New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Nan Rossiter’s touching new novel reunites four sisters at their childhood vacation spot on Cape Cod—where they uncover the truth about a past tragedy to find their future as a family…
The close-knit Quinn siblings enjoyed the kind of idyllic childhood that seems made for greeting cards, spending each summer at Whit’s End, the family’s home on Cape Cod. Then comes the summer of 1964, warm and lush after a rainy spring—perfect firefly weather. Sisters Birdie, Remy, Sailor, Piper, and their brother, Easton, delight in catching the insects in mason jars to make blinking lanterns. Until, one terrible night, tragedy strikes.
Decades later, the sisters have carved out separate lives on the Cape. Through love and heartbreak, health issues, raising children, and caring for their aging parents, they have supported each other, rarely mentioning their deep childhood loss. But one evening, as they sit together at Whit’s End to watch the sun set, the gathering fireflies elicit memories of that long-ago night, and a tumult of regrets, guilt, and secrets tumble out.
Poignant yet hopeful, Firefly Summer is an uplifting story of the resilience of sisterhood and the bright glimpses of joy and solace that, like fireflies after rain, can follow even the deepest heartaches.
Praise for the novels of Nan Rossiter
“Nan Rossiter is at the peak of her storytelling abilities with Under a Summer Sky, which is told with the kind of compassion, grace, and wisdom that is nearly unrivaled in contemporary fiction.”—Examiner.com
“Eloquent and surprising...I love this story of faith, love, and the lasting bonds of family.”—Ann Leary, author of Outtakes from a Marriage on The Gin & Chowder Club
“A gripping story of three sisters, of love lost and found and a family’s journey from grief to triumph. A sure winner.”—Debbie Macomber, #1 New York Times bestselling author, on More Than You Know
|Product dimensions:||5.50(w) x 8.50(h) x 1.20(d)|
About the Author
After working in the freelance field and creating art for internationally recognized companies such as Viking, MasterCard, and UPS, Nan began writing and illustrating books for children. She is the author-illustrator of several children's books, including, most recently, The Fo'c'sle: Henry Beston's Outermost House.
Nan lives in rural Connecticut with her husband and two handsome sons. When she's not working, she enjoys hiking with her family or reading a good book.
Visit her website at www.nanrossiter.com.
Read an Excerpt
By NAN ROSSITER
KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP.Copyright © 2016 Nan Rossiter
All rights reserved.
Piper Quinn looked up from pulling on a dandelion — whose roots, she decided, reached all the way to China — pushed a shock of her short dark hair out of her eyes, and waved. Nat McCabe looked in the rearview mirror of his pickup and waved back. She smiled. Nat had stopped home for a late lunch, but before he left, he'd pulled her into his arms, murmured how good she smelled, and teasingly told her he'd been craving rice pudding all morning, and Piper, who'd been satisfying Nat's cravings for nearly forty years, laughed. She'd been planning on working in the garden that afternoon — they'd had a wet spring and the weeds were thriving — but as she watched Nat pull away, she thought about the rice pudding her mom used to make, and an image of her mom's old Good Housekeeping cookbook — faded red and missing its dust jacket — filled her mind. Her mom had used that cookbook as faithfully as she'd used her Bible.
Piper glanced at the weeds poking their seedy heads up above the fence and briefly entertained the idea of looking for a recipe online. There were several sites she liked, all with wonderful recipes and reviews, but she quickly dismissed the idea. There was only one rice pudding recipe she wanted to make, and it was in her mom's favorite old cookbook.
Piper gave the mulish weed one last tug and it defiantly snapped off at the ground. She sighed, tossed it in her basket, and eyed the offending root. "I'll be back," she warned, "and I'll have my weeder!" She rinsed her hands under the outdoor faucet, dried them on her shorts, and looked at the big golden retriever sprawled across the sunny grass. "Are you staying out here, ol' pie?" The sweet old dog, hearing one of the many names she associated with herself — ol' pie, ol' girl, sweets, pup-ster, and of course, her official name, Chloe — opened one eye, yawned, and closed it again. Piper shook her head and smiled. "I'll take that as a yes." She climbed the two wooden steps to the wraparound porch and straightened the wooden sign that was hanging next to the door. The carved and painted green-and-white sign had been welcoming friends to the Quinn summer home in Eastham for as long as she could remember. Whit's End was the whimsical name her father had given the rambling Nantucket-style house when he learned that their fifth child would also be their fourth daughter! He'd carved the sign that same summer, and although it had been repainted several times, it was due for another fresh coat.
