A heartfelt debut about the unlikely relationship between a young woman who’s lost her husband and a major league pitcher who’s lost his game.
NAMED ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY NPR
In a sleepy seaside town in Maine, recently widowed Eveleth “Evvie” Drake rarely leaves her large, painfully empty house nearly a year after her husband’s death in a car crash. Everyone in town, even her best friend, Andy, thinks grief keeps her locked inside, and Evvie doesn’t correct them.
Meanwhile, in New York City, Dean Tenney, former Major League pitcher and Andy’s childhood best friend, is wrestling with what miserable athletes living out their worst nightmares call the “yips”: he can’t throw straight anymore, and, even worse, he can’t figure out why. As the media storm heats up, an invitation from Andy to stay in Maine seems like the perfect chance to hit the reset button on Dean’s future.
When he moves into an apartment at the back of Evvie’s house, the two make a deal: Dean won’t ask about Evvie’s late husband, and Evvie won’t ask about Dean’s baseball career. Rules, though, have a funny way of being broken—and what starts as an unexpected friendship soon turns into something more. To move forward, Evvie and Dean will have to reckon with their pasts—the friendships they’ve damaged, the secrets they’ve kept—but in life, as in baseball, there’s always a chance—up until the last out.
A joyful, hilarious, and hope-filled debut, Evvie Drake Starts Over will have you cheering for the two most unlikely comebacks of the year—and will leave you wanting more from Linda Holmes.
Praise for Evvie Drake Starts Over
“A quirky, sweet, and splendid story of a woman coming into her own.”—Taylor Jenkins Reid, New York Times bestselling author of Daisy Jones & The Six
“Effortlessly enjoyable . . . [a] pitch-perfect . . . adult love story that is as romantic as it is real.”–USA Today
“Charming, hopeful, and gently romantic . . . Evvie Drake is great company.”—Rainbow Rowell, #1 New York Times bestselling author of Eleanor & Park
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About the Author
Read an Excerpt
Evvie lay awake on the floor in the dark. More specifically, on the floor of the empty little apartment that jutted awkwardly from the back of her house into the yard. She was there because, upstairs in her own bed, she’d had another dream where Tim was still alive.
Evvie’s Scandinavian grandmother had claimed that young women dream about the husbands they want, old women dream about the husbands they wanted, and only the luckiest women, for a moment in the middle, dream about the husbands they’ve got. But even accounting for the narrow ambitions this formulation allowed, Evvie’s dreams about Tim were not what her nana had in mind.
He was always angry at her for leaving. Do you see what happened? he would say, again and again. He’d felt so close this time that she’d dreamed his cinnamon-gum breath and the little vein on his forehead, and she was afraid if she turned over and went back to sleep, he’d still be there. So she’d thrown off the blankets and made her way down to the first floor of the house that had always been too big and was much too big now. Descending the wide curved staircase still felt like transgressing, like sneaking down to the front desk of a hotel late at night to ask for extra towels. She’d stopped in the kitchen to put on a pot of water for tea, come directly into the apartment, and stretched out on her back to wait.
When they’d first bought the house—when he’d first bought the house—they’d planned to rent out the apartment. But they never got around to it, so Evvie had painted it her favorite shade of peacock blue and used it like a treehouse: KEEP OUT. It was still her favorite place in the house and would remain so, unless Tim’s ghost started haunting it just to say he’d noticed a few little bubbles in the paint, and it would really look better if she did it over.
Nice, she’d thought to herself when that thought first intruded. Welcome to Maine’s most ghoulish comedy club. Here is a little joke about how my husband’s ghost is kind of an asshole. And about how I am a monster.
It was a little after four in the morning. Flat on her back in her T-shirt and boxers, she took rhythmic breaths, trying to slow the pounding in her temples and belly and wrists. The house felt empty of air and was totally silent except for the clock that had ticked out pick-a-pick-a for thirty-five years, first in her parents’ kitchen and now in hers. In the dark apartment, she felt so little of anything, except the prickle of the carpet on her skin, that it was like not being anywhere at all. It was like lying directly on top of the earth.
Evvie thought from time to time about moving in here. Someone else could have the house, that big kitchen and the bedrooms upstairs, the carved banister and the slick staircase where she’d once slipped and gotten a deep purple bruise on her hip. She could live here, stretched out on her back in the dark, thinking all her worst thoughts, eating peanut butter sandwiches and listening to the radio like the power was out forever.
The kettle whistled from the kitchen, so she stood and went to turn it off. She took down one of the two public-radio fundraising mugs from the cabinet, leaving behind the one with the thin coat of dust on its upturned bottom. The tag on her chamomile teabag said, There is no trouble that a good cup of tea can’t solve. It sounded like what a gentleman on Downton Abbey would say right before his wife got an impacted tooth and elegantly perished in bed.
Blowing ripples in her tea, Evvie went into the living room where there was somewhere to sit and curled up on the deep-green love seat. There was a Sports Illustrated addressed to Tim sticking out of the pile of mail on the coffee table, and she paged through it by the wedge of light from the kitchen: the winding down of baseball season, the gearing up of football season, an update on a college gymnast who was quitting to be a doctor, and a profile of a Yankees pitcher who woke up one day and couldn’t pitch anymore. That last one was under a fat all-caps headline: “HOW TO BECOME A HEAD CASE.” “Way ahead of you,” she muttered, and stuck the magazine at the bottom of the pile.
Reading Group Guide
1. Small towns like Calcasset, Maine, can be wonderful—Evvie has a strong support network, community traditions, stability—but there can also be downsides. After her husband’s death, Evvie keeps secret her previous plans to leave him. Why do you think she does this? Have you ever found it difficult to voice an ugly truth?
2. What does Dean’s unexpected and inexplicable inability to pitch a baseball mean to you? Have you ever found yourself in a situation where you haven’t been able to perform as you would like to?
3. Evvie and Dean are both thrown huge curve balls—Evvie loses her husband, Dean his livelihood. Do you think they handle the changes in their lives well?
4. Andy and Evvie are close friends with no romantic interest in each other—but things get complicated when Andy starts dating Monica. Have you ever had to balance a relationship and a close friendship?
5. Do you think that balance is further complicated if that friend is a member of the opposite sex? Is this an experience you can relate to?
6. As Evvie and Dean become closer, Evvie reveals more about her marriage. What does she come to understand about her marriage to Tim by the end of the book, and how does this new understanding change her?
7. Evvie finds it difficult to rely on others or to ask for help. Can you relate? Do you find it hard to depend on other people for emotional or practical support?
8. Why does Evvie decide to take a break from speaking to her mother? Do you think she makes the right decision?
9. Evvie, Andy, and Dean are all struggling with different forms of grief. What is each character grieving and how do they find ways to heal?
10. Why do you think Evvie puts off contacting Nona about her job proposition? Why do you think she finally does call Nona back? Have you ever put off an opportunity? What made you finally take the plunge?
Do you think Evvie successfully “starts over” by the end of the novel? How does she change from the beginning to the end of the book?
12. What actors would you cast in a film version of Evvie Drake Starts Over?