through with the screwing.
I was still laughing — probably delirious from driving ten hours a day for nearly three days — when I turned right on MLK, but the sight of the cemetery sobered me up. For a split second, I thought about joining the people there. Surely, LuEllen had any number of pain pills lying around unattended.
Don't be ridiculous.
I gripped the steering wheel so tightly that my knuckles went white. So I'd embarrassed myself. And LuEllen. So I was back in town with my tail between my legs. It was three weeks. Ira said he'd tell me something before the new year, and I knew they planned to announce the cast list for The Secret Lives of Fairy Godmothers by mid-January. With any luck, my name would still be on that list, and I would go back to Hollywood and back to the life I'd had before. Once I got back, I could call in a favor or two for a modeling gig or a bit part and have enough to make the rent. Then I would start over.
And stay far, far away from handsome accountants who promised to make my investments grow.
In the meantime, it was time to face the music and admit to LuEllen that I was flat broke.
That last light of day had completely faded by the time I pulled up to trailer number four of the Green Acres Estates Mobile Home Park. Green Acres was not the place for me. There were about a million other places I would raaaather be.
Weeds still grew around the battered trailer so thickly I couldn't see the faux-brick vinyl that covered the underpinning. The rickety porch looked as though it would fall in with the first strong breeze.
I rolled out of the '78 Firebird that had been a hand-me-down from my mother, and I stretched. I hadn't stopped any more than I had to, but that still meant five stops since Amarillo. My legs were jelly.
Either that or they wobbled because they were afraid of what I might find inside. Unseasonably warm air wrapped around me. Kinda felt warmer than Los Angeles, which was good because I didn't have a very impressive winter wardrobe.
One of the porch steps broke, and I thought I heard a hiss under my feet. Heart pounding, I hopped up to the landing, scratching my ankle on the broken step in the process. Great. Snakes hibernate in the winter, you dork. I didn't want to think about the last time I'd gotten a tetanus shot so I hoped that snag was all wood and no rusty nail.
At least patching me up would give LuEllen something to do.
When my mother met me at the door, I didn't recognize the walking skeleton with the orange leather skin. The woman who'd taught me everything I knew about curling hair and pulling it back into a hundred different styles had cut hers in a severe, straight bob with an awful dye job. The woman who'd spent hours teaching me how to properly apply eyeliner, mascara, and the perfect shade of lipstick now didn't wear a lick of makeup.
"Well, I was wondering when you would show up," she wheezed, pulling me in for an angular hug. "I guess I should be glad you're home for Christmas."
I might be an adult, but her disapproval stung just as much as it had when I was a girl. It was always about twirling the baton faster or singing a little louder or smiling a lot wider. I wanted to wish her a sarcastic "Merry Christmas to you, too!" and walk out, but I had nowhere else to go.
Instead I said, "LuEllen, you didn't tell me they put you on oxygen."
Excerpted from Better Get to Livin' by Sally Kilpatrick. Copyright © 2016 Sally Kilpatrick. Excerpted by permission of KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP..
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 LOVED it!!! Wonderful humorous and heartfelt with a quirky hero and heroine and town and a few assorted ghosts. A friend gave me this. I had never heard of Sally Kirkpatrick. Now I must read her other books and then tromp around impatiently till another comes out.
Sally Kilpatrick takes readers back to the small Tennessee town of Ellery for her third novel. She knows her small, southern towns well and has a knack for painting both the positive and negative aspects of living within one, especially in regards to perceptions about people that are set early in life. Both Declan and Presley are much more than what the people of Ellery perceive them to be or even what each of them perceives the other to be. When Presley returns home broke after being at the center of a Hollywood scandal and having all her money stolen by her cheating boyfriend, she talks her way into a job at the local beauty salon where she's assigned funeral home detail. Soon after, when a tornado hits Ellery, destroying her ailing mother's trailer, an offer from Declan to take shelter at the funeral home puts them in daily contact and opens the door for their attraction to deepen. It also gives them the opportunity to look beneath the surface (their own and each other's), explore possibilities, and question what they really want. Are they content with the decisions family obligations have nudged them into making or is it time to reassess their dreams and get to livin'? The pace of this book is relaxed with the building of a relationship between Presley and Declan, gentle and gradual. I was quickly drawn into the story; Kilpatrick's realistic characters and down-home charm making me care about these individuals and the triumphs and tragedies of their lives, with her sense of humor never failing to delight. First person narrative doesn't always work for me but, in this book, with the alternating chapters told from Declan's and Presley's points of view, it gives the reader the necessary insight into each of these characters that's needed to understand their actions and emotions, propelling the story as well as their relationships with their families, and each other, forward. Secondary characters add humor, chaos, and emotional depth to the overall story with Uncle Hollis (who shares Presley's ghost communication skills) being a particular favorite. Resident ghosts, a reluctant-mortician hero, a down-on-her-luck-actress heroine and a solid supporting cast all wrapped up in Sally Kilpatrick's heart-tugging emotion and quirky, southern humor? Yes, please!