Piper went inside, kicked off her tattered running shoes, and walked over to scan the cookbook shelf. On it was everything from Mastering the Art of French Cooking by Julia Child to the infallible Irma Rombauer and her daughter Marion's Joy of Cooking, and tucked next to that was a dog-eared copy of The Joy of Sex — what in the world is that doing down here? Piper pulled it from the shelf and continued looking for the cookbook, but when she didn't see it, she picked up the groundbreaking sex manual from the early seventies and leafed through it, remembering, with a smile, how she and her sisters had spent hours poring over the iconic illustrations, trying to decide whether some of the positions were even anatomically possible. She started to feel aroused, closed the book, and tucked it under her arm. Nat would get a kick out of it ... and maybe even a new craving!
Piper climbed the stairs to the second floor and gazed resignedly up the worn, narrow stairs to the third. She hadn't been in the attic in years. She'd even tried to forget its existence, but she knew forgetting wouldn't change anything — the attic would still be full of stuff ... and stuff was the gentle word she and Birdie and Remy used when referring to the attic's contents. Sailor used a more colorful noun. For years, she and her sisters had talked about going through everything, but somehow, they'd never gotten around to it. Life always got in the way.
Piper pushed open the door and pulled the string dangling from the rafters. Nothing happened. She peered around the dimly lit room and made her way toward the window — the only other source of light — but as she walked between all the boxes, her heart sank — she was never going to find the cookbook in this mess.
She bumped into an old seamstress mannequin, and when she reached out to steady it, she inadvertently touched the unfinished neckline of her mom's last project — a sundress for Remy's daughter Payton. Her mom had been working on the dress that fateful rainy, spring day when she'd stopped to make a cup of tea and get the mail. Piper had been away at college at the time, but Birdie had called to tell her what happened. "Thank goodness she put the kettle on before going out to get the mail, because it was the whistling kettle that alerted Mr. Moody — who found her lying in the driveway."
Martha Quinn had suffered a stroke, and although Dr. Sanders had assured her four daughters it was a mild one, the stroke had turned out to be the first of many that, over time, irreversibly damaged the tiny blood vessels in Martha's brain and stripped her of all her motor and cognitive skills — from sewing and cooking, to writing and walking, to remembering and recognizing, and finally, to swallowing — but it was that first stroke that made it difficult for Martha to hold and thread a needle; and later on, when Remy asked Payton whether she'd like to have the dress finished by someone else, Payton had said no — the dress would just remind her of the day Gran stopped sewing.
Piper moved the mannequin to one side and saw her mom's hope chest pushed up against the wall. She lifted the heavy lid, and the sweet, woodsy scent of cedar drifted into the room, transporting her back to her parents' bedroom in the big old colonial in New Hampshire — their year-round home.
Nestled in the top of the old chest was a wooden tray filled with jewelry and beads. Piper picked up a string of pearls and slipped it over her head. Her sisters had loved putting their mom's beads around their necks, donning her fancy hats, clunking around in her high heels, and admiring themselves in the full-length mirror behind the door. Piper, however, had only liked to watch; whenever her sisters had tried to put the beads around her neck or the bright red lipstick on her lips, she'd always shaken her head and turned away — there was no way they were putting that stuff on her! She'd much rather play the games her brother played — games that involved hitting or bouncing balls and running.
Piper laid the beads back in the tray and noticed a stack of envelopes with her father's long, elegant handwriting scrawled across them. They were addressed to Martha Lane — his seventeen-year-old sweetheart. Piper slipped off the faded ribbon and began to read the letters her father had written to her mother when he was a navy pilot flying Hellcats off an aircraft carrier in the Pacific during WWII. She smiled at his sweet words and the way he professed his love and told her of the future he hoped they'd share one day. Piper smiled sadly — back then, her parents had been blissfully unaware of the tragedies that lay ahead in their lives.
