“An emotionally resonant tale of secrets, regret, and absolution that held me spellbound. You simply have to read it.” —Sara Gruen, #1 New York Times bestselling author of Water for Elephants
Spanning several decades and written in an authentic voice both lyrical and wise, The Sisters of Glass Ferry is a haunting novel about small-town Southern secrets, loss and atonement, and the unbreakable bond between siblings.
Glass Ferry, Kentucky, is bourbon country. Whiskey has been a way of life for generations, enabling families to provide and survive even in the darkest times. Flannery Butler’s daddy, Beauregard “Honey Bee” Butler, was known for making some of the best whiskey in the state, aged in barrels he’d take by boat up and down the Kentucky River until the rocking waters turned the spirits smooth and golden. Flannery is the only person Honey Bee ever entrusted with his recipes before he passed on, swearing her to secrecy as he did so.
But Flannery is harboring other secrets too, about her twin sister Patsy, older by eight minutes and pretty in a way Flannery knows she’ll never be. Then comes the prom night when Patsy—wearing a yellow chiffon dress and the family pearls—disappears along with her date. Every succeeding year on the twins’ birthday, Flannery’s mother bakes a strawberry cake, convinced that this is the day Patsy will finally come home. But it will be two tumultuous decades until the muddy river yields a clue about what happened that night, compelling Flannery to confront the truth about her sleepy town, her family’s past, and the choices she and those closest to her have made in the name of love and retribution . . .
“Richardson has a knack for layering a landscape with secrets, for slowly revealing what’s hidden until suddenly you find what you've been chasing sitting in the palm of your hand. The Sisters of Glass Ferry is bountifully written—a place fully realized and packed with characters you won’t soon forget.” —David Joy, author of The Weight Of This World
“The Sisters of Glass Ferry peels back the layers of a small town to reveal a labyrinth of long-buried secrets and dangerous lies. Richardson delivers a gripping, hauntingly atmospheric Southern Gothic tale that stayed with me long after I turned the last page.” —Karen Abbott, New York Times bestselling author of Liar Temptress Soldier Spy
“This heart-rending, lovely family drama spans sixty years and four generations, peeling back the layers of a small town to reveal a labyrinth of long-buried lies and a wealth of dangerous secrets suspended between three families. The Sisters of Glass Ferry is so fast paced I couldn’t stop turning the pages, but then I’d smash into another jewel-like sentence and have to stop to reread it. Kim Michele Richardson writes with an authentic Southern voice straight out of Kentucky, well graveled, rough with moonshine, and damn near irresistible.” —Joshilyn Jackson, New York Times bestselling author of gods in Alabama and The Almost Sisters
|Product dimensions:||5.60(w) x 8.20(h) x 0.90(d)|
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Every year Mama has baked her a strawberry birthday cake. And for two decades now that cake has sat on the sunshine-yellow Formica counter for one week in June unsliced, the plump pink roses atop the creamy home-churned icing with powdered sugar-coated berries, beckoning another year for Patsy to return home, mocking her silence, her absence.
"Flannery, I just know this is the year," Mama said in that summer of 1972.
"How come, Mama?" Every person in Glass Ferry, Kentucky — in all of Woolson County even — for every year since 1952, knew sixty-one-year-old Jean Butler had been saying these same things until another cake went stale and got tossed into the garbage.
"I just know it," Mama insisted. "I can feel it somehow, in my bones, in this sweet June air. This is the year we'll slice Patsy's cake, all three of us."
Mama quieted, and Flannery emptied the box of pink birthday candles onto the table and began counting them to put on the cake. More than once, the house awakened and popped, distracting Flannery from her tally.
Breezes pushed through the screen door, slapping at darkened halls and sneaking into dusty corners of the century-old two-story. The bones of the house groaned and creaked like tired homes do from time to time — growled low like it was pushing something away with a warning — like it knew something bad was about to slip inside and soil the sugar-dusted air.
Flannery rubbed at the tightness building in her neck. Mama had always said houses knew things before people did — "knows things only the soul knows" — and that homes like theirs could feel things same as a dog catches the silent clamors lost to the human ear.
"Grab the napkins, Flannery," Mama reminded, scattering the choir of airy protests.
Flannery shrugged off her apprehension and crossed over to the sideboard. Sloping floorboards dipped, rasping under her feet. She hadn't been back to Glass Ferry in a year, and had mostly forgotten how different this rambling old country house sounded compared to her loud city apartment. That's all, she presumed. Flannery never missed making it home when the elementary school dismissed her students just in time for another birthday celebration.
