A story about the timeless struggle between mothers and their teen daughters with a razor-sharp 21st century twist. This heart-wrenching, harrowing debut novel for fans of Big Little Lies (Liane Moriarty) and Reconstructing Amelia (Kimberly McCreight) will make you question what's needed to keep your children from harm. Phoebe's mother, Isabel, is precariously balancing her career and her family.
Hard-working and caring, worried but supportive, all Isabel wants, in a world of bullies and temptations, is to keep her daughter Phoebe safe. With her busy schedule, though, she fails to recognize another mother's mounting fury and the danger Phoebe faces by flirting with a mysterious boy on Facebook. A cyber-bullying episode aimed at Phoebe pushes her to the edge with horrific consequences. In her search for justice, Isabel, a DC lawyer, sets out to find the culprit behind this cruel incident.
Saving Phoebe Murrow, set amidst the complicated web of adolescent relationships, tells a story of miscommunication and malice, drugs and Facebook, prejudice and revenge.
|Publisher:||Upper Hand Press LLC|
|Product dimensions:||6.00(w) x 8.90(h) x 1.00(d)|
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Monday, November 10, 2008
At the end of the day, as Isabel stepped through the large glass doors of her law office, a strange thing happened. Outside in the cold, she suddenly felt trapped in a bright cone of light. As if some alien spaceship were training its eye on her.
Uneasily, she gazed into the dark November sky. There was the culprit. A smiling gibbous moon. Or was it smirking, maybe even mocking her? Yes, she thought, that would be more appropriate. Work had become insanely busy, though in its own strange way that kept her mind from dwelling on her recent topsy-turvy personal life.
Which included that awful teen party at Sandy Littleton's, an event that had ruined the weekend. Phoebe drunk, and when Isabel brought her home, Ron found their daughter's wobbly walk vaguely amusing. In front of Phoebe, they'd kept a united front. But later, in the bedroom, Ron told Isabel she was being too harsh on their daughter.
"She's thirteen, Ron."
"Almost fourteen," he'd said.
She really couldn't understand Ron's blasé attitude toward the drinking that Sandy had allowed, encouraged even, nor could she understand Phoebe's recent obsession with some boy named Shane. They'd met on Facebook, of all places, and he'd promised to show up at the party, then hadn't. Ron had attributed Phoebe's drinking to her disappointment over this no show, as if that made it okay. Not okay, definitely not.
Nor did she like the fact that Phoebe had never actually met this character Shane, that all of her communication with him had been online. Who was he anyway? Again, Ron thought it was no big deal! "That's the way kids communicate these days," he'd said.
In the end, Isabel had caved, and Phoebe had received little more than a slap on the wrist. Mostly because she feared the possibility of the 9th grade kids teasing and taunting her as so many classmates had the previous year. Now, she was eager to get home to find out how Phoebe's school day had gone. She hoped there had been no fallout from the Saturday night fiasco, though of course Phoebe didn't know what she had done. Kids could be incredibly cruel.
Isabel strode hurriedly to the underground garage. The wind, gusting up Pennsylvania Avenue, tossed stray bits of paper into the air, bouncing them about inside tiny swirling tornadoes. She flipped up the collar of her raincoat.
Traffic seemed unusually heavy, though rush hour congestion in DC was routine, and cars were backed up as far down Pennsylvania as Isabel could see. As she inched along in her BMW, she mused on the few recent signs of behavior that Ron, her husband of sixteen years, had exhibited only once before. It had been two presidential campaigns ago, to be precise, after he'd been on the road for several weeks covering John McCain's bid for the GOP nomination. In early 2000. At home, Ron had turned sour, testy, distant. She'd attributed his mood to work. He'd wanted to be on George Bush's campaign trail, in the company of the sudden darling of the Republicans and his attendant court of megawatt reporters. Traipsing after McCain, Ron saw himself as nothing more than second string. She'd tried to soothe him, and he'd come around, at least a little.
But then she discovered the true source of his discontent. One night she picked up the phone to call her mother and stumbled on Ron speaking with a woman in an unmistakably amorous tone. Making plans. Her insides had grown watery. Their relationship suffered a blow. She'd been on the verge of calling it quits. If not for five-year-old Phoebe and their infant son, Jackson, she might have. No, she would have. She wouldn't suffer another betrayal. She'd made that clear. And Isabel was a woman of her word. Actions had consequences.
* * *
When Phoebe entered her Cleveland Park home, an elegant Victorian where she'd lived her entire short life, she could feel the void of human vibration. She hated coming home to an empty house. It depressed her. "Hagrid," she called out. "Where are you, kitty?" At least their housekeeper, Milly, had left the light on in the foyer.
