For Sabrina Monroe, moving back home to the Wisconsin Dellsthe self-described Waterpark Capital of the Worldmeans returning to the Monroe family curse: the women in her family can see spirits who come to them for help with unfinished business. But Sabrina's always redirected the needy spirits to her mom, who's much better suited for the job. The one exception has always been Molly, a bubbly rom-com loving ghost, who stuck by Sabrina's side all through her lonely childhood.
Her personal life starts looking up when Ray, the new local restaurateur, invites Sabrina to his supper club, where he flirts with her over his famous Brandy Old-Fashioneds. He's charming and handsome, but Sabrina tells herself she doesn't have time for romanceshe needs to focus on finding a job. Except the longer she's in the Dells, the harder it is to resist her feelings for Ray. Who can turn down a cute guy with a fondness for rescue dogs and an obsession with perfecting his fried cheese curds recipe?
When the Dells starts to feel like home for the first time and with Ray in her corner, Sabrina begins to realize that she can make a difference and help others wherever she is.
|Publisher:||Penguin Publishing Group|
|Product dimensions:||5.44(w) x 8.22(h) x 0.88(d)|
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Two days, twenty-three hours, and thirty-two minutes. Almost three full days since Sabrina Monroe had last spoken to someone who wasn’t a relative. Her record was seven days, four hours, and fifty-five minutes, but still, almost three days was impressive. In her ideal world, she could continue the trend indefinitely, a sweet happily ever after of telecommuting and food delivery.
She sat in the center of a large indoor waterpark, the WWW (Wild World of Waterparks)—or Three Dub, as people had started calling it—the latest addition to the Waterpark Capital of the World. The fake boulders hadn’t yet acquired the usual dust and stuck gum, the colors still popped on the water slides, and the painted murals were not yet dimmed by years of exposure to eye-burning levels of chlorine. With her feet propped on a white plastic chair, identical to the one she sat in, Sabrina stopped scrolling through the news app on her phone when a stack of towels toppled off a neighboring table into a puddle. She scooped them up, draping the wet towels over chairbacks and setting the still-dry towels at the center of the table, then returned to her lounging position before anyone noticed. Her nieces and nephew, Arabella, Lilly, and Oscar, frolicked in the kiddie area, a three-tiered structure of rope bridges, water cannons, and small slides for the little ones not quite ready to brave the twisty four-story flumes. An enormous bucket dropped one thousand gallons of water every fifteen minutes with a clang, a roar, and a rush of wind that blew over a lazy river circling the entire room, where tubes bobbed like Froot Loops and tweens raced around floating adults, who scowled at their rambunctiousness.
It should have been difficult to take her nieces and nephew to a waterpark without speaking to other people, but she had bought the tickets online, then took refuge among the crowded tables while the kids played. Being alone was always easiest in a crowded, noisy location, and no room was louder or more crowded than an indoor waterpark on a rainy holiday weekend.
Within the confines of this humid, echoing warehouse, Sabrina avoided interacting with people by scrolling through the news on her phone. She didn’t notice the people who stood up with meerkat attentiveness. She didn’t notice the people swiping chairs from other tables. She didn’t notice a nearby angry, tattooed chair-swiping victim returning from the snack bar with a giant fully loaded margarita.
Dumb luck had her looking up from her phone at exactly the wrong moment.
She watched as the Refill-A-Rita catapulted out of the tattooed man’s hand, centrifugal force and a red plastic lid keeping most of the fire-engine-red contents inside until they collided with the bridge of her nose. Tequila-laden pseudo-strawberry slush exploded onto her hair down to her flip-flopped feet, staining her yellow swimsuit a sunset orange and obscuring her vision with kaleidoscoping stars from the surprising pain. Bent over in agony, Sabrina avoided the unexpectedly aerodynamic white plastic chair that followed the margarita as it arced over her head toward the chair swipers.
A man wearing colorful swim trunks emblazoned with red crustaceans fought back a smile as his eyes inspected the substance dripping from her head, confirming Sabrina’s ridiculous appearance. What right did he have to judge her? He had crabs on his pants. As he took a breath to speak, Sabrina broke her no-talking streak.
“Duck,” she said, pointing to his white plastic table as a cup of soda soared over them. Caught in food-fight cross fire, the man crouched under it and out of the fray. Now she could do the same.
Sabrina dropped to the ground and scooted to safety, wiping the worst of the overly sweet slop off her face, the alcohol and red dye stinging her eyes. The warring people around her shouted, more food and plastic water bottles skittered across the wet concrete, and soon tables stuttered as bodies shoved against them. The man huddled under his table an aisle over from her. Around them, the babble of water rushing, children screaming, and parents yelling echoed off the walls and windows, amplifying the noise.
From her location under the table, she could spot her charges scampering in the spraying water, oblivious to the commotion at the nearby tables.