Year after year the quiet of the house, the countryside, all of it, still managed to lull her into its own sleepiness until an unexpected jarring bumped the silence and jerked her back.
She dug through the table linen drawer and handed Mama the embroidered strawberry napkins. "I need to get out of my nightgown and get dressed," Flannery said, dusting flour off her gown.
"Oh, baby girl, wear your prettiest. We're going to have a big celebration," Mama chattered, "bigger than the Independence Parade even." She laughed as she smoothed folds into the cloth napkins and stacked them neatly beside the cake. "Hard to believe my twins are going to be thirty-six this year. Lord, how time flies. Seems like just yesterday when you and Patsy were in your cradles. You up and left for college and married —"
"Mama ..." Flannery warned that her divorce was not on the table for discussion.
"Speaking of time" — Mama pointed to the old electric daisy clock hanging on the wall — "this morning is getting away from us. We haven't even made the punch. Why don't you start on that before you change into your dress."
Flannery glanced at the kitchen clock and then down at her daddy's old windup Zenith wristwatch on her arm, finding a solace and satisfaction in her cheating. Ever since Flannery was born, she had been stealing — stealing time same as she did Patsy's pearls back then — setting all the wall clocks and wristwatches exactly eight minutes ahead. And when Flannery visited Mama every year for the fake birthday celebration, she'd make sure to do the same to her clocks even though Mama fussed the day into tomorrow trying to break her of it. Mama always said, "It's the devil's doings, and it doesn't make sense to thieve from the Lord's hours when you'll just have to pay 'em back."
But that's not what her daddy had taught her. Nuh-uh. The very thought of that final Reckoning Day was why Flannery stayed precisely eight minutes ahead, looking over her shoulder for those lagging minutes when the devil might try to collect.
Flannery followed Mama's most hopeful gaze to the wall. Mama would track those circling black hands most of the day, keeping a vigilant eye on the time and the foyer too, first to move the hands back to their proper time and, second, to welcome Patsy when she burst through the door.
Several times Mama caught Flannery looking to the foyer and gave her an optimistic grin. Instead of smiling back, Flannery turned away. She wanted to believe, but after all these years there was nothing left, just a plait of hope that had been twisted, rubbed too many times, tangled into a useless, knotted wish that would never unravel.
Flannery knew the quiet morning would slip into a quieter afternoon, and soon the lull of evening would gather a cold, silent darkness. Tonight she would find Mama tear-stained, asleep at the kitchen table, plumb wore out from watching and waiting. Flannery would rouse her mama from the chair, take off her glasses, and convince her to go to her room — helping her to drag her aged bones and aching heart to bed until the next year — the next time Patsy's birthday rolled around.
Time. If only Flannery could snatch some of it back for them.
"Flannery." Mama pulled her to the task and pointed to Patsy's strawberry cake. "Are you sure I can't make you one, or maybe bake your favorite — cherry pie? It's your birthday too, you know."
"I do love your cherry pie. But this'll do, Mama." She plucked an orange from the fruit bowl and rolled it in her hands. "Doc says no added sugar for us borderline diabetics."
Mama picked up the cake knife and nodded, knowing her youngest had inherited the sugar problem and other troublesome traits from her daddy. "The diabetes took him from us too soon, before the twins' fourteenth birthdays," she told everyone the half-truth.
Mama hummed "Happy Birthday" while shining the blade with the tail of her apron. "Happy birthday, dear Patsy." She plucked the words, sang them soft and warbly. "This is the year, baby girl. Flip on the radio. Let's have some music."
1972 didn't feel any different than last year for Flannery, or the one before that, or any of the others. She clicked on the radio, turning the knob to get a clear station.
Cocking her head, Flannery caught the announcer saying something about a rust bucket being pulled out of the Kentucky River downstream from the Palisades. "... this morning when a fisherman found ... near Johnson's boat dock ..." She stretched an ear closer to the radio speaker and turned up the volume. "... shedding light on the decades-old disappearance ... Sheriff Hollis Henry of Glass Ferry went on to confirm the mud-caked Mercury ..."
Mama's knife clattered on the sunlit linoleum, hammering its glint across the walls and pinning the clock's slow-sweeping hand into the final stolen minute.
The day swept its last hour into the cemetery. There, alongside the forgotten churchyard in the washed light at the end of Ebenezer Road, she'd buried her secret.
Just months before, Patsy Butler hadn't any secrets to keep. Not adult ones anyway, and only the kind an almost sixteen-year-old would primp and parcel: an admirer's note passed in history class, a young boy's wanting touch, maybe a stolen kiss sneaked behind the football bleachers, all locked onto a mostly dreamy-lipped grin and safeguarded to chalk-dusted walls.
