The Book of Silver Linings

The Book of Silver Linings

by Nan Fischer
The Book of Silver Linings

The Book of Silver Linings

by Nan Fischer


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Within the margins of an antique book, a timeless love waits for a young woman on the precipice of a terrible mistake in this enthralling new novel from the acclaimed author of Some of It Was Real.
Constance Sparks always says yes…when her capricious best friend needs money; when her boss gives her more responsibility without a raise; and when her boyfriend, Hayden, who is very kind but also secretive, asks her to marry him.

While planning their wedding—and struggling with anxiety about the right course for her future—Constance researches the history of her antique engagement ring and unearths the name of a man who might be connected to it, plus his tragic love story. When she finds a book of letters in her library’s old manuscript section written by the long-dead man, Constance is deeply touched by his words and leaves a note for him confessing her uncertainty and doubts. She’s shocked days later to find a response tucked among the pages.

As the notes continue to arrive, Constance finds herself quickly falling in love with a ghost and putting her real-life relationship in jeopardy. Will a bond based on letters impossibly sent from the past derail her future? Or will Constance discover her voice and risk everything for the chance to somehow connect with her true soul mate?

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780593438718
Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date: 08/15/2023
Pages: 384
Sales rank: 151,450
Product dimensions: 5.15(w) x 7.95(h) x 0.80(d)

About the Author

Nan Fischer is a two-time Oregon Book Award finalist for her novels, When Elephants Fly and The Speed of Falling Objects. Additional author credits include coauthored sport autobiographies for elite athletes, and a Star Wars trilogy for Lucasfilm. She lives in the Pacific Northwest with her husband and their vizsla, Boone.

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

Yoga speed dating? You can't be serious!" I hold out the bright red flyer, awaiting my best friend's reaction. Now I understand why Mars told me to dress casually. She was too smart to suggest yoga clothes-those that can stretch do. I can't and don't and prefer adrenaline sports who do not require an instructor or navel-gazing.

Mars takes the flyer back then tugs me down the sidewalk. "Remind me again, when was your last date?"

I've been on two dates in the past six months. On the first, my date asked the waitress out when he went to the bathroom. The second guy took me to a strip club so I could make it rain dollar bills for the scantily clad performers. I hop over a crack in the pavement. "Fine. I'll go."

"Of course you will," Mars says and bumps my shoulder. "You never say no to any of my ideas."

We pass an unhoused man camped out in the doorway of a closed Gap. A mutt in a blue rain jacket, his face sugared with gray, lies beside him. I dig into my backpack for the plastic bags I always carry and hand the man one. Inside there's a granola bar, a travel-sized toothbrush and toothpaste, a pair of wool socks, and a grain-free dog biscuit.

"Bless you," the man says while his dog happily munches the treat.

"Seriously? You've added socks?" Mars mutters once we're well past the two of them.

She doesn't begrudge the guy socks. She's just concerned because I live on a tight budget. I glance back. The man has wrapped a sleeping bag around his dog to keep him warm. We get frequent visits from the unhoused at the animal shelter where I volunteer. Most of the time, they take better care of their dogs than themselves. Unconditional love is priceless, something I witness often when our animals find their forever home.

"Watch out!" I drag my best friend around a ladder set beneath a sign for Chestnut Street Doughnuts.

"What do you actually think would happen to us if we walked under it?" she asks.

Mars has always been the voice of reason in my life. "In the old days people believed you'd face death by hanging." I can't help but share the historical origins of the superstition with her. "But my mother thought that the spirits of people were trapped in the triangle beneath the ladder. Walking under it is like asking them to haunt you."

Mars snorts. "And you believe in haunting?"

I giggle. "Maybe."

"Good to know." Mars drags me forward. "Almost there."

"I seriously doubt my perfect match will be at yoga speed dating," I say under my breath.

"I'm sure there will be some old shoes in the studio."

Mars knows I'm looking for comfort and durability in a relationship, like a perfectly worn-in pair of sneakers. While she's game for stilettos, sparkly cowboy boots, flip-flops, even ten-inch platforms.

"If you're not up for it, you could go hang out at the shelter you love so much, all alone with your unwanted fur-balls," Mars adds.

"They're not unwanted! They just haven't found their forever home. Yet. But point taken-we're doing this."

"Look on the bright side," she says with a cheeky grin, "men in yoga clothes leave little to the imagination."

"Oh. Lovely."

