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After Sadie’s son, Mark, is gone, she doesn’t have much use for other people, including her husband. The last person she wants to see is Tinley Greene, who shows up claiming she’s pregnant with Mark’s baby. Sadie knows Tinley must be lying because Mark was engaged and never would have betrayed his fiancée. So she refuses to help, and she doesn’t breathe a word about it to anybody. But in a small, southern town like Garnet, nothing stays secret for long. Once Sadie starts piecing together what happened to Mark, she discovers she was wrong about Tinley. And when her husband is rushed to the hospital, Sadie must hurry to undo her mistake before he runs out of time to meet their grandchild.
|Publisher:||West Virginia University Press|
|Edition description:||1st Edition|
|Product dimensions:||5.50(w) x 8.40(h) x 0.60(d)|
About the Author
Heather Bell Adams is from Hendersonville, North Carolina, and now lives in Raleigh with her husband and son. She is the winner of the 2016 James Still Fiction Prize and her short fiction appears in the Thomas Wolfe Review, Clapboard House, Pembroke Magazine, Broad River Review, and elsewhere. This is her first novel and is the winner of the Knoxville Writers’ Guild Contest.
Read an Excerpt
If Mr. Haughtry comes crawling down the driveway in his big gold Buick, it will mean they haven't found Mama and Daddy. It's dark in the old chicken shed and nobody knows where I am. When I bend down, I can see through a hole in the wood — the fig tree, the gravel driveway, the road with fields on both sides, green and slippery in the rain.
If I see my mother's little hatchback, then it's easy. Some of the roads could have been washed out and they took a while to get back. Daddy will shake his head and say, "I'm awfully sorry everybody was worried." They were supposed to be back before supper yesterday and now it's almost suppertime a day later. But they're not back yet and, as far as I know, nobody has seen them. I should've gone with them. That way, whatever happened, we would be together.
If no cars come down the driveway, then maybe they're still looking — some of the neighbors and Mr. Haughtry, the man my father works for and who lets us stay in a trailer on his land. Maybe they'll keep looking after it gets dark, even though it's Sunday and they would usually head back to church after supper, everybody but Mr. Haughtry who says he wouldn't darken the church doorstep if somebody paid him.
I keep watch, but nothing comes down the driveway except the rain.
Earlier today, Mrs. Haughtry offered to let me wait up at the house with her.
"But I guess you're sixteen and can go where you please," she said, letting out a sigh. "Just have sense enough to stay out of the rain."
This afternoon, to keep my mind off worrying, I started some laundry in the Haughtrys' basement. The clean scent of the detergent cut through the underground mushroom smell, and I took a deep breath, telling myself everything would be all right. My parents would come back with their shopping bags and we would shake our heads at how awful the weather was. While I waited on the laundry, I straightened up the canning jars — most of them full of half-runner beans. When I thought of how my mother would've wiped off the dusty lids with her apron, I bit my lip so hard I tasted blood. If they didn't come back, I wouldn't have any family. No aunts or uncles or cousins. Nobody.
Tugging the basement door shut behind me, I stumbled through the rain to look for a new place to wait. If I went back inside, Mrs. Haughtry would keep telling me to settle down, turning me away from the living room window so I'd stop staring out at the driveway. She had noticed the way I looked down the hill where my father's light blue truck was parked. My parents never took his truck when they went shopping in town. I reminded myself over and over again that they'd taken Mama's car. But when I spotted the truck something fluttered in my chest and I thought — only for a second — they were finally back. I pressed my hand against my chest, imagining a tiny bird trapped there. Didn't Emily Dickinson say hope is the thing with feathers?
Now I keep watch from the chicken shed where it's quiet and I can be by myself. I can still smell corn or seeds, something the chickens used to eat, and there's no telling what might be watching me in the dark — mice scratching in the dust or bats hanging upside down from the wooden beams. Even though there haven't been chickens here in a long time, everybody still calls it the chicken shed. Now there's only a dirt floor and rough wooden walls. Sometimes after Daddy washes Mr. Haughtry's Buick with the hose, he parks it here to keep the birds off. But whenever Mr. Haughtry drives it, he parks outside by the house and it gets dirty again before long.