She'd had a tough day. Shortly before lunch, her once best friend Jessie had hissed accusingly, "Your mother called the cops on my parents, do you know that?" Followed by: "Do you get what a b-i-t-c-h she is?" Phoebe had stared at her mutely. Had her mother done that? It was true on Saturday there'd been drinking at Jessie's party, but afterward Phoebe had been with her mother and she hadn't heard her make such a call. It would completely suck if she had. So embarrassing. Not to mention that her relationship with Jessie had been on the precipice of a thaw.
Phoebe switched on all the lights in her path – "Hagrid, here kitty, kitty!" – and stopped in the kitchen. If Milly had been home, she would have offered her some cookies and milk, and they could have had a chat. She loved their housekeeper Milly, her reassuring grandmotherly manner. But it was probably best that she not have cookies. No, cookies were the enemy. Had her mother been home, which she rarely was at this time of day, she'd probably have given her carrots.
Phoebe rummaged through the fridge, found a couple of plastic-wrapped cheese sticks, grabbed those along with a small bottle of carrot juice and trudged up to the third-floor, her heavy backpack weighing her down. As she ascended, one thought brightened her mood. At last she'd be able to talk to Shane. Well, sort of talk. On Facebook.
She'd finally be able to ask him the question that had plagued her since Saturday night. Why hadn't he shown up at Jessie's party? He'd promised, and she'd waited. And waited. Then, on Sunday, because she'd been caught drinking, she was denied use of her computer, her phone, basically all forms of communication, and she hadn't been able to contact him.
Now, at last, she'd discover what had happened, and even more importantly she'd remind him of her birthday party, only five days away. She and Skyla were turning 14 and they'd invited the entire ninth grade, plus Shane, who lived ... well, she didn't know exactly where he lived, but his handsome Facebook visage hovered in her mind. That mischievous dimpled smile that separated him from all the other boys she knew. Even Noah.
In her room, Phoebe flopped onto her bed, burrowing her back into a mad pile of pillows and favorite stuffed animals; she flipped on her computer, then logged onto Facebook. It had taken some doing, but her mother had finally agreed to let her invite Shane even though he went to Walter J High, a public school about twenty minutes away in Bethesda, and was only a Facebook friend. Phoebe knew she'd mostly agreed because there, at the party, her mother could oversee their encounter.
Still, excitement and relief descended on her at the thought that, finally, she'd meet the real live sophomore boy who'd picked her and friended her. Who said he really liked her and was "dying to hook up" with her. Whom she'd set her sights on after several weeks of private chats on Facebook. He was the single bright spot in an otherwise bleak Monday.
Her eyes darted to her private messages on the lower right-hand side of her Facebook page. Five awaited her. And, yes!, one from Shane.
Eyes affixed to the screen, she read, I don't want to see you. Ever. Her hopeful smile faded into a frown. Ever?
Phoebe read the message a second and third time. What was Shane talking about? Her stomach dipped. She checked for the little green dot that indicated he was available to chat, but it wasn't lit. She stared at his name in the right-hand column of her Home page and prayed he would log on. Her mouth felt dry. I don't want to see you. Ever. "Ever?" Why was he saying that? What had she done? And her birthday party only a few days away.
Phoebe's glance zigzagged across the room, her attic hideaway, landing first on her childhood saddle and riding gear, then on her Victorian dollhouse with the hidden box cutter, and, finally, on the wall to her right, where the lime green and purple bulletin board hung chock full of photos and memories. She'd pinned Shane's Facebook photo in the middle of all the other memorabilia. He had gorgeous wavy hair and green eyes that blazed with self-confidence.
The green dot popped on next to his name. Her fingers typed as fast as they could: Why are you saying that? You're joking, right?
She held her breath.
A tiny gasp escaped her lips. Shane, what are you talking about? Again, she waited.
Your mother called the police on Jessie's parents ... you tattled about the booze at the party. And then the Littletons got arrested.
I did not tattle, she thought briefly, but that was replaced by the bitter realization that Jessie may have been right: her mother had called the police. Had she? Panicked, Phoebe wrote: I didn't say anything to my mom, I swear.
So why'd she go inside the Littletons?
I don't know, I guess she was looking for me.
That's so lame.
Her thoughts swirled as she wrote. You weren't even at the party, so how do you know all that stuff?
No response. She waited, barely breathing, then his reply appeared. Don't you worry how I know. I just do.
She was hardly paying attention to these strange words; she could only think how much she wanted to see him, talk to him, get him to kiss her, to understand this was all a terrible mistake. What should she say? Finally, she wrote: Why didn't you come to Jessie's? You promised.
I didn't because I heard you've been messing around with Dylan.
What? Who told you that?
Instead of private messages, his response now appeared on her Facebook Wall, where everyone could see what he was saying: I don't tell on my friends.
She wrote back a private message: It has to be Jessie, but if it is, she's lying.