"Remind me again why we're best friends?" Mars teases.

But she knows the answer. Destiny. We met the first day of freshman year at San Francisco State when I walked into a generic dorm room and saw a striking girl with high cheekbones, wild brown curls, and a smiley face T-shirt seated on a red plastic suitcase . . .

"Are you Martha?" I asked.

"I've changed it to Mars. What should we change your name to?"

"It's just Constance. Why would you change your name?"

Mars gave me the hard blink that always punctuates her irreversible decisions, then said, "I know what being Martha is like-a mom who's on her fourth husband and weekends working at the bowling alley spraying disinfectant in smelly shoes. I have no idea what life as Mars will be, but I plan to make it epic." She held up a box of pink hair dye. "Join me?"

I set down my duffel. "Sorry, I've got to run. I'm on scholarship and they're handing out jobs. I want to make sure mine doesn't interfere with the classes I've already chosen."

"Well, just Constance, I'm on scholarship, too, though I haven't considered my schedule yet. What're you studying?"

"Biology. I've lined up a job for the next three summers at an animal hospital. After graduation, I'll spend a year in research then apply to veterinary school."

"Any room for fun in that plan?"

I knew she was teasing me and blushed. "Sure. If there's time."

Mars winked. "There's always time. I'm a chemistry major. You're looking at a future plastic surgeon. But my plan is to balance studying with tons of good times. You only live once."

That night I let her dye one lock of my dark blond hair bright pink while I organized our small closet, but kept my name. We became best friends despite her kicking me out to sleep in the lounge a few times a month so she could have privacy with a momentary crush. I'd never had a close friend before, mostly kept on the periphery of the cliques in high school for fear of being judged, and Mars's steadfast loyalty was a revelation that resulted in a deep trust between us.

In the end we both ditched our professional dreams to play the hand we were dealt but remained best friends despite the fact that she's a firefly everyone wants to catch so they can bask in her light and I'm more of your everyday moth.

Mars, her hair now a shade of purple that complements her light gray eyes, leads me inside the yoga studio, a spare space with white walls and a gleaming wood floor dotted with red yoga mats. Despite the yoga part, a trill of excitement rolls through me. Mars has always pushed me out of my comfort zone. And if my best friend wants my company, I'll do pretty much anything for her even if I'm not suited for it . . . like the time Mars made me sign up for hip-hop class for the physical exercise credits we needed freshman year of college. I couldn't find a beat if it hit me over the head and was mortified for an entire semester but also had never laughed harder.

Five minutes later twenty-six barefoot women stand in a line on the wooden floor facing twenty-six men while our "guide," a lady with long gray hair in a crimson and gold maxidress, walks between the rows and explains how yoga speed dating works.

"Hello, my name is Sara and I'm here to help all of you open yourselves up to new experiences and connections. You're here because swiping based on first impressions and meaningless hookups has left you empty, yearning for deeper bonds."

I glance at Mars and she wrinkles her nose.

"We'll start with a yoga warm-up. Then you'll be given a series of exercises to do with a partner, each lasting five minutes," Sara says. "When I ring this bell, it's time to move down the line to the next person. Each of you has a one-letter name tag and a piece of paper. If you like your interaction and want to know more about your partner, write down their letter. I'll compile your lists at the end of the night and if there are any matches you'll be connected via email."

Sara holds her hands up in a prayer pose. "For your own sake, the next time you meet build upon your initial connection in a meaningful way, open up your soul, and share your life force, your heart energy. Make something beautiful together."

I whisper to Mars, "My heart energy wants to run for the door."

Sara stops in front of me. "Tonight you're being asked to shed the skin that hasn't worked for you; to expose your true self. Are you up for the challenge?"

Her eyes are so earnest I want to support her. "Sure."

"What's the number one thing you want out of a relationship?" Sara asks me.

That's easy. "Someone who stays."

"And you?" Sara asks Mars.

My best friend grins. "I also want someone who stays . . . at least for the night." The room erupts with nervous laughter and Mars now has all of the men's undivided attention, which she already had the minute she walked through the door because she's tall, striking, and wears a crop top and leggings that showcase all her curves while I'm barely five-two and sport a T-shirt with a red dog on the front pocket and leggings that have lost most of their elastic. An old boyfriend told me that I look like the actress Michelle Williams but with none of her style. I have more of a "vintage" (meaning thrift store) vibe, favor clothes with flowers or animals on them, and usually wear my wavy dark blond hair swept into a ponytail despite Mars's best efforts to give me a more put-together look.

