One Heart: A Novelby Jane McCafferty
"You're given life, and certain people walk into it. Some make a small but deep impression, like a kid from your second grade class who shows up in your dream every three years. Others walk in and break your heart. You remember them every day. Very few people, maybe one, maybe none, stay with you for the long run. It's a kind of miracle if someone&
"You're given life, and certain people walk into it. Some make a small but deep impression, like a kid from your second grade class who shows up in your dream every three years. Others walk in and break your heart. You remember them every day. Very few people, maybe one, maybe none, stay with you for the long run. It's a kind of miracle if someone's with you for the long run. A kind of miracle..."
From the award-winning author of the acclaimed short story collection Director of the World comes this stunning debut novel--a charmingly poignant, razor sharp tale of two sisters and the depths and consequences of love that is reminiscent of the works of Anne Tyler, Louise Erdrich, and Barbara Kingsolver.
Gladys and Ivy are sisters, reluctant best friends who have depended upon each other through a shared lifetime marked by grief and loss, including the untimely deaths of Gladys's two children and the end of her passionate yet troubled marriage. While bonded by love and loneliness, the sisters remain divided by a wall of silence and pain that prevents Gladys from accepting the solace Ivy desperately needs to give.
Then one late April day, the pattern of their quiet lives is suddenly ruptured when a dark-eyes young woman with a mysterious past arrives on their doorstep. Quickly befriending Gladys, the intriguing Raelene convinces her to escape on a cross-country jaunt that will become a journey of discovery. Left to contend with the loss of her sister--and a surprise visit from Gladys's estranged husband--Ivy too will contemplate the frayed tapestry of her life and confront emotions long denied.
For Ivy and Gladys, however, personal transformation has just begun. Eventually reunited, the two must face searing truths about themselves, their past, and their relationship--soulful revelations that will ultimately bring them closer or hopelessly keep them apart.
Rich in character, language, and emotion, One Heart is a powerful, moving tale of family, friendship, forgiveness, and redemption--a remarkable achievement from an exquisitely talented new writer.
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Read an Excerpt
When Your Mind Drifts
I been cook at Camp Timber outside of Lake Cataman here in New York State for almost twenty years, and the rest of the year I cook for the Timber winter school. I live on the premises in a small blue house on top of a hill that's covered with a carpet of dark maple leaves every autumn.
The winter school's a red brick building set down in the valley with spruce and ash circling all around it, and the camp's up on the other hill, all spread out on the flat land. They got cabins and what you call lean-tos for sleeping, and in the middle an outhouse someone painted purple. The children are sent up here just as soon as they spell cat. They're wealthy children, but brokenhearted. You can see that initially.
My sister, Gladys, cooked with me the last ten years or so. She's forty-eight now. Let's face it; she's a rather heavy woman, like me, so the children get their laughs. For children "fat" is the joke they hear over and over and still it's funny. Gladys thinks the children are mean-spirited (a few are) and can't understand it's like we're the fat ladies in the circus, no harm intended. But then again I been fat since birth. Gladys only blew up after she had troubles.
And neither me or Gladys are huge and unsightly. We're just big, full-figured, nice-looking quality women. We have always attracted the men. We couldn't really work in the circus. No possible way would the circus hire us.
In the summertime the children are more scared to death of Gladys than the winter boarder kids are. Winter kids get used to her ways. In the summer when they file into the eating hall behind their counselors, Gladys standsnear the wall in her white uniform, watching them with her big green eyes and her wire-rim reading glasses low on her nose and her hair sweaty and dark from the kitchen. Stands stone still like a fat lady statue. If a bold one ever waves to her, maybe she nods her head, maybe she don't.
But this past spring everything changed up here. It happened there was a counselor come up here, a young girl of seventeen called Raelene. Raelene was a pretty little thing even with her crooked teeth, but she was all alone in that camp, since the counselors are mostly kids who used to be campers here, rich cliquey kids from the Ivy Leagues. There's a lot of ideas some of these people learn to carry, the main one being they're better than others. You can see the nicer ones trying not to think this way; it's not even their fault really. It's been ground in, and they're limited by what they've seen.
Now Raelene, take a quick look at that girl and you'd know she was from elsewhere, other circumstances, like you could imagine her in a wintry town where the industry died and the windows of the stores are boarded up. You could see Raelene with her long hair and pale face walking through the closed-up town on a bitter evening in her Salvation Army black coat with a fur collar smelling like a dead woman's perfume. And no gloves. Her hands bare and chapped with bit-down polished nails. She would be the sort to just stand in the circle of streetlight and tap her foot. Or maybe that's just in my head she does that.
Not that I'd even let her in my head much if Gladys hadn't known her. I make my little friends up here at camp and school, but I'm drawn to the cheerful. Life is short and I'm not here for the gloom. I been a good sister to Gladys, and that's enough gloom for any one soul, and I don't say that to blame her, and it's not like we haven't had some laughs even in the darkest of dark years. But Gladys had a hard life. I say had not because she's dead. I say had because I think it's changed now.
The reason Raelene even ended up at camp in the first place has to do with about seven or so years ago, back when the war was going on in Vietnam, and Gladys's boy, Wendell, bless his soul, was over there captured. Raelene, who back then lived in Philadelphia, ended up wearing one of them bracelets they gave out to the young people. A prisoner of war bracelet, which Gladys didn't like the idea of. A few winter school kids wore those bracelets, and Gladys could see the names didn't mean much. The kids couldn't know what any of it meant, no matter how many times they sung "Where Have All the Flowers Gone." She didn't like thinking her son's name, Wendell J. Pittman, would be on some ignorant child's wrist, some child who wore the name like a piece of jewelry from a gum machine.And sure enough there was a child out there in the world wearing Wendell J. Pittman on her wrist, and this child was Raelene Francis. One day in November, I believe 1969, Gladys got a letter in the mail.
It was a child writing to her saying she was praying for Wendell to come home every day and every night, and lighting candles in two churches every morning. The bracelet company had sent his picture, the one where he's almost smiling in his army uniform that Gladys kept by her bed, and the child said she thought Wendell looked cute. Then the child goes on to tell Gladys that she had no parents, that she was a real live orphan down there in Philadelphia, and if Gladys wanted she would come and be her little girl.
Gladys read that letter out loud to me at the supper table late that night. I can see it clearly We're having wedding soup. Gladys has her Jack Daniel's in a short glass. She's wearing her old cat-eyed drugstore glasses with the thick lenses so her eyes are magnified.
Meet the Author
Jane McCafferty is the author of the novel One Heart and two collections of stories, Thank You for the Music and Director of the World and Other Stories, which won the Drue Heinz Literature Prize. She is the recipient of an NEA award, the Great Lakes Colleges Association’s New Writers Award, and two Pushcart Prizes. She lives and works in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
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McCafferty is brilliant. The characters so real you can't believe they aren't. Ivy, Gladys, James, Raelene, Nicoletta ~ there are none other like you!
Nothing about this book was expected. Everything about it seduced my imagination. An extraordinary, original novel and a helluva good read.
This novel follows the lives of two sisters, their families and friends, told in the words of one sister and then the other, with the voices of several other characters sharing their perspectives in the later chapters. Besides an engaging story, this novel illustrates several deep psychological insights, and is written in a lyrical style.
Only 175 pages - did not enjoy book at all!
Moans and gro.pes ur bo.obs as i kiss hooded figure
Really? A good read? Are we talking about the same book?
Ima go.... this is boring bye