Mary McDonough welcomes readers back to the small town of Oliver’s Well, Virginia, in a story of holiday and homecoming, as three siblings gather for a Christmas that brings unexpected gifts.
Even in a town as picturesque and rich in history as Oliver’s Well there’s something special about the Reynolds house on Honeysuckle Lane. Sturdy yet graceful, well-proportioned outside and within, it’s where Andie, Emma, and Daniel Reynolds grew up—before they began to grow apart.
For Danny, this first reunion since their mother’s death is a chance for him and his sisters to relive cherished holiday traditions—attending the church concert, lighting the town tree—before finally settling their parents’ estate. But readying the house for sale proves no easy task when every piece of furniture and every moment together stirs up the past.
Andie, the oldest sibling, didn’t just leave home years ago, she left her young daughter too. Though she’s found fulfillment and fame as a self-help author, coming back shakes her equilibrium. How can she presume to guide others if she can’t be honest with those closest to her, much less herself? Middle child Emma struck out on her own instead of accepting her father’s offer to share his business. Yet now she finds herself drawn back to her town’s quiet rhythms and routines, wondering if it’s possible to start over.
The house on Honeysuckle Lane contains a lifetime’s worth of joys and dreams, and its share of regrets too. This Christmas, it will be the place where Andie, Emma, and Danny come together to remember, laugh, fight, plan—and find their way forward as a family once more.
“A warm, heartfelt novel about what it means to belong to a family. You won't want to put it down.” --Mary Alice Monroe, New York Times bestselling author of A Lowcountry Wedding
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The House on Honeysuckle Lane
By MARY McDONOUGH
KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP.Copyright © 2016 Mary McDonough
All rights reserved.
It was an easy drive from Emma's home in Annapolis to Oliver's Well. Emma enjoyed driving and took meticulous care of her car, a 2015 Lexus RX 350 in deep sea mica with a light gray interior. It had only recently been to the mechanic for a checkup; Ollie had been servicing Emma's cars for close to eight years and swore that not one of his clients had ever taken better care of her vehicle.
Emma Reynolds had turned forty-two in April. Her once bright blond hair had darkened in the past few years, and now there were natural streaks of white and silver threaded throughout. She glanced in the mirror over the dashboard and smiled. Her hair stylist had told her that plenty of women paid for the effect that in Emma's case had taken place all on its own.
Emma suppressed a yawn and sat up straighter. It wouldn't do to fall asleep behind the wheel. Still, she thought, opening her window and the moon roof to let the fresh late December air flow through the car, a nap once she arrived at number 32 Honeysuckle Lane would probably be a good idea. She had been at the office until ten the night before, and two nights before that she had been at her desk until almost midnight. Emma was proud of her career as a personal financial advisor and money manager, but time had stripped the bloom off the rose and there were days when she found it a serious chore to get out of bed, shower and dress, and leave her condo on Franklin Street, knowing what was in store for her once she got to her office near the corner of West Street and Church Circle.
A quick glance at her iPhone in its charger revealed that Ian had sent her a text. It would have to wait. For one, she didn't make it a habit of using her phone while driving. For another, Ian Hayes was no longer a priority. Just the day before, she had finally ended their relationship. It had not gone well. She had gotten the feeling that Ian hadn't really heard her. He hadn't shown any anger or even puzzlement; he hadn't tried to argue her out of her decision. Instead, he had been remarkably calm and collected. She had seen that behavior countless times before, his escaping (that's how Emma saw it) into a deeply reasonable state of mind, almost emotionless but not cold.
With some effort Emma shook off the uncomfortable memory. She had more important and immediate things to think about, like what was waiting for her in Oliver's Well. She felt slightly apprehensive about this gathering of siblings. She didn't foresee any arguing over the sale or distribution of what was left of their parents' estate; none of the siblings badly needed money. But Daniel had been so adamant about their all being together for this Christmas, as if their coming together was of life or death importance. Maybe that was overdoing it a bit. Still, her brother had made it clear he would not be happy taking no for an answer.
Not that Emma would have said no. She loved her brother and his family and hadn't seen them since Rumi's birthday back in June. And she hadn't seen Andie since Caro's funeral fourteen months ago; Andie had been on an extended book signing tour at the time of Rumi's celebration. Emma and her sister kept in touch as best they could. Though Andie had a presence online, it was for her professional self, not for sharing intimacies with her younger sister. And Andie frequently traveled to places where cell phone service was spotty or simply not available. Besides, the last thing Emma wanted was to interrupt a visit to an ashram for study and meditation with relatively trivial concerns like the latest antics of the annoying president of her condo board.