But now there was a burdening hush-hush in Patsy's soft green eyes and a quivering in her young hands that belonged to the old.
Patsy crossed the room and opened the bedroom window to let the early June air sift through the curtains. Sinking back down onto her vanity stool, she dipped the eyeliner brush into a teacup of water and swished it back and forth across the black cake powder. For the second time Patsy tried to draw a line onto her eyelids to give herself a perfect cat-eye look.
"Patsy and Danny sittin' in a tree, K-I-S-S-I-N-G. First comes love, then marriage, and then o' then, there's a baby carriage!" Her twin sister's stupid little tease struck like a cold blade.
"Dammit, Flannery ... just hush," Patsy hissed, peering closer at the mirror and inspecting the sweep on her wing-painted lids. Satisfied, Patsy reached for the lipstick.
"Oh, did I spell it wrong? F-O-R-N-I-C-A-T-I —" Flannery sang slowly as she hung over her sister's shoulder.
Patsy batted her off with a light hand. Ever since their mama said Patsy could go to the junior prom with Danny Henry, Flannery had been pestering Patsy because Flannery didn't have a beau to take her. But this particular tease cut deeper. Patsy and Danny had been arguing about it recently, it being putting out. Patsy wondered if Flannery had overhead their whispers on the porch. It had to be that, only that.
"What's eating you?" Flannery asked.
"You. Knock it off, tadpole." Patsy pressed her lips together to seal the paint, dropping the tube onto the wooden vanity. She glanced into the mirror and cast a warning eye to Flannery.
"Don't call me that," Flannery said. "Hey, that's mine." She snatched the lipstick and tossed it into the vanity's drawer, then plopped onto one of the twin beds in their bedroom.
"Someone's acting like a brat," Patsy declared.
"That's because someone is working somebody's shift down at Chubby Ray's, scooping tons of ice cream and making a million cherry lime rickeys and serving stacks of chili dogs to her whole junior class while somebody and everybody has a big-to-do prom to go to."
"Flannery, you're a doll to do this." Patsy sighed, leaned back, patted her sister's shoulder.
"Well, you've already missed enough days. I wouldn't want Chubby to fire you."
"A living doll," Patsy said, sort of meaning it this time.
Flannery softened a little. "I guess you'd do it for me."
"I would," Patsy said. "But I wish you would've thought about letting Hollis take you to the prom. Then ol' Chubby Ray wouldn't have made you work my shift."
"Hollis Henry is a senior, a dumb one who failed first grade — nearly nineteen years old now! And you know Mama ain't allowing us to date seniors, same as Honey Bee. 'Sides, I never much cared for him — I don't want to double-date — and I don't want your date offering up his brother as a pity date for me."
Their daddy, Beauregard "Honey Bee" Butler, or Honey Bee, as Patsy and all who knew him called him, had a lot of silly rules for his girls, Patsy thought. Rules that were still calling from the grave. It wasn't fair, she felt. Honey Bee never wanted the twins to be around older boys, yet, he'd let them skip second grade and go straight into third when the teacher advised it. Honey Bee'd enjoyed boasting how doubly-sharp his little girls were.
"But that's only because Honey Bee told Mama not to let us," Patsy reminded Flannery. "He's been dead over two years." There was a relief in Patsy's words. Honey Bee was one less worry — one less in the mess of her latest troubles.
"That's 'cause Honey Bee was right," Flannery said. "And it doesn't matter if he's gone, or how long; he'll always be right."
Patsy studied her sister a moment. "Honey Bee wasn't always right. If he'd listened to Mama, maybe he'd still be here —" she said quietly.
"Patsy Jean Butler, you hush your mouth about our daddy," Flannery scolded.
Patsy hung her head a little, thinking about the day he'd been found dead on his ferryboat. Pushing the horrid thought aside, she said, "Well, it would've been fun tonight with you there." If Flannery went with Hollis, it would serve Patsy in a two-fold way: keep the older brother away from her and Danny, and let them spend time alone. "He's the sheriff's son, so Mama wouldn't mind ... Danny said it was Hollis who brought it up first, before he asked you —"
"Too late, and I don't care," Flannery snipped. "Sheriff Jack Henry's son or not, Miss Little wouldn't have allowed it. Anyways, I heard he didn't get approval, even when Violet Perry submitted his name."
All girls' dates for school dances had to go through their home economics teacher, Miss Little, for preapproval.