Again he posted his message on her Wall: You're calling Jessie a liar?
And now, to defend herself, Phoebe switched to making her responses public too: No, I meant if she said that about me, she's not telling the truth. Why don't you believe me?
Again, several moments passed before an answer appeared: I don't trust you. I heard you said Jessie was fat and no boy wants her, especially Dylan. That's bitchy. Nobody likes bitchy girls.
Tears sprang to Phoebe's eyes. Why was he making things up? That's not true, she wrote. I never said that!! Please let's talk. On the phone? In the four weeks they'd been communicating, she'd never heard his voice. All their exchanges had happened right here, on Facebook. He'd suggested that hearing the sound of one another's voices would be a wonderful surprise when they finally met. And to save it for that special day.
But then this from Shane: I get it, your mom hates Mrs. Littleton, so you hate Jessie.
She stared at the words. That's sooo not true. I swear, she wrote. Though in fact she knew her mother didn't care for Jessie, and probably not Mrs. Littleton either. This was happening because of her mother. All because of her mother. She glanced at the dollhouse. Through the blur of tears, she saw Shane's green dot disappear.
Her gaze fixed on his name. If only she had his cell number. She began rubbing her arms, her fingers absently running over scars and recently healed wounds. "No, no," she muttered softly. She typed a private message: Shane, please believe me. I didn't say anything. Whoever told you I did was lying.
She waited for him to respond, her breath catching. Her eyes flicked to the box cutter's hiding place and lingered there for several moments before returning to Shane's photo. He was the cutest boy who'd ever friended her, and a year and a half older than she. His dimpled smile grinned at her from the bulletin board. He looked amazingly like the guy in Twilight, though without the ghostly pallor. Why didn't he believe her? Why would he believe Jessie? Had someone else said something? Yet, who could that be? Skyla? How could things get so messed up? Phoebe saw her dream of Shane as her boyfriend slip away.
Why had her mother called the police on Saturday night? This was all her fault. About to retrieve the blade from the dollhouse, she snatched her cell phone instead and angrily tapped her mother's number.
* * *
Isabel's iPhone released its symphonic chime. Without taking her eyes off the road, she grabbed the phone. "Hello?"
A frantic voice shouted into her ear: "Mawm, you've ruined everything! You called the police on the Littletons! How could you? Now Shane thinks I lied and he won't see me. Ever!"
Phoebe's attack caught her by surprise. "Calm down. What are you talking about?" Isabel said, although her daughter was right. She had called the police. She'd felt duty-bound. Irresponsible parents feeding young teens alcohol! But how had this ridiculous Shane found out?
Phoebe's response came in the form of loud panicked sobs.
"Phoebe? Sweetheart, talk to me." Isabel kept her voice even despite the sudden onslaught of guilt. "Exactly what did he say?"
Between sniffles, she managed, "That he couldn't trust me because obviously I must have told you about the drinking. And you know that's not true! And then he claimed that I said Jessie's fat and no boy would ever like her."
"Did you? No, I mean –" Isabel cast around for the appropriate thing to say. "Phoebe, darling, are you there? I know you wouldn't say that. Where did he get such an idea?"
"Mom, what difference does it make? I like him and now he says he won't see me! Not at my birthday party! Not ever!"
Isabel recognized the panic in Phoebe's voice. For the past year, she'd been flying into emotional overdrive at the drop of a hat, but she was also sensitive, overly sensitive. For an instant, Isabel saw the wounds on her daughter's arms, self-inflicted cuts that made her want to cry. The whole thing actually did sound like a mess. But how had it happened? This guy was only a Facebook friend. "Honey, I'll be home in ten minutes. I'll make you some hot chocolate and we'll sort this out. Okay?" She knew it might take her as long as half an hour, but she'd get there and calm her daughter down.
Why wasn't Ron home yet, she suddenly wondered. He'd be there shortly, she reassured herself, unless some assignment had delayed him. She'd call him.
"This is horrible," Phoebe moaned.
"It's going to be all right," Isabel said soothingly. "Just get off Facebook, okay?"
Once home, she'd explain the truth to Phoebe. She would explain how sometimes you have to make difficult choices, stand up for your beliefs, and that you can't worry about what other people think. Is that what she'd tell her? And then there was this mysterious Shane character; she'd been wary about him, apparently for good reason. Who was he to treat her daughter this way? Maybe now, for once, Ron would listen to her. That's when she remembered he hadn't called her all day.
She waited for Phoebe to say something, but there was silence on the other end. "Phoebe, honey, talk to me." She had to keep her on the phone. Then she heard her weeping miserably. "Phoebe, sweetheart, I'm sure he'll see you. It's just a misunderstanding." The sounds of distress suddenly grew distant then stopped.