If Emma remembered correctly she would soon be passing Holinshed Nursery; it was where her mother had bought most of her garden supplies through the years. Caro had kept a lovely garden, and Emma knew that Daniel had been doing his best to care for it since her passing, though he hadn't much time to spare for watering, pruning, and planting.
Time. Emma found it hard to believe that her mother had been gone for over a year. Last Thanksgiving she and Ian had stayed in Annapolis rather than travel to Oliver's Well; they had been back only the month before to attend Caro's funeral. And Christmas, too, they had spent at home, and while Emma sipped a classic whiskey sour and nibbled on spicy roasted almonds, she had given barely a thought to either of her parents. Thinking back on those two holidays, Emma realized the fact that her mother was no longer in this world hadn't entirely registered with her until now. Now, in these final weeks before the second Christmas since Caro's death, Emma felt her mother's absence keenly. That they hadn't been close for years didn't diminish the fact that they had been mother and daughter, and that primary relationship could never be ignored.
It was odd, Emma thought, how something small or mundane could trigger a wave of strong emotion and nostalgia. Just the other day she had been walking along a street close to her home, and the sight of a Christmas wreath decorated with a velvety blue ribbon on a storefront had literally stopped her in her tracks. Her mother had decorated her Christmas wreaths with the same velvety blue ribbon. It was a moment before Emma could move on, tears in her eyes.
While Andie was probably expertly handling her mourning — she had the skills and the training to do so — Emma wasn't quite so sure about Daniel. If his adamant invitation that his sisters gather for Christmas was any indication of his emotional state, he might still be feeling pretty raw. In fact, when she had last seen Daniel, at Rumi's twentieth birthday celebration at the Angry Squire, he had seemed tense. Even Ian had noticed the change. Ian had gone to the party with Emma, of course. He had always enjoyed visiting the Reynoldses in Oliver's Well, and they had always enjoyed being with him.
Emma closed her window and wondered how her brother and his wife would take the news of the demise of her relationship. Anna Maria would be supportive, and while Daniel wouldn't want to see his sister stick around in an unfulfilling relationship, he could be awfully ... What was the word? Old-fashioned? Whatever the word, the fact was that Daniel had married his first and only love and sometimes seemed to have difficulty understanding that not everyone was quite so lucky.
And Andie? Well, she would respond with her native gifts of sympathy and empathy. Emma deeply admired her sister; she believed that Andie deserved what success she had achieved as a writer and speaker, not that fame or money mattered to Andie Reynolds. She had always been of a self-effacing and generous nature, even as a child. Emma remembered Andie routinely giving half her lunch money to a boy whose family was known to be struggling, and she never failed to rush to the aid of an older person having trouble reaching a can from a high shelf in the grocery store or to open doors for mothers juggling a stroller laden with diaper bags, plush toys, and an antsy toddler. Emma smiled to herself. Her sister simply couldn't help helping people.
Happily, Emma saw some of that generous nature in Andie's daughter, Rumi, who from the first had been very loving with her younger cousins. Sophia was a sweetheart; at twelve she was already taller than her mother. Marco, a charmer and now ten, looked to have inherited his mother's small stature, but you never knew what changes adolescence might bring.
Emma smiled. There, up ahead, just past Holinshed Nursery, was the town line. Oliver's Well at last. Emma needed a big dose of small town charm after the year she'd had; she had been too swamped with work even to take a brief vacation. And the breakup with Ian, and before that, the long and difficult process of coming to terms with the fact that the break had to be made had taken its toll.
Instead of going directly to the house on Honeysuckle Lane, Emma decided to make a detour and visit one of her favorite places in Oliver's Well, an old gristmill. Nettles Mill had been beautifully restored by the Oliver's Well Historical Association, but back when she was young the buildings were still largely dilapidated. Emma used to ride her bicycle to the site, prop it against the remains of an old stone wall, and explore the property, losing herself in thoughts of what life must have been like for the people who had operated the huge stone grinding mechanism and who had lived in a few rough rooms attached to the mill building. Caro would have forbidden Emma to visit the old mill on her own; knowing this, Emma simply never told her mother where she was going.
