In her most powerful novel yet, New York Times bestselling author Marie Bostwick weaves the uplifting story of three grief support group dropouts—women united in loss and rescued through friendship.
Fifteen years ago, Grace Saunders vowed to take her beloved husband for better or worse. Now she’s coming to terms with difficult choices as she crafts a memory quilt from scraps of their life together—a life torn to shreds by an accident that has left him in a coma. Enduring months of limbo, Grace is at least not alone.
Nan has been widowed for twenty years, but now, with her children grown, her home feels painfully empty. Even the company of her golden retriever, Blixen, and a series of other rescue dogs, can't fill the void. Then there’s Monica, a feisty woman with a biting wit who’s reeling following her husband’s death—and the revelation of his infidelity.
As for Grace, a chance evening with a man she barely knows brings a glimmer of joy she hasn’t felt since the tragedy—along with feelings of turmoil and guilt. But her struggle to cope will force all three women to face their fears, share their deepest secrets—and lean on one another as they move from grief and isolation to hope, and a second chance at happiness . . .
Praise for Marie Bostwick and Her Novels
“Marie Bostwick is my go-to author . . . always powerful, inspiring, and uplifting.”
—Robyn Carr, #1 New York Times bestselling author
“The Promise Girls is a beautiful story about the ties that bind . . . Marie Bostwick exquisitely tells the tale.” —Melanie Benjamin, New York Times bestselling author of The Swans of Fifth Avenue
“Beautiful, thought-provoking, tragic and redeeming, The Second Sister is a feel-good goldmine.”
A MaryJanesFarm Book Club Pick
|Product dimensions:||5.40(w) x 8.10(h) x 1.10(d)|
About the Author
Marie Bostwick was born and raised in the northwest. In the three decades since her marriage, Marie and her family have moved frequently, living in eight different states at eighteen different addresses. These experiences have given Marie a unique perspective that enables her to write about people from all walks of life and corners of the country with insight and authenticity. Marie currently resides in Portland, where she enjoys writing, spending time with family, gardening, collecting fabric, and stitching quilts. Visit her at www.mariebostwick.com.
Read an Excerpt
One night after work, just a few months after I moved to Portland, I went into the bistro near my office for a bite to eat. I was sitting at the bar because it felt less conspicuous. The bartender and I struck up a conversation and a few minutes into it, he handed me a flyer for a grief support group. Apparently, he kept it and a supply of similarly helpful publications stowed next to the highball glasses. Bartenders and social workers have a lot in common, he said.
I've never been a joiner. The idea of sharing my problems with a roomful of strangers made my pulse race and my hands feel clammy. But I knew I couldn't go on like I had been. I mean, if a bartender can peg your problems after one glass of crummy house chardonnay and ten minutes of awkward conversation, so can everybody else. And maybe I wouldn't have to talk. Maybe I could just listen. It couldn't hurt to try, right?
But when I got to the community center, I knew it wasn't going to work. The members of the group were all women, all widows. Definitely not a club I was interested in joining. And apart from two people, including a woman with frizzy brown hair that kept falling into her eyes and who kept twitching and fidgeting in her seat, as if she was having a hard time sitting still, seventy was a fond but distant memory in the minds of the other participants. The room was filled by the sounds of sniffling, and the odor of White Diamonds perfume was so strong it almost made my eyes water.
The other woman I couldn't help but notice was older but somehow not, the kind of woman who seems comfortable with her age and herself at any age. Her shoulder-length hair was a halo of curls around her head, a sandy blond color interspersed with threads of silver white. Her eyes were big and brown, and her gaze was very direct. Something about that made me feel like she saw things other people missed. Her clothes intrigued me too. I've always appreciated people who have a unique sense of style. I'd seen her blue and white skirt on sale recently, but I was pretty sure that her denim jacket, embroidered with birds and flowers, was done by hand. The fact that she'd paired it with red sneakers made me think she had a good sense of humor and didn't take herself too seriously.
She seemed to be with the group, smiling warmly at many of the white- haired women, but not of it. She quietly made the rounds with her dog, a tail- thumping golden retriever who rested her muzzle in the laps of weeping participants, gazing intently until they started to stroke her silky head, smile wetly, and calm down, at which point she would move on to a new, more distraught participant.