I step back and measure out three, four boards with my arms, imagining I see the irregular shape of North Carolina in the wood's lines. Choosing a board on the left — the western part of the state — I trace the bumps in the wood, pretending they're places my parents have gone. The largest bump is Garnet, the county seat of Wynette County, and the only place I've ever lived. Lots of farmland and nice farmhouses set back from the road. Tin roof barns, herds of cows, and rows of green beans and tomatoes and corn. Solid Rock Baptist Church with its pointy white steeple. Apple orchards and summer camps with long shaded driveways. I imagine Mama and Daddy hunched against the rain as they hurry past the shops on Main Street and the clock tower shaped like a black bear on its hind legs, the numbered face in its belly. Or right this minute they could be on the highway — not where it dips down into South Carolina or arches up over the gorge, but maybe where it loops around town near the new mall and car dealerships.
I shake my head. They were going to the grocery store and the hardware store. Even though I don't think they mentioned going anywhere else, I sift through everything I remember in case I missed something, a sort of clue.
At breakfast, Mrs. Haughtry had glanced at the wall calendar from the gas company and mentioned something to Mama about a blackberry winter. Mr. Haughtry told Daddy that once it stopped raining he needed to see about fixing the tiller. At the Haughtrys' stove, my mother laid a paper towel over a pile of bacon, the smoky smell of it hovering over the kitchen. Her hair was pulled back tight like she always wore it, ever since the time Mr. Haughtry held up a long hair at the breakfast table, asking if it was hers and laying it on the side of his plate in a straight line.
Back at the trailer, Daddy shook out the worst of the rain from his jacket and slipped it on again, saying something about running to the grocery store and hardware store. Mama found her see-through rain bonnet — the kind they give out for free at the beauty parlor Mrs. Haughtry goes to — and tied it under her chin.
"We'll be back before supper," she said. I'm sure they hugged me before they left, but I don't remember what it felt like or how hard I squeezed in return.
"See you in a bit," Daddy must have said. Maybe he called me doll, the way he sometimes did. I can't remember that either even though it was only yesterday. Yesterday is already a far-off, shadowy place.
I press my finger into the bumps and lines on the wood — hundreds, thousands of splinters waiting to come apart. Through the rain, which refuses to let up, wheels crunch on the gravel driveway. I lean closer to the hole in the wall, my eyelashes brushing the wood. There's a flash of white and in the curve a long car appears.
The back door of the house sticks and somebody kicks it open. Mrs. Haughtry comes out, wearing her brown raincoat, and looks toward the driveway.
As the white car draws closer, I make out Mr. Stepp with both hands on the steering wheel. Mrs. Haughtry's brother. Not Mr. Haughtry. Not my parents. I dig my fingernails into my arms, not understanding why Mr. Stepp has come or what it means. He pulls around to the side yard where the grass is worn down, parks, and swings his long legs out of the car.
"You shouldn't be out here in this mess," he calls out to Mrs. Haughtry.
"What's going on, A.B.? Did you find 'em? Any sign one way or another?"
"Went outside a little bit ago. Left her jacket so Lord knows she's cold and probably wet too."
I inch one of the shed doors open so I can hear them better.
Mr. Stepp comes up to the porch. "Want me to go look for her?"
"What'd you find out?"
He shakes his head. "I'd rather tell you both. No use in saying it twice. She's old enough to hear it."
"Just come on inside. She'll be here in a minute." She looks right at the shed.
"Better off waiting for the sheriff to get here anyway," Mr. Stepp says and he disappears inside the house.
When the sheriff's car rolls down the driveway a few seconds later, Mrs. Haughtry calls for me, stretching out my name. The same way she calls her cat, Calico, if he hasn't shown up for breakfast. I push the door open, scraping the mud underneath, until there's enough room to squeeze through.
As I trudge up the hill to the Haughtrys' house, my stomach clenches in a knot and I weigh whether I could sneak down to the trailer instead. Maybe I could crawl into my bed and hide like a little kid. Even though it doesn't make sense, a half-formed idea flickers — that my mother and father are at home waiting for me.
I pause, letting the rain trickle down my back and remembering the way our trailer wobbles, especially if you close a door hard, like the whole thing might tip over. And cooking smells sink into everything — the carpet, the couch, the bedspreads. Up ahead, the Haughtrys' house stands solid, made of brick. There you can barely tell if anybody is walking around because nothing rattles to give them away.