Emma pulled her car into the visitors' parking lot and climbed out. A volunteer member of the OWHA, bright red Santa hat on her head, was leading a group of visitors out of one building and toward a structure Emma remembered from her childhood as a pile of rubble. As she stood gazing up at the water wheel by the building that housed the original millstones, she thought about the last time all three Reynolds siblings had gathered for Christmas, five years earlier. Ian had danced attendance on Caro for the two days of their visit, and had spent far more time with Daniel than Emma had. At least I had time to talk with Dad, Emma thought. And even if their conversation had been mostly about business, at least it was conversation.
Emma felt an involuntary shiver run through her. That was all ancient history. Her mother and father were gone now. The slate was wiped clean. Strange that she would see their passing as events that finally allowed for a fresh start, but that was how it felt to Emma, like a release of sorts. In fact, since shortly after Caro's death Emma had been feeling a stirring inside, a yearning for some essential change in her life. And she had been experiencing an emptiness that bothered her, a longing.
A longing for home? But what did that mean? Was home really an ideal to achieve, or was it only a place to which you could return for short periods of time before your heart told you to move on? A longing for love? That's why she had finally ended the relationship with Ian. It hadn't been love, not the kind that could sustain and nourish a marriage over the years.
Emma sighed and looked at her watch. With a silent good-bye to Nettles Mill, she got back into her car and continued on to the house on Honeysuckle Lane where, she knew, her brother would be anxiously awaiting her arrival.CHAPTER 2
Andie Reynolds had picked up a rental car at Dulles airport for the final leg of her journey to Oliver's Well. Andie didn't enjoy driving. In fact, she had delayed getting her license until she was nineteen, in spite of living in a town with no public transportation. She had been perfectly happy until her father sat her down and explained that getting a driver's license was an important milestone for every young person to achieve. "Andie," he had said, "you've let it go too long already." So, obliging person that she was, she had gotten her license. And she was a good driver, careful, attentive, and when necessary defensive. She just didn't enjoy being behind the wheel.
Andie, born Andrea Jane, was forty-four years old. She had always been "a bit on the heavy side" — those were her mother's words — built more like her father than her siblings were, both of whom tended to be tall and slim like Caro Reynolds. Her hair was dark and unruly, also like Cliff's, and rather than struggle with blow dryers and straightening products, she simply tied it back in a ponytail or stuck it up with a big plastic clip. What jewelry she wore had meaning for her — a beaded necklace given to her by an elderly woman she had befriended on her first trip to Mexico, a silver cuff she had bought from a street vendor in India, the tiny gold and moonstone ring she had found half buried in the dirt close by the rim of the Grand Canyon. As for her clothes, Andie liked them to be colorful and, above all, comfortable. There were far more important things to be concerned with than tight waistbands and restricting tops.
Andie glanced down at her paisley ankle length skirt and pink and purple striped top and couldn't help but smile. No, her mother, always impeccably and conservatively dressed, would find her daughter's outfit sloppy and bohemian and she would say as much. But Caro Carlyle Reynolds was no longer here to approve or disapprove of her children, and that, Andie had realized with surprise, was still taking some getting used to. Just before she had left her home in Woodville Junction Andie had spent a fair amount of time meditating on the fact of her mother's death and wondering about the answer to an important question she had never ventured to ask. Had her mother feared death or had she welcomed it? In her ill and weakened state had she longed for this life to be over and for whatever was to come to come quickly? "Without health life is not life; it is only a state of languor and suffering — an image of death." Had Caro Reynolds agreed with the Buddha on this matter?
"Welcome to Oliver's Well," Andie read aloud. "Founded 1632." Not far up the first turn off to the right was the Unitarian Universalist Church, where she had married Bob Dolman when she was just out of college. Andie was looking forward to seeing Bob; she thought they might be the only divorced couple in the country to consider each other dearest friends.
Still, Andie felt her stomach flutter with the proverbial butterflies. No matter how much time had passed and how much serenity she had achieved, going home to Oliver's Well always caused a degree of unease. She wondered how Emma felt when she visited. Was she, too, haunted by the ghosts? Daniel was the only Reynolds sibling who had chosen to make a life in Oliver's Well, and from what Andie could tell, he had chosen wisely for himself. If he was troubled by the past and its habit of lingering in the present, he hadn't shared that trouble with his oldest sister. We three siblings are so different in some ways, Andie thought. United by DNA, but at times, not much more.
There, Andie noted, coming up on the left was the rambling old house in which Dr. Burton had lived and practiced family medicine until well into his eighties. Andie remembered as if it were yesterday the big jar of hard candies and lollipops on his desk. And she remembered how she had loved old Dr. Burton as if he were her grandfather. Who knew who occupied the house now? So much change, Andie thought as the house receded into the distance. So much we need to learn how to let go of.