Two beefy men shoved at each other like Greco-Roman wrestlers, hairy bellies bumping against each other. Feet stumbled past her table, knocking her phone into a waiting puddle. She snatched it out of the water as her heart raced. Not her phone. She didn’t have the money to replace it. She dried it off the best she could on a small, still-clean section of her swimsuit.
A pair of delicate feet stopped beside her table, followed by a cheerful face framed by chin-length bouncing blond curls. The woman’s edges blurred into a soft glow as if she stood in front of a lamp. With Ghost Molly, it was barely noticeable. More recently deceased spirits had a blur that made it obvious they were new to the afterlife, helping Sabrina and her mom recognize them.
“Whatcha doing, honey?”
“Hey, Molly.” Sabrina wasn’t surprised to see her here, in the middle of the brouhaha and unconcerned for her safety as a tray of nachos splattered through her toes—the perks of being ethereal. She’d known Ghost Molly all her life, and she often appeared when Sabrina least expected her. Sabrina scooted over to make room. Between one blink and the next, Molly situated herself next to Sabrina under the table, her arms wrapped around her bent knees, excitement sparkling in her eyes. Sabrina checked her phone, making sure it still worked. So far, so good. She clutched it to her chest, careful to keep it out of the sticky margarita.
“This is bananas. What happened?” Molly said.
“Chair swipers. It escalated quickly.” Sabrina’s nose throbbed, the pain seeping across her face like water into dry ground. “Why can’t people use their words?”
“Look at that cutie-patootie.” Molly pointed to the judgmental crustacean-clad man between the chairs and table legs. “Let’s scooch over to his table.”
Sabrina shook her head. Molly loved shoving her toward men. A rush of warm air hit her face from the giant water bucket, drying the melted margarita coating her face and chest. Her skin started to itch.
“This will probably be all over the internet later,” Sabrina said, ignoring Molly’s comment. A nearby table was jostled.
Molly smiled. “Will you show me the videos?”
“Pinky promise?” Molly held up her hand with the pinky extended. Sabrina matched the gesture. When their pinkies touched, it was like sticking her finger in a snowbank. Molly beamed. She loved internet videos.
Khaki-encased legs and sturdy shoes walked by the table.
“Security’s here,” Sabrina said.
As Sabrina leaned forward to get onto her hands and knees, a glop of slush fell onto her wrist. Gross. By the time she straightened on her feet, Molly stood next to her, too. She wore high-waisted turquoise swim bottoms that cut in a straight line over her belly button and a matching thick-strapped bikini top that ended under her rib cage, leaving only a couple inches of exposed skin between the top and bottom, so much cuter than the margarita-splotched yellow tankini Sabrina wore. It was infinitely easier to wear cute clothes when you could conjure them with a thought. Molly bounced on the balls of her feet while watching the hubbub around her. Some of the nearby people still shouted as the security team separated the warring families.
“This is so exciting,” Molly said. “Oh, here comes the cutie.” She pointed.
The dark-haired man approached her table with a stack of towels, weaving between the crowded plastic tables and gawking patrons. She wanted to crawl under the table and dig a pit she could disappear into, hiding the melting slush and blossoming black eyes of her embarrassing situation.
“He’s the cat’s pajamas,” Molly said, waggling her eyebrows. “Just how I like ’em.”
Sabrina wanted to agree, but her mind threw up every defense. He was going to talk to her, and she would only be able to stare back at him. She started cataloging facts to distract herself. He had thick, wavy hair flopping in different directions, longer on top and shorter on the sides, and a few days’ scruff defining his jaw and framing his full lips. Small red patches flanked the bridge of his nose where glasses must usually perch. Later, when she replayed this moment over in excruciating detail, she’d realize he was exactly her type, but for now she ignored it and moved on. He stopped in front of her.
“They take their seating seriously here,” he said with a smile.
Sabrina blinked. He’d made a joke about the asinine situation. She wanted to respond with something clever, or at least something not idiotic. Instead, her mouth went dry and she focused on the pulsating pain increasing across her head—anything to distract from her racing heart.
When she didn’t speak, he continued. “I thought you might need these.” His voice was low and smooth, yet with a touch of roughness, like he had been out too late at a concert the night before or spent the day in the chemical-laden air of WWW. Blue eyes took in her sloppy appearance and stopped on her nose—ground zero of her misery. She pulled her eyes from the wet concrete floor to look over his right ear, close enough that he might think she was making eye contact.
“Thank you.” There, that was a perfectly normal response. Sabrina grabbed the top towel and wrapped it around her shoulders to stop more slush from sliding down her swimsuit. Molly stood behind him, signaling that Sabrina should smile by pointing at her own dimpled grin. Sure, smiling like a fool was exactly what this moment needed.
Sabrina ignored her and grabbed another towel to wipe off her face. Not being able to see him gave her time to take a calming breath— in through the nose, out through the mouth.