She glanced at the phone and saw that Phoebe had disconnected the call.
The latticework of cuts on the inside of Phoebe's pale arm, and many more on her thigh, swirled into Isabel's mind as she finally reached 22nd Street and sped north, aiming for the entrance to Rock Creek Parkway near Dupont Circle. She had to get home, but traffic in the nation's capital – oh hell, the light was turning red. She stepped on the gas.
Seconds later, a siren wailed behind her.
The furious lights of a police car blinked in Isabel's rearview mirror. "Oh, God, not now." She looked for a place to stop on the one-way street, hoping the siren was intended for someone else.
But the vehicle stopped behind her. "Damn it," Isabel moaned. In her side mirror, she watched the policeman's eyes sweep the length of her new convertible BMW, probably making a judgment about her. He sauntered up to the window in that idiotic, languid way some cops have of showing off their authority. If ever she needed to exhibit self-control, now was that time.(Continues…)
Excerpted from "Saving Phoebe Murrow"
Copyright © 2016 Herta Feely.
Excerpted by permission of Upper Hand 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.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Saving Phoebe Murrow is an interesting look into the world inhabited by the children of the 21st century. They face a much different playing field than we every dreamed of, back in our day. I liked the politics that play under the main focus of our story, and the playground of the D. C. area where the action takes place. Cyber bullying plays a very strong roll, and is handled well as is self-harm and the whole aspect of of life in the 21st century. This was at times difficult to read, but it is life as it happens to some. I would rather not think about it at all, but if I must this was a realistic introduction to the pressures of childhood today. And I loved the cover. Butterflies, too, are so easily damaged. I received a free electronic copy of this novel in exchange for an honest review. Thank you, for sharing your hard work with me.
Reviewed by Anne-Marie Reynolds for Readers' Favorite Saving Phoebe Murrow by Herta Feely is a modern tale of the struggle between parent and child. DC lawyer Isabel is trying her best to protect her daughter, keep her safe, but things go awry when Phoebe meets Shane on Facebook. Shane is a stranger, but that doesn’t stop Phoebe from flirting, treading in dangerous waters. Then Phoebe becomes the victim of a cyber-bullying event, one that pushes her over the edge with terrifying consequences. Isabel will find out who did this to her daughter and she will have justice, no matter what it takes. Protecting her daughter is all that matters and Isabel will do everything in her power to save Phoebe Murrow. Saving Phoebe Murrow by Herta Feely is a story that is close to many people’s hearts. There are parents the world over who would do anything to protect their children from harm but, these days, the harm is often invisible or online. This was a compelling read with a gripping story line that kept me reading right to the end. The character development was done so well that it was impossible not to fall into their lives, to feel as though I were living their stories alongside them. These are characters that so many mothers, daughter, fathers, and sons will be able to identify with. This is a dramatic story, as close to real life as a fictional book can get without being classed as a non-fictional true account, and it is also incredibly thought provoking. This is the kind of book that should be included in school reading as it something that has the potential to affect every school-age child. Great book, I really enjoyed it.
WOW, what a mind blowing book. This is a must read for parents in this era where computers consume our lives. I loved the author's descriptive writing and all the incredible twists and turns you never see coming. It is an astonishing realistic portrayal of CRAZY parents and how detrimental cyber bullying is to a teenager. When I was young we did not have the internet so all bullying basically happened at school. Therefore, the bullying did not follow us home or spread like wildfire to all your peers at one time. First, we have Isabel, who puts her work as a high falutin’ lawyer and social status before her daughter Phoebe, who is just trying to fit in her freshman year. Isabel judges whom Phoebe can be friends with by the social status and sophistication of the girlfriend's mother not by the actual girl herself. Isabel makes rash decisions, not considering the consequences of how it will affect Phoebe mentally or her life at school. Phoebe has been a responsible teenager yet is easily deceived by a monstrous person lurking in cyberspace. Teenagers can be bitterly cruel not understanding that what they type on a screen can afflict just as much pain as if they say it to a person's face. Therefore, when a teenage girl's computer screen lights up with terrible insults what does she do to take the pain away? Second, there is Sandy, who married up in life, having zero couth and does not fit in socially with the other mothers especially Isabel. Sandy's daughter Jessie is one of Phoebe's close friends until Isabel has had enough of Sandy's lax attitude to parenting. Such as letting minors drink under her supervision, giving Jessie birth control informing her daughter “more than anything boys want to have sex and she should have fun” and that is just the tip of the iceberg concerning Sandy and her scandalous behavior. As the two girls try their hardest to be normal teenagers the mothers in their life are ripping it apart. The book incorporates ghastly parenting from two different ends of the spectrum. One end is completely crazy, the other you will have to read the book to find out. Do yourself a favor and get yourself a copy today.