Still, there was a lot of crying going on and it made me uncomfortable. During the bathroom break, I got up and quietly left. I was standing in the parking lot, about to unlock my car, when I heard a voice.
The woman with the frizzy hair was leaning against the hood of the red PT Cruiser parked next to me. Even though she was wearing a pair of thick-heeled clogs, shoes designed for comfort rather than fashion, she stood only a couple of inches over five feet. But somehow she seemed taller, partly because of her voice — big and brassy — but also because of her face. She had one of the most expressive faces I'd ever seen; every thought or opinion she had was telegraphed through her eyes, lips, nose, cheeks, and especially her eyebrows, dark brown and bristling, capable of moving in ways I'd never seen eyebrows move before. I remember thinking that in the days of silent films, she'd have been a star.
She pulled a pack of cigarettes from her purse.
"It's not the right group for me," I said, answering her question.
She didn't say anything, just lit her cigarette and stared at me.
"I'm not a widow," I explained.
"I am. But it's not the right group for me either."
She took a long draw, making the cigarette tip glow orange and puffing out her cheeks. It didn't look like she was inhaling.
"It's a grief support group, which is fine. But I'm not feeling particularly grieved. Pissed off, but not grieved. You'd think that in the whole city of Portland, there'd be at least one support group for the pissed-off widows of cheating husbands. I mean, I can't be the only one, right?"
She blew out a long column of smoke and looked me up and down, eyebrows twitching and working, assessing me as if I were a dress she was thinking about trying on.
"You're not pissed off, are you?" She frowned. "No, you're sad. Really sad. I'm sorry."
Portland is not like the small town in Minnesota where I grew up. It's a city that takes pride in diversity and "keeping Portland weird," so this was far from the first strange conversation I'd had since coming here. Two days before, a homeless woman who had recently taken up residence between two concrete planters a block from my apartment stopped me as I was getting into my car and asked, politely but with the same kind of grave intensity you might use to ask someone if they believed in life after death, if I had a Twinkie in my purse. A week before that, a man with pupils as big and shiny as black marbles, wearing a tattered blue beach towel draped around his shoulders, like the cape of a superhero who had escaped a methadone clinic, clutched my sleeve to ask if I was human or android.
For a girl who grew up in rural Minnesota, those kinds of exchanges were unnerving, but I was starting to get used to them. But those people had been glassy-eyed, high as kites, and so they were easier to dismiss. This conversation was somehow more disturbing because the woman was both sober as a saint and weirdly insightful.
She took another pull on her cigarette. This time she deliberately drew the smoke into her lungs. Instantly, her face turned red and she started hacking so hard her eyes watered.
"Are you okay?"
She didn't look okay. Should I pound her on the back? Call 911?
"I hate these things," she rasped after she finally quit coughing. "I've been trying to learn to smoke, but it just isn't working out."
Really? Apart from addlebrained adolescents trying to impress their friends, who wants to take up smoking?
"I know," she sighed, rightly reading my expression. "But every day I wake up feeling like I want to punch somebody in the face. The Paxil my doctor prescribed made me gain weight. I thought cigarettes would be better." She flicked the cigarette from her fingers and ground it out under her shoe. "This was a stupid idea."
As I stood there, trying to figure out if I should say something besides, "Well. Okay, then. Good night, Crazy Lady," I heard the chirp of a keyless car remote. The taillights of an SUV in the next row flashed. The woman with the red sneakers and embroidered jacket was walking toward us, her dog, now leash-less, padded alongside her.
"Smoke break? Or did you just have enough?" She thrust out her hand. "I'm Nan Wilja. This is Blixen."
The retriever thumped her tail against my fender and looked up as if to say hello, her tongue lolling out of her mouth.
"Grace Saunders," I said, taking her hand.
The lady with the frizzy hair pushed it out of her eyes and reached down to scratch Blixen's ear. "I'm Monica Romano."
"What were you two doing in there?" Nan asked. "Pilates meets in the same room on Tuesdays. I thought maybe you got the nights mixed up. Or you got lost."
"I saw a flyer pinned to the bulletin board at the drugstore and I thought, you know, maybe I'd give it a shot." Monica ducked her head, looking a bit sheepish. "It wasn't what I thought it would be. Maybe I should try a drum circle?"