An hour later, Piper slipped the last letter back into its fragile sheath, retied the ribbon, and looked out the window. She saw Chloe, far below, moving to her favorite spot under the towering oak trees her father had planted when each of his children was born, and then realized the trees' long shadows were stretching across the grass — the afternoon was slipping by. Five more minutes, she thought, turning back to the chest. She lifted out a pile of sweaters and found an old leather photo album. She pulled her father's dusty old mission-style rocking chair up to the window, sat down, and opened the book. The album was full of black-and-white photos that had been carefully mounted on black construction paper. She slowly turned the pages and smiled — her dad looked so handsome in his navy uniform, and her mom looked absolutely stunning in a long fur coat, back when fur was not only acceptable, but fashionable. Women weren't caught dead wearing fur anymore.
Piper slowly turned the pages, reading the captions her mom had neatly printed in white ink: Grand Central, 1945, Hanover, N.H., 1947, Fenway Park, 1948 ... and then there was one with just the year: 1949. The picture was of her parents, and her mom was holding a baby. They looked so happy. Piper studied the photo; they were standing on the porch of Whit's End, and in 1949, the baby had to be Birdie. She shifted the book in her lap and a pile of loose photos fell on the floor. She picked them up and as she slowly looked through them, she realized they'd all been taken in front of Nauset Lighthouse. The first one was of Birdie when she was about two; then Remy stood beside her. Soon, the pictures included Sailor ... and then Easton ... and finally, there was one with her.
She turned the page and another photo fell out. She picked it up, and the late afternoon sunlight cast its golden rays across it. It was of all of them — older now — a formidable crew! They had their arms around each other's shoulders and they were laughing. Sailor was making bunny ears behind Remy's head. They looked so happy. Piper's eyes glistened — she'd only been five at the time, but she'd been old enough to know that her world — and the people she loved most in it — would never be the same.CHAPTER 2
"It's just a sprain," Dr. Sanders said, slipping the X-ray back into its folder. "You need to be more careful, though, Birdie. You're not a spring chicken anymore."
"You're not a spring chicken, either, my dear," Birdie Snow snorted. John Sanders had been Birdie's doctor most of her life. He'd been fresh out of residency and new to her parents' doctor's practice when she'd switched over from the family's pediatrician. At the time, Birdie had felt a quiet pride in being the handsome young doctor's first patient, and through the years, she'd wondered if the teasing relationship they'd always shared might've blossomed into something more if David hadn't come into her life.
"Indeed, I'm not," John said with a chuckle. "I'll be seventy this year ... and I'm going to retire."
"You are?!" Birdie sounded horrified.
"Yes, I might even see if I can find a girl to marry. I think it would be nice to have a little companionship in my old age. I've always wanted to travel, and it would be more fun with a companion."
Birdie didn't even hear his last sentence. She was too busy feeling as if the rug were being pulled out from under her ... again! She'd always appreciated that her doctor was growing old alongside her, and she fully expected him to be there till the bitter end. It never occurred to her that he might retire. And as far as finding a girl to marry — that was an entirely different subject ... and a frivolous one at that. "You can't retire! Who's going to take care of me? My ailments are only going to get worse, and I definitely won't be able to trust some young, new whippersnapper who doesn't know my history."
"Yes, you will," John said, slipping a blood pressure cuff on her arm. "I've got a fine young man lined up, too — Dr. Joshua Hart. He'll be starting next month and we're planning to have an open house so everyone will have the opportunity to meet him. Besides, Birdie, you have my cell phone number, so if something serious comes up, you can always call me." He put his stethoscope under the cuff and squeezed the bulb. "You're the first patient I've told," he said, eyeing her, "and I'd like to be the one to tell my other patients, too."
"Don't worry, John," Birdie said with a sigh. "I'll take your secret to my grave, which will be a lot sooner now."
"No, it won't be," John countered, looking at her chart. "Let's see, you're going to be sixty-seven next month." He looked up. "And you're already retired, I might add."
"Semi-retired," Birdie countered. "I'm still very involved in Cornell's bird count, feeder watch, nest watch, and tracking snowy owls on the Cape in the winter, as well as continuing to serve as director emeritus on the ornithology board." She paused. "Not to mention helping David rehabilitate all the orphaned and injured birds that somehow find their way to our house."