The last time Andie had been back to Oliver's Well was for her mother's funeral. The compelling reason for this visit was her brother's insistence on the whole family being together for Christmas. The butterflies took flight again in Andie's stomach, a manifestation of her well-honed instinct for unhappiness, her own or someone else's. She almost smiled as she wondered what people would think if they knew that Andie Reynolds — she had reverted to her birth name after her divorce — self-help author /speaker/respected guru and lifestyle coach (call her what you will), was momentarily overcome with good old-fashioned fear.
"Just as a snake sheds its skin, we must shed our past over and over again." Andie firmly believed this process of shedding was necessary; problem was that too often the past dug in its claws and refused to be thrown off without almost superhuman effort. And here was a good example, Andie thought. Six months earlier she had missed Rumi's twentieth birthday celebration due to a long-standing commitment to her publisher. Since then she had sensed from Rumi a slight coldness. Well, maybe coldness was too strong a word. It might be more accurate to say that the usual easy way they had with one another seemed a bit forced; instead of being her warm and bubbly self, Rumi seemed reserved. Hopefully, coming face to face would allow them to regain their happy intimacy. Andie knew she wasn't the most conventional mother in the world; she also knew that she truly loved her child.
"Here we are," Andie murmured as she turned onto Honeysuckle Lane. She had spent most of the first twenty some odd years of her life on this street. It was all so terribly familiar. There was the Burrowses' house on the left, a thorn in the side of the more "respectable" homeowners, who didn't approve of the family's lackadaisical ways or their less than diligent upkeep of house and property. And then, a bit further on and across the way, was the perfectly kept home of the Fitzgibbon family, well-known and respected in Oliver's Well, and once, friends of a sort to Cliff and Caro Reynolds.
Excerpted from The House on Honeysuckle Lane by MARY McDONOUGH. Copyright © 2016 Mary McDonough. Excerpted by permission of KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP..
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
The three Reynolds siblings had grown apart after their mother’s death, or perhaps that highlighted the divide that started years earlier. This will be the last chance for them to revisit old holiday traditions, as they are readying the house for sale during this season. Andie, Emma and Danny haven’t been under the same roof in years, and the added emotions aren’t making it easier. Andie went off years ago and found her place as a successful self-help author. But she’s wondering if perhaps, a change of pace to actually find her own path would be better than struggling with a secret and all of her own shames. A marriage and child when she was very young resulted in her leaving husband and child – wholly unhappy to find her own life. For Emma, she decided to strike out on her own, finding success in her career but the end of a long relationship also had her rethinking life. Danny, the youngest, is reverting to his childish ways – temper tantrums and steadfast refusal to accept change. To hear him tell it – he’s had it the hardest with all of the changes. Grief affects everyone in different ways, and losses tend to make people reevaluate their lives and the paths they are on. McDonough shows us everyone’s struggle with the emotions, memories and interactions: learning to see one another as adults and not get lost in patterns of childhood. While not a fast-paced story by any means, the interactions, dialogue, interior thoughts and attempts to reform the holidays with a key element missing are clearly detailed and lovely to read. One of those holiday reads that will strike most with those who have come through the first holiday without that special loved one, and showing the potential of healing, hope for the future, and life moving forward after times of great change. I received an eArc copy of the title from the publisher via NetGalley for purpose of honest review. I was not compensated for this review: all conclusions are my own responsibility.
The House on Honeysuckle Lane by Mary McDonough Have read many other books from the author and have enjoyed them all. This book starts out with Danny and he's been in charge of his mother prior to her dying and through her death and afterwards. His two sisters, Emma and Andie don't live in the same town but do travel in afterwards to help with the estate. Things get out of hand and with the pressure some things are said that shouldn't have been and puts them on edge. One sister is thinking of returning and maybe living in the house, others want to sell it and divide the proceeds. Interesting how they all work together at times getting the job done. Others in town really confuse the reader at times as to who they are and how important to the story line. Chapters also go back in time and that also confused me. Wish this book was broken up into 3 books-each having their say as to what was going on in their lives at the time. Love that this occurs during the Christmas holiday season and how they all cherish the traditions. Twists and turns make this a good read. There are divorces, children and all their problems among the catering business, the publishing business and the financial business.. Never a dull moment and you never know how it will end up. I received this book from The Kensington Books in exchange for my honest review
I really enjoyed reading this book. It was a very heartwarming story about a family coming back together .
Very heart warming book. A must read.
Wonderful heartwarming story....