"Hmmm," Nan murmured, which is what I later learned she did when she disagreed but was trying to be supportive. Nan says "hmmm" a lot.
"I heard you say something about being angry," Nan said. "But not grieving?"
"Not. At. All." Monica fumbled with the flap on her purse, as if she was thinking about getting another cigarette. "My husband was killed in a boating accident eight months ago. His girlfriend was driving the boat."
"Ouch." Nan winced. "I'd be mad too. And you?" She turned toward me. "Were you lost? Or did you show up on purpose?"
"On purpose, I guess. But it's not the group for me. I'm not a widow."
"But you are grieving."
The way Nan said it, as a statement instead of a question and so directly, caught me off guard, the same way that Monica's comment about me being sad had done. What was it about this place? Were people in Portland just unusually perceptive? Or had my expression become unusually transparent?
"It's complicated" is shorthand for "I don't want to talk about this." Most people get that and will either leave it there, change the subject, or remember they're late for an appointment. Not Nan.
"Hmmm. Grief comes in all kinds of forms, doesn't it? Blixen and I have had quite a bit of experience there. She's a therapy dog. We visit hospitals, nursing homes, that kind of thing.
"I'm a widow. My husband was killed in a private plane crash twenty years ago. The facilitator called me because she's worried that some of these women have been with her for years and aren't making any progress. She thought Blixen might be able to comfort some of them." She looked down at the dog, returning her adoring gaze.
"Well, I think she did," I said, and patted the dog on the head. Nan looked up with a brilliant smile, her face glowing like a proud mother whose child has just received an enormous compliment.
"Would you two like to come over to my house for a cup of tea?" she asked, then quickly added, "I know, I know. It's sudden. And I'm a stranger. I could be crazy, a complete nut job. But trust me, I'm not. Not very." She smiled. "I just thought that ... well, you're looking for somebody to talk to. I'm a good listener. You don't fit in with this bunch," she said, tilting her head toward illuminated windows of the big community room, where the white-haired circle was still in session. "But I have a feeling you might have a tough time finding a place where you do belong. Neither of you quite fits the mold, do you?
"I'm running a little short of human companionship myself these days. Blixen has many fine qualities, but she's not the world's best conversationalist. Maybe we can be our own support group?"
I didn't know what to say. Yes, she seemed nice, a caring, insightful, and possibly quite wise woman who liked to help, but how did I know? Denials aside, Nan could have been crazy. And if she wasn't, maybe Monica was. The signs certainly pointed in that direction.
"Gee ..." I said slowly. "That's nice of you. But —"
"I have peach turnovers," Nan said. "And homemade vanilla ice cream."
Monica's hand shot up. "Yes, please." She turned to me. "You in?"
I knew I should say no. Even if they weren't crazy, they were definitely weird, not like anybody I knew back home. But I wasn't back home. I didn't have any friends in Portland, not one.
"The turnovers are homemade too," Nan said, adding an extra incentive. "Fresh-baked this morning."
My stomach growled, making up my mind for me, as it so often does.
"Is it far? I don't know my way around very well yet."
"Even if you did, you'd never find it," Nan laughed. "But you can follow me. I'll drive slow."
And I did. I got in my car and followed Nan home, which is so unlike me. But that night I forgot to be cautious, sensible, or shy. And it saved me.
I mean it. It saved me. They saved me.
Who could have imagined? Not me. Not then.
But the thing is, sometimes you don't know you're going down for the third time until somebody pulls you into the boat.
When I was seven, my grammy taught me to sew. She'd grown up on a farm and never liked to waste anything, so every winter she'd gather up the family's worn-out clothes to make quilts. Every fall, she'd enter a quilt in the country fair and win a prize.
My mother, who wouldn't shop the sale rack because she didn't want to buy something that everybody else had passed over, made fun of Grammy's quilts, saying it was just one more way for her mother to be cheap. "As if making me wear a dress handed down through three sisters wasn't enough, now she expects me to sleep under it too."
I thought Grammy's quilts were wonderful. Always "the quiet one" and often overlooked in a family of boisterous brothers, I reveled in the attention and praise she lavished upon me during our sewing sessions.