Mrs. Haughtry calls for me again, reminding me that I won't be able to hide forever. Sooner or later I have to hear what they've found, so I drag myself up to the house.
Sheriff Wilkins stands up when I come into the kitchen. His hat rests on the table and his eyes look tired. He's always pale, which my father says is the sign of a man who spends too much time inside, and today he's white all over except for the pink tip of his nose.
"Tinley, you come on in," he says, "and take a seat so we can visit for a minute." Mr. Stepp and Mrs. Haughtry are already sitting at the table, not meeting my eyes. Mrs. Haughtry bunches up her apron between her fingers. Mr. Stepp turns a coffee cup around in a circle. Rain tumbles down outside the window and behind me the raincoats drip on the porch.
Wondering when the sheriff will say something, I ease into a chair and start rubbing my fingers over the oilcloth, slick in some places and sticky in others. He frowns and I move my hand under the cloth, feeling for the cottony felt underneath. When I pick at it, the felt comes off in tiny pieces and I let them fall to the floor.
The sheriff's radio buzzes and he gets up from the table, holding his finger in the air like he's saying just a minute. Mrs. Haughtry shows him where the phone is and I wait for him to get back, willing my father to burst through the door and fix everything.
The thing about Daddy is that he can fix whatever is broken, whether it's a water pipe or farm machinery or most anything else. He's always walking around with his box of tools and whistling as he puts it down. If something looks hard at first, he rubs his hands together. "Now I'll need to study on that one for a minute," he says. When Mr. Haughtry is in a good mood, he tells Daddy he would've made a good engineer. He works for the Haughtrys every day but Sunday. Most everybody in Garnet is up at Solid Rock on Sundays. But Mama likes to sleep late and go through the paper for the coupons and Daddy believes God is waiting for us outside too. So we stay home. During the week some people in town act like they don't see me at school or Mama at the store because they don't know us from church. We might as well be strangers.
Some Sunday afternoons if the wind is right and the weather is warm, Daddy puts our kites in the back of the truck with a rock on top so they won't fly away, and we go up to Poplar Springs. Up on a high hill, we find the flat, carved-out spot where you can run after your kite without worrying about falling. The ground ahead is the same as what's behind and all you have to do is hold onto the kite and go wherever it goes.
"All you have to do is hold on," Daddy says, laughing as we watch the kite take flight.
When I think about my mother, she's sitting at the sewing machine. Her leg shakes when she presses the pedal. Or she's at the kitchen counter, scooping batter out of a thick bowl and dropping it in the skillet sizzling with butter.
Sheriff Wilkins sits down again, muttering something about how Mr. Haughtry won't be back until later because he's helping at the scene. I don't ask what scene. Already my breathing is ragged, nervous sweat beading on my neck.
The sheriff clears his throat and Mrs. Haughtry tells him to go ahead. He nods and says, "We've found your mother's car, Tinley. The roads are awful slippery with all this rain." He leans forward. "And with all that water, the banks in some parts have clear washed away."
I can picture them going around those curves, Mama with her hand on the dashboard and Daddy squinting through the window, trying to make his way through the rain. The sheriff keeps talking and I imagine the rest too, the way the car must have slid down the mud. The bumping and twisting toward the water below, higher than it is most days and the rain still coming. Mama screaming and Daddy's mouth closed hard. The sky where the ground should be and the ground where the sky should be and the hungry mouth of the river opening wider and wider until it swallows them up.
The sheriff says the bodies have been identified and I dig my fingernail into my leg. Part of me wants to scream, but I don't. Instead I close my eyes. And I'm not in the Haughtrys' kitchen anymore. I'm out at Poplar Springs. Mama leans back against the side of the truck and Daddy looks up at the sky with his whole face open and spread out like a blanket getting warm in the sun.
The last time our son, Mark, and his fiancé, Maddie, came up to the house for Sunday dinner was in October, a couple months before they were supposed to get married. Maddie was the kind of girl everything is easy for, the way breathing is for the rest of us. When Mark met her, there wasn't any way of knowing how it would all turn out. But no matter what he did, he loved her. That was something he tried to tell me the last time I saw him.