After a handful of Down Dogs, Warrior, Baby, and Tree poses, Sara rings her silver bell. "Let's begin," she says. "Remember, you are free to say no to any exercise that makes you uncomfortable, but I encourage everyone to give it a try. Your first challenge is to take a step toward the person across from you, place one hand on their chest, and gaze into their eyes. Let your mind open like a flower and drink in their sunlight . . ."

I stand for five minutes with my hand over the heart of a shirtless man with the letter B stuck to a chest matted with black hair that climbs from his belt, covers his shoulders, and carpets his back. Meanwhile, his own hand is sweaty and partially soaks my T-shirt. We look into each other's eyes for what feels like an eternity. When the bell rings, I don't write down the letter B nor does he scribble down the N stuck to my T-shirt.

The next guy, D, and I are supposed to tell each other our biggest secret. I stick with something safe-"I wish my career had gone in a different direction."

D smiles, revealing a mouthful of crowded teeth that match his sallow skin tone. "I wish I was a vampire."

I can hear Mars and her current partner laughing, and the room is filled with the gentle buzz of people getting to know each other. I notice several people writing down initials on their pad. Squelching my discomfort, I ask, "So what attracted you to being a vampire?"

"Mostly the sunlight thing, but also the biting," D shares.

When the bell rings I'm relieved to escape without a puncture wound and then incredibly uncomfortable when I have to hug Z for a full five minutes while listing all the things I love.

I start. "I love spending time with animals."

Z pulls me in tighter. "I love human contact."

Mars is right. Yoga pants leave little to the imagination.

When the bell dings, I can't get away fast enough while I notice Mars is still locked in a hug and only moves on at Sara's request. She blows me a kiss, clearly in her element.

I go through an exercise mirroring my partner's movements, then hold hands with another to share our energy. K's hands are freezing and mine are clammy so there's that. Plus, he smells overwhelmingly of patchouli, an earthy scent that makes me sneeze repeatedly.

When I'm partnered with C, we're asked to share our first jobs and what we loved about that experience while balancing on one foot and supporting each other if we wobble.

"I was a lifeguard and I loved working on my tan and hanging with girls in swimsuits," C says with a wink.

"I worked for a telemarketing company making phone calls." What I loved was the anonymity but instead I say, "I liked connecting with people."

"Didn't they curse you out sometimes?" C asks.

I laugh, wobble, and he grabs my arm. "Definitely, but there were also the old folks who just wanted someone to talk to and it was cool to make their day a little less lonely." C doesn't write my name down when the bell rings.

When I'm asked three guys later to release what I've been holding back while my partner intones "and it is so," I release work stress, worry about the dogs and cats who have been at the shelter over a year, concern over my grandfather's health, and the fear that I might never meet the right guy because if past choices predict future success I'm in trouble.

My partner, P, releases his fear that he won't get a promotion, that his brother's leukemia might return, and that women won't want a guy who's bald. Instead of intoning Sara's and it is so I tell him that Jean-Luc Picard is one of the sexiest men in the world. But P has never heard of the Star Trek captain and dislikes science fiction. Before that, I'd considered writing down his letter. But I draw the line at a guy who doesn't appreciate the starship USS Enterprise.

Three men later I'm instructed to list all my deepest wounds. I opt out of that one and notice Mars does, too. There's actually a lot of reasons we're best friends. One of the biggest is that we don't see a point in dredging up trauma from the past. I can't help but notice that only a few of my partners have written down my initial while I've written several of theirs down, mostly because I don't want to hurt their feelings.

When I sit across from X, we're told to massage each other's feet. Neither of us seems comfortable so I suggest we just talk. His name is Ryan and his tight black T-shirt reveals a tattoo sleeve down one arm. He's in ripped jeans so my guess is that yoga isn't his thing, either. "Did you get dragged here by a friend, too?" I ask.

Ryan laughs and points at a guy at the end of the line. "I'm playing wingman for my brother over there-letter Q. So why'd you agree to come?"

After an hour of discomfort, I'm too tired to scrounge for a witty or flirty response. "My best friend's idea, but the truth is I'm tired of dating and I'd like to find my person."

"You said to our guide you're looking for someone who stays?"

My cheeks grow warm. "I guess that doesn't sound very romantic."

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