Circle of Three: A Novel

Circle of Three: A Novel

by Patricia Gaffney


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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780062072023
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date: 05/03/2011
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 420
Sales rank: 677,936
Product dimensions: 7.80(w) x 5.30(h) x 1.10(d)

About the Author

Patricia Gaffney's novels include The Goodbye Summer, Flight Lessons, and The Saving Graces. She and her husband currently live in Blue Ridge Summit, Pennsylvania.

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

Nature's Way

It's natural to feel guilty after the death of a loved one. Guilt and grief go together — that's what they say. Because you're still alive, I suppose. Well, lots of things are "natural," including infanticide in some cultures. My teenage daughter's extremely odd friend Raven recently shared with me that the female coot pecks to death all but two of her baby chicks because feeding them just gets to be too big a hassle. It's nature's way.

The presumption behind the guilt-is-natural bromide is that one hasn't actually done anything to precipitate the loved one's death. And there's the rub. I provoked my husband into an argument five minutes before he smashed the car into a tree and killed himself (That wasn't the only thing I did, but it's the showiest.) An incredibly stupid argument: why couldn't he drive Ruth to her soccer tournament the next day, why did I always have to do it? When was the last time he'd gone to a parent-teacher conference, a science fair, anything? In six years Ruth would be twenty-one and out of his life; did he really want to spend the rest of his only child's adolescence shut up in his office grading papers and writing — yes, I said this — obscure articles on mathematical minutiae that even more obscure journals only published once in a blue moon?

It was eleven o'clock, a Friday night. We were driving home after dinner with my parents, a dinner Stephen hadn't wanted to go to in the first place — but then he never did, so I don't take that so much to heart; I forgive myself for that. He said he was tired, but I thought nothing of it. Ruth, thank God,thank God, wasn't with us; she'd gone to a birthday sleepover at a girlfriend's. I'd spent the evening keeping a tense peace, smoothing over this, rephrasing that. My mother always liked Stephen, I'm not sure why, but he never liked her, and to this day she doesn't know it. That's my doing. For eighteen years, the length of our marriage, I constantly respun and reinterpreted his rudeness to her, at times his outright contempt. "He's thinking higher thoughts," I'd joke when he couldn't bother to come out of his study when Mama made one of her (admittedly irritating) unannounced drop-ins. And she's so easily intimidated by what she takes for intellectual superiority — except, interestingly, where my father's concerned — so it was never hard to make her believe that Stephen wasn't cold and disdainful, no, he was a genius. Geniuses are eccentric and brusque, they keep to themselves, they don't have time to be ingratiating to their mothers-in-law.

What triggered the argument in the car was fear. I had seen something that night that scared me: a sickening similarity between my husband and my father. Getting angry at Stephen, trying to get a rise out of him, trying to make him yell at me — that would've been ideal — was a way to convince myself I'd seen no such thing.

My father, George Danziger, taught English literature at Remington College for forty years. He recently retired, to write a book with a colleague on some minor eighteenth-century poet whose name I've forgotten. My father is a short, heavyset man, balding, slope-shouldered; he has a paunch; he slouches; pipe ash usually litters his vest or his coat sleeve. He frequently wears a vacant expression, and I suppose he's as close to the cliché of the absentminded professor as a human, as opposed to a cartoon, can be. But there's still a rumpled dignity in his sagging face and his gentle, phlegmatic movements, at least to me. Stephen was his physical opposite. Medium tall with a hard, compact, runner's body, he had handsome, sharp-pointed features — like Ruth's — and a full head of crisp, curling, sandy-gray hair. Quick, economical gestures. And always a restlessness about him, an impatience with his surroundings that could be insulting if you took it personally.