Mark had gotten a good job out of high school working with the logging company. He and a boy from work moved into one of the rental houses we owned, but he still stayed with us a couple times a week. When my husband, Clive, and I saw Mark coming down the driveway, we never knew how he'd be once he walked in the door. Sometimes he laughed at any little thing that happened, the kind of laugh somebody across the room would notice. And other days, he moved slowly, like he was underwater. The way I see it, people will do just about anything they can for their children, but when Mark got like that, there was nothing Clive or I could do to pull him up. He would look way off in the distance, like he could see where it was all going, only there was no way to go someplace different because he was stuck.
It all started because he was up at the house the Saturday the Spencers — Maddie's family — first came by. They were new in town and already asking for money for some church committee. Maybe things would've turned out another way if he had been somewhere else, out fishing with his cap on backwards the way he liked it or washing off his new truck, the rag dripping water and the air smelling like soap. But he'd been cleaning out the barn and was inside getting something to drink when the Spencers drove up in that black Cadillac of theirs. We all sat in the den that day, Dr. Spencer with his golf shirt and his wife squeezed into a too-small poplin skirt. And their daughter Maddie, maybe twenty years old — a year or two younger than Mark. Pretty in that perfect way like you can't imagine her getting dirty or waking up in the morning looking any different than she did at three o'clock in the afternoon.
I remember thinking Mark would go back outside, but he sat down across from Maddie and watched her take a sip of iced tea. When she rested her glass on her lap, he kept his eyes on her like he couldn't wait to see what she would do next. He leaned back in his chair, smiling in a way I hadn't seen in a long time, and when she looked back at him, something settled over him like a soft quilt. That was the start of it.
Once they were seeing each other, we had a few weeks — or maybe months — when Mark and Maddie came up to the house after church to eat with me and Clive. On that last Sunday, shortly before they were getting married, church let out around noon or a little after. At dinner, Clive sat at the head of the table like he always did. He was tall and lean with tan arms from working outside and a full head of hair that seemed like it had jumped from black to white overnight. After he blessed the food, Mark passed him the bowl of snap beans.
"Appreciate it," Clive said, spooning some on his plate and passing it on to me.
As soon as we started eating, Mark shoveled food like he had somewhere to be fast. Maddie asked if he was okay, but he just nodded, stuffing chicken and potatoes in his mouth and gulping down a long sip of water before he had a chance to swallow anything.
Once he and Maddie had started seeing each other, I thought he was going to be all right. As long as she was around, it was like Mark fit in his own skin better than he did other times. Something would come up — somebody being late or something burnt or too much rain — and he'd wave his hand in the air like it was easy to fix. He was back to how he'd been when he was younger, not moving too fast or too slow. Every Sunday afternoon he sat with Maddie looking like he didn't need another thing in the world beyond that.
But that day his leg bounced under the table and, when he wasn't eating or drinking, he was running his fingers through his thick, dark hair. I thought he would settle down when I brought up the wedding, so I asked what kind of music they were going to have even though I'd already heard something about a harp. Maddie dabbed her mouth with her napkin, but before she got the chance to answer, Mark asked if we had to talk about the wedding all the time.
"Can't we have a minute of quiet?" he asked, even as he scraped his fork across his plate.
Maddie put her napkin in her lap and straightened the belt on her pink dress, watching Mark and blinking.
Excerpted from "Maranatha Road"
Copyright © 2017 Heather Bell Adams.
Excerpted by permission of West Virginia University Press.
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.
Table of Contents
Part One: Tinley Greene,
Part Two: Sadie Caswell,
Part Three: Tinley Greene, Mark Caswell, and Clive Caswell,
Part Four: Tinley Greene, Clive Caswell, and Sadie Caswell,
About the Author,
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
I thought this book was rather odd. Several of the characters have some sort of mental illness, which is rather disturbing...not because of the mental illness, but because there was such an abundance of it. I wish there were more physical descriptions of the characters so I could visualize what they looked like. I do like that you learn a little more about Mark and his behavior growing up as you get further into the book. While Tinley's life has been rather difficult...and she's only 17, I think she is really immature and not in touch with reality. You really are left making diagnoses about the character's issues instead of having closure. This was a quick read. The words flowed easily. But it was also difficult to read about the situations the various characters found themselves in and how life just plain sucked. It was interesting to see how Sadie dealt with her trauma and what it finally took for her to make a complete 180 where Tinley was concerned.