Better Get To Livin’ is a new novel by Sally Kilpatrick. Presley Ann Cline is an actress (not even a B actress) in Los Angeles. She is hoping to get the part of a fairy godmother in a new movie titled Secret Lives of Fairy Godmothers. The producer would guarantee her a role if she sleeps with him. Presley Ann is unable to go through with it, but the paparazzi catch her leaving the gentleman’s place with her skirt in her underwear (not a good picture). Her agent advises Presley Ann to leave town until the hoopla dies down. Presley Ann only has one place to go with her limited funds (her last boyfriend cleaned her out and then disappeared) and that is home to Ellery, Tennessee. It will also give Presley Ann a chance to get away from the depressing ghost in the corner of her apartment. Did I mention that Presley Ann can see ghosts (and has the ability to help them cross over)? Presley Ann shows up at her mother’s trailer home in Green Acres Estates Mobile Home Park. It is a good thing that Presley Ann came home because her mother could use some assistance. Presley Ann is given a job by the very reluctant Delilah of Holy Roller (I have a feeling there is a story there), the town’s beauty shop. Her first assignment is to take care of a client at Anderson’s Funeral Home. I think Presley Ann’s ability to see ghosts will come in handy! Declan Anderson works at the funeral home with his stepmother, Caroline. This is not Declan’s dream job, but he would not disappoint family. When tornados strike the town and ruin trailer homes, Declan offers Presley Ann and her mother a place to stay (the funeral home used to be a real home). Presley Ann is less than excited after she discovers the overabundance of ghosts residing above stairs. But she cannot turn down a place to stay (for her or her mother). Then Declan’s Uncle Hollis comes back to the funeral home (people do not understand him and his boisterous ways). Turns out that Uncle Hollis and Presley Ann have a lot in common. Life is never dull in Ellery, Tennessee. Will Presley Ann decide to stay or head back to her life in Hollywood? You will have to read Better Get To Livin’ to find out. Better Get To Livin’ was not as good as it sounds (it does not live up to its potential). Presley Ann is a twenty-five years old virgin. Presley Ann is afraid to have sex and this seems to dominate the book (because her mother warned her about the cow giving the milk away for free). The pace of the novel is extremely sluggish. My favorite part of the book was the Gilmore Girls reference (such a cute show). The story is told (in the first person) from Declan and Presley Ann’s point-of-views (it goes back and forth). This makes it a wee bit confusing at times when it switches. There is mild foul language and sexual references in the book (not explicit but fair warning). There was not enough about the ghosts. I think it would have made for a better story if the ghosts had been integrated more. My favorite character was Uncle Hollis. He was interesting and fun. There is more that goes on in the story. I just told you some of the activity that takes place (it is too much for one book). I give Better Get To Livin’ 2.75 out of 5 stars. It was okay, but not great. With a little tweaking, it could have been a very good story. I received a complimentary copy of Better Get To Livin’ from NetGalley in exchange for an honest evaluation of the novel.
This is a great book by Sally Kilpatrick. Presley Cline has put aside her dreams of Hollywood stardom to come back to Ellery, Tennessee to work in a beauty shop. Well actually it was her mother’s dreams for her to be a movie icon, not hers. Presley’s first job, beautifying “clients” at the Anderson Funeral Home is quite a change from working on a movie set. She also can see and speak to dead people. This is a great book with a wonderful story and well developed characters. This book will keep you reading until way past your bedtime and leave you wanting more of this great story. If you are looking for a great book, then you need to read this book. I am looking forward to reading the next book by this great author. A Review copy was provided to me in exchange for a fair and honest review. The free book held no determination on my personal review.