"What? Violet put his name in?" Patsy asked, wondering why she hadn't heard that the pretty Violet Perry had to go back and submit another name to Miss Little, wondering what Hollis was up to now.
"Heard he begged her to do it to test Miss Little, though I bet he secretly wanted to go with her," Flannery said. "And you know if the pastor's daughter can't get Miss Little's permission for Hollis, ain't nobody going to get it."
That was true. Patsy'd thought it would've been okay to put Hollis and Flannery together for just one night, knew Hollis didn't have a sneaky eye trained on Flannery, and then her sister wouldn't gripe about working her shift. But after hearing even the preacher's daughter couldn't earn Hollis Miss Little's good favor, Patsy knew Hollis would never go to any dance, not even his own senior prom. Not as long as Miss Little was alive and kicking, that is. Patsy'd barely squeaked her date's name by the old teacher.
The seventy-four-year-old spinster took not only the name of your date, but also checked his grades and looked at any infractions the boy might've had in the last year. Folks knew she sniffed around better than any hound dog or gumshoe even, going so far as to call on the boy's neighbors, pastor, or an employer if he had one.
If something was amiss, Miss Little would tell you to find another date; the boy wasn't good enough, and the troublemaker wouldn't be allowed to attend. A girl could try to plead the boy's case, but it was rare Miss Little would change her mind and give permission. Parents too. Especially the parents. Though Miss Little was indeed small and frail in appearance, in these matters she had a might of influence over all the grown-ups, especially since Alfred Harris.
Long ago, Alfred transferred from another county after his school chased him off for doing bad things to animals. The family sent him to live with an aunt in Glass Ferry, but Miss Little found out his sickness had come with him. After that Alfred incident, no one grumbled about Miss Little's guardian role or her results.
Still, Miss Little tried to be fair, and there was always a chance if the boy's offense was trivial. The teacher sometimes offered to have him atone for his misdeed by attending her Wednesday and Saturday two-hour Bible study at her house. If the boy made a month's worth of meetings and seemed truly repentant, Miss Little would finally nod her consent.
A boy willing to do that punishment knew his date was worth it, knew that come Monday morning after the dance he might be boasting about making it to second, possibly third base even, and, by lunch, he'd fish-tale it bigger and describe an almost homerun on prom night.
The girls' mamas and daddies thought Miss Little's rules were nifty — as close to the Good Lord's blessing as they could get. It saved them big headaches, and they didn't have to worry their sweet magnolias would end up with a hooligan or the likes, and their families disgraced.
The boys' families said Miss Little helped keep their Southern sons honorable and on the straight and narrow, said their boys worked harder in school and at their jobs because of her date-dance scrutiny.
Patsy had been thrilled to pass her first name to Miss Little for the Cupid's Dance. Then again for junior prom.
On that morning, long before the bigger troubles took root, Patsy'd dressed in a modest skirt and a buttoned-to-the-top blouse, and stood in line with the other girls, including the seniors.
Quietly, Patsy had waited her turn to contribute to the pile of papers and place the traditional apple into Miss Little's wooden bowl.
Patsy watched the others in front of her pass their apples to Miss Little and give the chosen name inside their folded papers. Everyone in line stretched their necks, slipped a snooping eye, watching too as the teacher opened paper after paper and peeked, before folding and adding to the pile.
At last Patsy handed Miss Little her polished apple along with the folded slip of paper, the name of the boy she was sweet on taking her to the big prom written in her best handwriting. It meant she was a woman now. And folks would look at her like one. Especially Danny.
Miss Little examined the apple closely before putting it with the others.
Patsy squirmed. She had gone through three pails from old man Samp's orchard until she found one without a blemish.
Excerpted from "The Sisters of Glass Ferry"
Copyright © 2017 Kim Michele Richardson.
Excerpted by permission of KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP..