Mama and I did the dishes while the men went outside so Pop could smoke his pipe, a forbidden pleasure in my mother's house. I watched them idly through the kitchen windowstanding beside the wrought iron table in the late-August hush, their shoulders hunched, chins pulled into the collars of their short-sleeved shirts. They didn't have much to say to each other, but then, they never did. The college was all they had in common, and Stephen still, after three years, secretly resented Pop for his help, such as it was, in getting him his teaching appointment. They kept a manly distance apart, and even when they spoke they never looked at each other. They shuffled from foot to foot, hands jammed in their pockets, and squinted up at the night sky over the roof as if they were watching a movie. Just in that moment, as different as they were, they looked the same to me. Identical. I had my hands in hot water, but I remember the coldness that came into me, like the flat of a blade on bare skin. The chill thought crept in that they were the same.

Impossible — Stephen had stubbornness in him, a temper, a mean streak, Stephen was alive. I thought of my mother's discontent and disappointment, what they've turned her into and who she blames them on, and I thought, What if, by marrying a man as absent and unreachable as Pop, I've made the same mistake she made? Not a similar mistake, the exact same mistake.

So I started a fight. Unlike my father, Stephen could give as good as he got — better. His trusty weapon, cold, withering logic, always trounced my teary, incoherent furies, no contest, a sword fight with a balloon. But that night I didn't care, I wanted noise, racket, action. I waited until we were driving home on Clay Boulevard, a straight, well-lit stretch of four-lane highway, no distractions...

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Circle of Three 3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 5 reviews.
cindyloumn on LibraryThing 5 months ago
Sort of slow at x's. But all around good. Didnt like the switching of the narrator between the 3.
skylersage on LibraryThing 8 months ago
A spectacular first novel that explores the choices made by a couple to have a friend have a baby for them. Jo and Darla have been friends since childhood. As different as can be, they are closer enough to endure this arrangement, until Jo crashes her car into Darla's bedroom wall and ends up in a coma. This event starts a spiral of unraveling emotions, histories and secrets. Complex characters and superb insight make this a delight to read, despite the rather sad premise. Page tells the store in current time and flashbacks with smoothness that is usually lacking in that type of writing. Highly recommended!
eBks-on-iPod-User More than 1 year ago
Having read several of Gaffney's previous efforts, it is difficult to believe she also wrote this. The characters are interesting and quirky, but not as likable as in her other novels. The plot is ho-hum with a few interesting twists. So overall, an ok read; but nothing special.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I loved The Saving Graces and couldn't wait until 'Circle of Three' was released. What a disappointment, the charcters are bland the story is convaluted...(recreating Noah's Ark, why was that thrown in there?). How could the same woman have written both books? 'Isabel' should be rolling over in her grave.
harstan More than 1 year ago

Carrie instigates an argument while her husband is driving home from an outing when he suddenly keels over and dies from a heart attack. Carrie¿s guilt is so intense, she slides into a deep depression for the next four months, unable to eat or even dress until her mother Dana forces her into obtaining a job. Dana hopes that Carrie¿s new boss will prove to be a suitable spouse once her daughter comes out of mourning.

Carrie cares about no male except perhaps her first love Jessie, a person she fled when she decided to abandon her small hometown. Carrie¿s teenage daughter Ruth knows nothing about the shared past her mother and Jessie had. Instead she likes him, treating him like a friendly older brother and occasionally like a father. Dana never approved the ¿socially inferior¿ Jessie, but feels that when he thinks the time is right he will make his move. However, when Ruth catches Jessie and Carrie in a compromising position, she feels betrayed causing a crisis that forces the three generation of women to confront each other and themselves.

Patricia Gaffney follows up her last bestseller THE SAVING GRACES with another powerful drama that will appeal to her fans as well as that of Delinsky and Siddons. The poignant story line deals with problems on different levels as the three females bring differing perspectives to the table. This makes for an engaging tale that charms the audience as everyday people try to do their best to attain a happy life for themselves while hoping to bring contentment to their loved ones. CIRCLE OF THREE is family drama that is impossible to put down until the final page is read.

Harriet Klausner