John smiled as he wrapped an Ace bandage snugly around her swollen ankle. "You're as busy now as you've ever been, Birdie, which is wonderful, but your blood pressure is still elevated — one sixty over a hundred — and with your family history, you need to do a better job of keeping it under control." He secured the bandage. "Have you been taking your Lisinopril?"
"Yes, yes," she said, waving him off. "Even though I hate taking pills."
John eyed her skeptically. "There are other ways to lower your blood pressure...."
"I know, I know — I could lose some weight. You don't need to remind me."
"That's one way," John agreed, "but it would also help if you cut back a little on the red wine."
"Ha!" Birdie snorted. "Did David tell you there was more to my sprained ankle than just tripping on the rug? Because if he did, I —"
"Not at all," John said, holding up his hand in defense of his old golfing partner.
"Good! Because he'd be in a heap of trouble, and besides, I just read an article that sang the praises of red wine. Not only is it good for your heart, but it lowers cholesterol, helps prevent cancer, and staves off dementia."
"That may be true," John said, although he wasn't entirely convinced by the recent studies trumpeting the health benefits of red wine, "but that's only when it's consumed in moderation."
"I hardly ever have more than one," Birdie said, feigning innocence, even though she knew John knew better — after all, they traveled in the same circles.
John raised an eyebrow. "One glass ... or one bottle?"
"Ha!" Birdie said, reaching for her crutches. "You know, maybe it is a good thing you're retiring. You're getting awfully fresh in your old age."
John put his hand on her shoulder and looked in her eyes. "Birdie, you know I love you, and I know the curves life's thrown your way, but it's not worth risking your health over. You have a lot of life left to live."
Birdie knew John had her best in mind. "We'll see," she said, looking away. "Now, do I get anything for pain?"
"I thought you didn't like taking pills," he teased.
She eyed him and he chuckled.
"For a sprain you can just take ibuprofen every four to six hours and make sure you keep your foot elevated. Remember R.I.C.E. — rest, ice, compression, elevation?"
"I remember," she said gloomily.
"Good," John said, opening the door. "And you also need to remember that anything stronger than ibuprofen will not mix well with alcohol."
"You take the fun out of everything, you know that?" she said, trying to maneuver the crutches.
"Don't hurt yourself on those," he said, reaching out to make sure she didn't fall.
"Don't worry, I'm fine," she muttered. "For an old hen."CHAPTER 3
Remy Landon stood in the hallway, trying to remember why she'd come upstairs. She walked into her bedroom, hoping it might trigger her memory, and then realized she hadn't made the bed yet ... and it was almost two o'clock! She started to smooth the sheets, and as she fluffed the starboard pillow, she thought of Jim. She always thought of Jim when she made the bed — it was as if there was a short circuit in her brain and the simple act of fluffing his pillow triggered it. And it was always the same memory, from their wedding night.
"Do you mind if I take the starboard side?" Jim asked uncertainly. "You can have the port...."
She smiled at his use of nautical terminology in reference to their bed, but she wasn't surprised — Jim loved sailing. "Only if I can be captain," she teased, remembering the game Port and Starboard from her childhood.
"You can always be my captain," he said, pulling her into his arms.
"Captain's coming," she teased.
"Aye, aye, captain," he said softly, kissing her neck.
"I think you're supposed to salute," she murmured.
"I am saluting."
She felt him press against her and smiled shyly. "I guess you are...."
Jim had been gone twenty years now, but every time Remy made the bed, the same memory filled her mind, and try as she might, she couldn't seem to stop it.
She propped Thread-Bear, the old teddy bear Jim had given her when they were dating, against the pillow and walked around to open the window. It was a beautiful day — perfect for gardening — but she would definitely need to change first. She pulled open the cardboard box — out of which she'd been living for almost two weeks now — and decided, since it had been reaching eighty degrees every day, it was safe to transfer her turtlenecks and jeans into the box and her T-shirts and shorts into the bureau. Her mother had always warned her not to make the switch too soon because it would jinx the weather. It was the same with flannel sheets — if you put cotton sheets on before mid-May, the temperature would surely drop and there might even be a frost!
Excerpted from Firefly Summer by NAN ROSSITER. Copyright © 2016 Nan Rossiter. 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.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Nice story, but too long.