I also loved the stories she'd tell about each block, "Now this pale blue was from the shirt your grampy wore when he came over to my house to propose. My dad knew why Ted was there. He stood on the porch and said I wasn't home, but I hollered from upstairs, 'Oh, yes, I am!' then ran downstairs, took the bouquet Ted brought for me, and said I'd marry him. That's why I picked the Lily corner block for this one, because that's the kind of flowers he brought me."
When I was nine, Grammy helped me make a log cabin quilt. I entered it in the fair and won ten dollars and a ribbon, the only prize I'd ever won in my life. Grammy died the following year, but the things she taught me stuck with me. I was always making something — doll clothes, pincushions, crocheted potholders. My mother never thought much of my crafty inclinations, or my tendency to hide inside of books; making things made me feel like there was at least one thing I knew how to do that other people couldn't.
In high school I started sewing my own clothes — dark, shapeless outfits that were designed to make me blend into the background, because nothing in the juniors department fit me. Even after I lost weight, I still had plenty of curves, so I continued to make my own "fit-and-flare" fashions, dresses with fitted waists and full skirts, partly because they flattered my figure, but mostly because it finally gave me a chance to indulge my love of color. Most every dress I sewed was made from material I found on the discount rack of the fabric store — the brighter the better.
My twirly skirts, Jamie called them, because the minute I put one on, I couldn't help but spin around in a circle, making the hem flutter around my thighs, feeling pretty, and feminine, and incandescently happy.
I haven't been doing a lot of twirling recently.
Portland's housing market is tight. If you find something you can afford in the location you want, you have to be ready to go. We put our stuff in storage and rented a tiny studio for three months before we finally closed on the condo, purchased after looking at pictures the Realtor e-mailed to us. A year and a half later, the place still looked a lot like it did when we moved in, with boxes of books shoved in the corner and unhung paintings piled against the wall. It wasn't important. By then I had bigger problems to worry about than decorating. But I wished I'd paid more attention to closet space before buying; there was only one.
Initially, I hung up Jamie's clothes along with my own. I considered it an act of faith. But after a few months, I accepted reality — Jamie was not ever going to live here. I boxed up his things to make space for my work clothes and stacked them with the books. They sat there for weeks. After tripping over one and breaking a toe during a middle-of-the-night trip to the bathroom, I realized I had to do something.
I started sorting through Jamie's things and cutting up the special items to make into quilt blocks, sewing them by hand. It's slow work, but it keeps me busy and gave me a chance to think or, depending on the day, not to think.
The longer I was at Hewlett and Hanson, where I worked as an administrative assistant for four commercial Realtors and where the atmosphere was as gray as the dress code, the less space there was for my twirly skirts. Sometimes it felt like the gray was trying to swallow up the bright colors of my old life. But the job had benefits and paid the bills, so I wasn't complaining.
And that night, for the first time in forever, I had a reason to dress up.
After trying on and rejecting half a dozen dresses, I settled on a vintage-style swing dress with a pink bolero sweater that matched the pink flamingo print. It had a kind of 1950s, rockabilly, Florida trailer park vibe, but who cared? I wasn't trying to impress anybody. I was only the third wheel in this ménage, as I explained to Nan when the phone rang.
"You're tagging along on Monica's date? Monica is what — forty- two? Isn't she a little old for a chaperone?"
"She's nervous," I said, foraging through the bathroom drawer for an eyebrow pencil. "She hasn't been on a date in years. I'm only going along for moral support. And the food. We're going to The Fish House!" I exclaimed, unable to disguise my enthusiasm.
"Well, la-di-da! Who is he? Tech entrepreneur? Stockbroker? Think he'd like to make a donation to the pet rescue?"
Excerpted from "Just in Time"
Copyright © 2018 Marie Bostwick.
