Lucy is a baby when she joins the Sandoni clan: Rocco (one of three Sandoni brothers) wins a Buick convertible in a poker game; Rhodi (one of five Sandoni sisters) finds Lucy abandoned in the backseat. Eighteen years later, all six of her Sandoni “aunts” having died, Lucy waits for a sign that it’s time to leave the stifling New York household of her domineering “uncles.” After all, signs, as Rhodi taught her, are meant to be followed!
So when a fire engulfs the Sandoni Brothers’ business, Lucy flees town. She heads west, getting off at Gardenia, Iowa, where the offbeat folk welcome her. The past, however, isn’t easy to leave behind. Lucy’s deceased aunts pay her regular visits. Lucy also fears that her uncles will track her down. Should she stay in Gardenia or should she push on? And as her old life catches up with her, Lucy feels lost. She’ll have to remember that wanting to get lost is often the quickest means of finding your way.
|Publisher:||Random House Children's Books|
|Product dimensions:||4.26(w) x 6.87(h) x 0.51(d)|
|Age Range:||12 - 13 Years|
About the Author
Rita Murphy’s previous novels are Night Flying, Black Angels, and Harmony. She lives in Vermont.
Read an Excerpt
There was a ring around the moon the night I was brought into the Sandoni clan. A bright white ring, which, according to Rhodi's tarot cards, meant a change in fortune. Good fortune or bad, it depends on who you ask. But everyone agrees that my uncle Rocco won me fair and square in a poker game down at Fumicelli's Bar and Grill on the night of June 1, 1987.
All the Sandonis were home that night with a bad case of the flu. Everyone except my uncle Rocco, who dragged himself out of bed to play in the championship tournament in Michael Fumicelli's back room. Rocco had a fever of 103¡F, but that didn't stop him from winning the championship and bringing home the grand prize.
Rocco thought he'd simply won a Buick. A classic 1968 Buick Skylark convertiblemetallic blue with white vinyl interior and chrome-plated bumpers. He drove it home and parked it in the driveway so the neighbors would see it on their way to work the next morning. He put on the emergency brake and locked all the doors and went to bed. It was three a.m. All of Hamlin was asleep, but not Rhodi. She'd heard the car pull in. She'd had one of her feelings that night that kept her awake. A feeling, she said, that led her out to the driveway. A feeling that made her pick the lock on the door of Rocco's shiny new car and find me inside, bundled in a brown leather jacket, with the name Lucy scrawled on a piece of yellow paper pinned to the lapel.
I think I can safely say that if Rocco had known of my presence before my great-aunt did, he would have left me in the parking lot of Fumicelli's for some other unlucky gambler to stumble upon. Or maybe he would have simply thrown me into the Hudson River like a bad litter of pups. Instead, through divine providence or maybe just luck, I was delivered into the arms of four buxom Italian widows and one clairvoyant old maid, Rhodi. I was the child of their dreams. The child of their old age. Their one last chance to get it right.
Rhodi was my favorite aunt and the youngest of the five Sandoni daughters, all of whom were named after flowering Mediterranean shrubs: Mimosa, Hydrangea, Viburnum, Oleaster and Rhododendron, shortened fortunately to Mim, Hy, Vi, Olly and Rhodi. Unlike her other sisters, Rhodi was born with a harelip and a caul over her face, a thin veil of skin. A remnant from the other world. Like most caul babies, she grew into a gift of prophecy. She could hear voices and converse with spirits. She felt things in her bones, deep in her bones, and saw whole futures in the bottom of my great-aunts' china teacups.
"You'll have to excuse our sister Rhodi," Hy explained to visitors when Rhodi strode through the parlor with rosary beads wrapped around her neck or fresh fruit in her hair. "She marches to the beat of her own drum."
It was true. Rhodi did as she pleased. She loved Elvis and Led Zeppelin and read National Geographic magazines during Mass. She had a passion for bright pink lipstick and French perfume and always speaking the truth.
When I was old enough, Rhodi was the one who told me I wasn't a Sandoni at all. She told me where I came from, that place of leather upholstery and chrome polish. My first homethe Buick.
"You must never forget your roots, dear, no matter what they are. Even if they rust and roll away. We all come from somewhere, even if we can never go back." Rocco sold my roots when I was six months old to pay off a gambling debt, but I used to imagine that my peoplethe ones who had misplaced mewere all Buicks. Strong, big-boned people with shiny teeth and deep, gravelly voices. My people were waiting out there in Buickland somewhere, I convinced myself. Somewhere west of Hamlin where the skies were bigger. They were waiting for me. And one day I would go looking for the Buicks and I would find them.
My childhood with the Sandonis was comfortable and, because of Rhodi, full of surprises. But it was very different from the one I would have had with the Buicks. My great-aunts loved me in their own peculiar way. With the exception of Mim, none had been blessed with children, so all their maternal instincts were poured forth upon me.
"Are you hungry, Lucy? Are you thirsty? Do you need an extra sweater?" They suffocated me with affection and fed me pasta six times a day. They dressed me like a little doll and sang me to sleep until I was almost ten.
On the other hand, my three unclesFrank, Rocco and Onofrioignored me, which was probably the kindest thing they could have done. In fact, they took very little interest in me at all until my baby fat began to melt away and they suspected I might end up prettier than I'd started out.
"We have plans for you, little Lucretia. Big plans," I remember Rocco saying to me one morning at breakfast, through a mouthful of scrambled eggs. I was eight years old at the time and paying more attention to the egg hanging off his lip, wondering if it was going to fall off into his coffee, than to what he was really saying to me. Which was "We're planning the rest of your life for you, Lucretia . . . just wanted to let you know."
My uncles (Mim's sons) had no children of their own, and because all three of them had a sour disposition and were not in the least bit attractive, their prospects of catching a woman long enough to procure an offspring were slim. So, when I was nine years old, they declared me their official heir and began to groom me for the life they had in mind. They paid for braces to straighten my teeth and lessons in piano and etiquette. They sent me to St. Augustine's, a private school for girls, in the hopes that I would learn to be refined and graceful and well mannered, but it didn't work. I always said the first thing that came to my mind, and I hated wearing a uniform.
There was one thing I could do, though. One thing I loved more than anything else, and that was the violin. I was good at it. Maybe even better than good. Maybe great. But it didn't matter. My uncles didn't care if I could boil water. They didn't intend for me to excel in anything or take over their business one day as my great-aunts had hoped. The lessons and the fancy school were merely for show. They simply wanted to make me as attractive a package as possible to secure a prosperous match.
"Your face is your fortune, Lucretia," my uncles decided when they realized I would never be able to play the piano or host a social gathering. But it wasn't my fortune they were talking about. It was theirs.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
This is a beautiful book that combines the magic of Murphy's previous novels (Night Flying and Harmony) with a romantic coming of age tale. This is a wonderful read for all ages that addresses that most fundamental of questions: 'Is home a place to be searched for or a place that already exists deep in the heart and spirit?' I recommend this book most highly and suggest it for readers of all ages! Touche'