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
This book was impossible to put down, The plot thickened with every turn of the page, The characters were memorable and I was sorry to reach the end of their story
Fast moving and suspenseful
"The Sisters of Glass Ferry" by Kim Michele Richardson ...this is Kim's third and latest work of fiction. I've read them all. My first insight: Her words are nothing less than poetic...She sculpts her words with texture...a true artist indeed. I read her stories and absorb the beauty of each word...they hang in midair, then slowly and softly fall between leaves to an earth as warm as her voice. My second insight: She doesn't write for the faint of heart, this story is not a story to be read at night. There are scenes that are alive with ghosts...the past haunts Ebenezer Road; and the people who traverse this road, which passes by the once old dwelling that harbored it’s secrets, are deemed to regret their actions. My third insight: I've been reading this story slowly, mainly trying to go with the flow of language steeped in Kentucky bourbon vernacular - sometimes easy to grasp, sometimes hard, sometimes just curiously mysterious. I was about half-way through last night and couldn't put it down...but I did, three times! Each time the light went out I found I couldn’t sleep, then turned the light back on and read further. My fourth insight: My heart twisted like a corkscrew at times, I cried at the hurt these people felt; I hurt easily from the words that Kim puts in her character’s mouths. Touching and gentle at times, I cried...then harsh and hurtful, or caring, or hateful...these are the people of Glass Ferry, Kentucky. Lives matter, people matter, but lies and gossip cultivate hate, and disquiet the memories of those we love in this small community. Kim finds these memories and puts this mixture into a story of Literary Fiction that is not for the faint of heart. My fifth insight: Kim pokes and prods at these memories and emotions until I cry again...she doesn’t pull any punches with the mystery that is contained in this story and of her characters. I finished reading this story tonight at 12:00, midnight. Ominous and compelling it came to an end. A dead end. It’s one story my emotions got the better of me. She left me wondering throughout each page...who did what to whom and why? The “why” is what I wanted answered on many occasions. Of course characters have a mind of their own, they aren’t you and they aren’t me, and their actions and reactions aren’t always ours. Yes, I questioned their motives, and impatiently waited for the answers until I found them. Like I said, lies are a mainstay in this story...we tell them, we complicate life with them, and we end up digging our own graves with them. Kim doesn’t fool around, she cuts to the heart of the matter, and takes your heart along with these characters', and with her's. I recommend this book to those who love words, loves an emotional challenge...the gentle sway and tilt that leads to the harsh realities of life; all of which creates a story so complex in the mystery of two sisters and the people they touched - and All is ultimately left to the eye of the reader.
I could practically taste the whiskey as I read The Sisters of Glass Ferry. Kim Michele Richardson captures small town Kentucky with it’s history steeped in bourbon making and everyday secrets. She alternates between decades and the voices of two sisters, twins Patsy and Flannery Butler. Patsy the oldest by only minutes disappeared in 1952. Her disappearance draws the reader in. Twenty years has gone by and Flannery is left visiting her mother on their birthday, a yearly tradition that involves a cake waiting for the missing Patsy. Richardson turns this novel into something more than just a story about a missing girl. It is about family, little secrets and bigger ones. It describes a whiskey I truly hope is real. Without spoiling anything, you have to read this book. It’s the type of book that stays with you long after reading it. You’ll find yourself thinking of the characters. That is a rare and amazing thing.
MY REVIEW OF “THE SISTERS OF GLASS FERRY” by Kim Michele Richardson “The Sisters of Glass Ferry” by Kim Michele Richardson is an emotional and captivating novel. “The Sisters of Glass Ferry” is published by Kensington Publishing Corporation and will be out November 28,2017. The Genres for this story are Fiction, Historical Fiction, and Mystery. The timeline of the story is mostly 1952 through 1972, and though the present.There are some parts of the story that are before 1952 to explain the history and the characters. The author depicts the setting in rural Kentucky in the town of Glass Ferry, which is known as “Bourbon Town”. The characters are describes as complex and complicated. The author describes many secrets and lies that affect the small town and characters. In this small community everyone knows each other, and there is a lot of gossip.During the time of bourbon production there was corruption and some criminal activity. It was not unusual for children to learn to shoot guns to protect themselves. Flannery and Patsy are twins, separated by 8 minutes. Patsy is the elder of the twins, and the girls are close, but there is jealousy. Patsy being the older twin is given the family pearl necklace. Patsy is invited to the Junior Prom, and Flannery has to take her shift at work. The sheriff”s two sons come to drive Patsy to the prom. One is her boyfriend, and the other is his older brother who drives the car. Unfortunately, Patsy and her boyfriend never come home. Every year on the twins’ birthday, Flannery’s Mom makes a special birthday cake for Patsy hoping she will be coming home. After two decades of Patsy being gone, Flannery is still looking for answers. This is a story of heartbreak, grief, revenge, retribution and redemption. What are the secrets and lies in this town? What happened the night of the Prom? This is a story of coming of age, pressure and jealousy. I like that the author describes the problems of bullying, alcohol abuse, emotional and physical abuse, and superstitions. I also appreciate how the author discusses the importance of family, love, hope and faith. This is an intriguing and thought-provoking story, and I would recommend it highly.I look forward to reading more of Kim Michele Richardson’s novels. I received an Advanced Reading Edition for my honest review.