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
Just in Time by Marie Bostwick takes readers to Portland, Oregon. Grace Saunders is looking for a support group, but none of them are the right fit for her or her situation. Grace meets Nan Wilja and Monica Romano who are also looking for a different type of support group situation. The three of them form their own support group that meets each Monday night. They are helping each other move on and the three women became more than friends. Grace’s husband, Jamie is in a permanent vegetative state. Monica’s husband died in a boating accident with his girlfriend and she is left to run his restaurant as well as raise his children. Nan has been widowed for twenty years, but now her children are out of the house which leaves it very quiet despite her dogs. While visiting with Jamie in the evenings, Grace works on a memory quilt. Each block represents Jamie and their relationship. One evening, Monica sets up Grace with Luke Pascal (she tricks her). Luke is a lawyer turned furniture craftsman. Grace is attracted to Luke (and he makes her smile), but she feels that she cannot move on while Jamie is still alive. Each of these women must work to overcome their grief, heartaches and fears. It is time to move forward with their lives and with each other’s encouragement, they can get their second chance at happiness. Just in Time is nicely written and has a good pace. It is a lovely story about three women that are ready to move forward, but they each need support (compassion, comfort, encouragement). These women have loved and lost. We follow them as they work through grief and heartache to get a second chance at having a joyful future. I liked the inclusion of the dog rescue, Rainbow Gate in the story and the therapy dogs. I did, though, feel that Just in Time was predictable. Why do the women have to have a man in their lives to be fulfilled? I would love to see a something different (a better role model for the younger generation). Just in Time is a heartwarming story about women getting a second opportunity. Grace’s story was the dominant one, and I felt that the business world was portrayed realistically. Grace’s company is bought out and in order for her to keep her job, she is required to do twice the work along with working long hours (she needs her job for the insurance for Jamie). I wish the quilting had been more prominent. It was an aspect I wanted to see woven throughout the story. I am giving Just in Time 3 out of 5 stars (it is okay). Just in Time is not the author’s best work. I have read all of her books, and I know she can do better (her Cobbled Court series is wonderful). I keep hoping Ms. Bostwick will go back to what she does best.
I love all of her books and read them over and over
characters view. Easy read & so unforgettable.
I thoroughly enjoyed Just in Time. Marie Bostwick drew me in and brought each character to life. I read it straight through. The bond the three main characters share is special and inspiring. I’d love to have a close-knit circle of friends like this. Grief is experienced differently for everyone. This story is about three women each with very different backgrounds and stories, how they became their own support group and learned to enjoy life again. A very uplifting story of overcoming grief from different perspectives. I highly recommend this title it is fully engaging, very well written and concise with no annoying verbiage or repetition. Five Stars
Such a great book. Loved all the characters! Didn't want the book to end and I can say that's rare. Don't miss it.
Just in Time by Marie Bostwick Three women meet in a parking lot after attending part of a grief support group. The group is not for them BUT the three find they may have reason to spend time supporting one another in their own smaller group and thus begins a friendship that is one all women would like to someday have. The ages are 60’s, 40’s and 30’s. Two of the women have lost their husbands to death and the other woman’s husband has been in a coma for almost two years. All have issues to contend with that their friendship helps alleviate. Whether the issue is money, difficult children or finding money that is needed they are there for one another through thick and thin AND all three find a way forward that brings them a great deal of happiness. If you are looking for a feel good story with strong women that have great stories to tell then this book is one I can and do recommend. It made me think, care and want to be friends with these three women. Great story by a wonderful writer and one that I thoroughly enjoyed. Thank you to NetGalley and Kensington Books for the ARC – This is my honest review. 5 Stars
When I first started this book, it took me a couple of chapters to get into it, but from then on it became a page turner, and is reminiscent of a Debbie Macomber read, and I wanted more once the last page was turned. The author introduces us to three women who share a common bond, in that they have all lost or are losing a spouse. We get to walk in each of their shoes and get to know them personally, what makes them happy and what makes them tick. As we journey with them we see what dear friends they have become, and wouldn’t we all want the same. As for me I am a dog lover and a quilter, think I could fit in with this group, and one of the reasons that I chose to read this book, and I am so glad that I did. I received this book through Net Galley and the Publisher Kensington, and was not required to give a positive review.
Emotionally charged story of love, friendship and healing. I think this may be my favorite of Marie Bostwick's wonderful books. As expected in her books the characters are all well developed and believable with a plot that keeps you enthusiactively turning pages till the very end. This book was that and do much more. Tackling grief, the different kinds are how individuals react is ambitious. Marie Bostwick succeeds with a book that is both moving and meaningful. Unfortunately in life we are all going to lose someone we love. I believe this book entertains while at the same time shows how people can and do heal. This book belongs on everyone's TBR list. I received an advance reader copy from Netgalley.