“Are you okay? I saw that giant margarita hit your face,” he said. “I can’t believe the distance that flew. I think we have a new Olympic event.”
More jokes she’d ignore. Witty banter rarely worked for her; instead it came out as awkward. Even through the terry cloth, his attention burned on her face, adding to the stuffy heat in the waterpark.
“Not great.” Sabrina patted the towel carefully around her nose. It hurt to touch the skin. She hoped to hide any bruising, which would be difficult to explain at work, in addition to her Kool-Aid-stained skin. It would take forever to scrub off. There was only one way to handle this. She gulped in some air so she could keep talking. Thinking about it only made it worse. She blurted the first comeback that came to her. “Red’s my color.”
He laughed at her joke.
He laughed. At her joke.
But was he laughing at her because what she said was funny? Or because she looked funny? Or because she was being so bumbling it was funny? Either way, it was a good laugh that came from his belly, where all real laughs were born. It wasn’t a cruel laugh. Those she could recognize.
Molly gave Sabrina two thumbs up. Sabrina struggled to stop a scowl from forming in response. It had been too long since she’d had to ignore a ghost while talking to a non–family member.
“I’m Ray.” His lips curved up at the corners, and their fullness didn’t flatten when he smiled. She didn’t want to be thinking about his lips. She wanted him to go away. She bowed her head, and he kept talking. “Do you want to shower off?”
Shit. He wasn’t going away. Sabrina tried to relax the muscles in her body, the ones that wanted her to remain stiff and alert to all potential danger. Peak flight mode.
“I’m going to grab the kids and head out.” She pointed in the direction of the giant bucket as it dropped the water and a wave of air blew a loose strand of hair into the sticky residue on her nose. She wanted to say something clever, maybe hear him laugh again, but the words melted on her tongue. Her conflicted body and brain exhausted her.
“You have kids?” Ray said, searching the play area. Good, he wasn’t looking at her anymore.
“No.” Sabrina said. Molly crossed her forearms to form an X behind Ray’s back, making it clear she didn’t want Ray thinking Sabrina had kids. Molly liked to worry about things that didn’t matter. She gave Molly a quick frown while Ray still looked toward the splash zone. “My brothers’ kids,” Sabrina continued. “I’m the cool aunt.”
There, that was better. She could have normal interactions, even when covered in margarita.
“I bet you are.” Ray reached out to pull the hair off her nose. Sabrina winced as even that small touch hurt. “That’s not going to look great tomorrow. You should really get ice on it. I’ll get some.”
Before she could call him off, he headed toward the bar. Sabrina turned to Molly.
“You need to knock it off. I’m trying to have a conversation, and you’re being very distracting.”
“You think you’re helping, but you’re not. He may not be able to see you, but he can see my reactions. Just shush.”
If Sabrina hurried, she could be gone before he returned, ending this awkward encounter. Ray seemed like a nice enough guy, but why bother getting to know someone well enough to get over the Awkwards when she’d be gone in a few months?
Reading Group Guide
Readers guide for
THE KINDRED SPIRITS SUPPER CLUB
Questions for Discussion
1. The women in Sabrina’s family can see ghosts and have used their gift to help the recently deceased with their unfinished business. It has become a family vocation that everyone gets involved in. Have you and your relatives ever adopted a family cause? If not, what might be something that would interest you?
2. Sabrina suffers from an anxiety disorder. Approximately 18 percent of the population suffers from anxiety, be it caused by genetics, brain chemistry, or life events, yet this isn’t often discussed openly. In what scenes did you feel particularly empathetic toward Sabrina due to her anxiety?
3. Sabrina chose to study journalism. Do you think that was the right career choice for her? Why do you think she felt drawn toward journalism?
4. Food and drink play an important part in The Kindred Spirits Supper Club, helping to capture the local culture. Have you traveled to any places where the food and drink was an equally important part of the location? What specific mentions of food or drink in this story stood out to you?
5. Sabrina’s experience with Bobby in the parking lot of the Goodbye Gala was a pivotal moment in her life that changed her perspective forever. Have you experienced any life-changing moments that changed things, for better or for worse? How did they change your perspective?
6. In what ways did you notice Sabrina and Ray changing throughout the story? How did your opinion of them change?
7. Was there a character you related to the most, and what was it about them that you connected with?
8. The title of the book uses the phrase “kindred spirits.” What does this phrase mean to you? Do you have any kindred spirits in your life?
9. By the end of the book, Sabrina is no longer bothered by Erika and her bullying. What changed? What did you think about Sabrina’s attitude toward Erika at the close of the book? How would you have handled things in Sabrina’s place?
10. What did you think about Molly and Belle and their unfinished business? They have chosen very different ways of handling their purgatory. Did you have any favorite moments from Molly’s story line?
11. At one point in the book, Sabrina refers to her kindness as selfish. Why would she say that? Do you agree or disagree? And do you think instances of kindness can be very impactful in someone’s life?