Twelve years ago, Glory abandoned her two daughters—four-year-old Ruby and baby Aurora—at a fire station, running off to a man who promised love and protection. Though the refuge she hoped for turned out to be a sham, she believes Ruby and Aurora are better off without her. But Glory has since given birth to another daughter, who’s clamoring for a life beyond their close-knit, tightly controlled world.
Sixteen-year-old Ruby loves her adoptive parents, but she hasn’t forgotten Glory. Now that she has her driver’s license, Ruby sets out in search of her birth mother. What she finds is a ramshackle house of castaway women, referred to as “sisters,” ruled over by a charismatic bully who monitors their every move.
Glory would take ten-year-old Luna away in a heartbeat if they had somewhere to go. On good days, the girl is confined to the fenced-in yard; on bad days, she’s sent to the dusty attic as punishment. When Ruby makes contact, Glory seizes on a chance for escape. Ruby is desperate to help, but how much does she owe to family she barely knows—and how can she fix someone else’s life when she has so little power over her own?
Praise for Rosalind Noonan’s Domestic Secrets
“This suspenseful read is Noonan at her best. Fans will be eager to get their hands on her latest, and it doesn’t disappoint.” —Booklist
“Noonan delivers another page-turning thriller whose deeply flawed characters draw you into a web of family secrets.” —Kirkus Reviews
“Recommended for readers wanting stories of dysfunctional families, scandal, and violence that involve entire communities.” —Library Journal
|Product dimensions:||5.40(w) x 8.20(h) x 1.00(d)|
About the Author
Rosalind Noonan is a New York Times bestselling fiction author and graduate of Wagner College. She lives with her family in the Pacific Northwest, where she writes in the shade of some towering two-hundred-year-old Douglas fir trees.
Read an Excerpt
Three Months Earlier
Four-year-old Ruby stood in the doorway, watching her mother watch the man on television. Everybody on the television was laughing at the man, but that was grown-up stuff.
"Can you switch to cartoons?" Ruby asked.
Mommy lifted her head from the couch. "It's too late for cartoons. You're supposed to be in bed, love bug. It's after midnight."
"Aw. I'm not tired." What she really meant was that she wanted to stay up until Daddy got home.
"You fell right to sleep two hours ago."
"I'm getting a snack. I'm hungry." Not really, but it was a way to stay up with Mommy for a while. Ruby went into the kitchen and opened the cupboard beside the oven. Mommy put the cereal and crackers there so Ruby could do it herself. Like a grown-up, except smaller. Something was bubbling on the stove as Ruby took out two boxes and lined them up on the floor.
Life cereals were squares. Cheerios were circles. Ruby was going to teach squares and circles to Aurora when she got bigger. Right now Aurora was a baby, and babies didn't know anything. Ruby knew things. She knew that grass turned green from drinking the rainwater. But people didn't turn green from water. She knew that Daddy was gone to 'Laska. Life cereals were Daddy's favorite. Ruby put two handfuls of those into a plastic cup and pushed the boxes back into the cabinet.
At the couch Ruby pressed against Mommy's knees, wishing she could sit in her lap. She used to snuggle with Mommy all the time, but now Aurora was always in the way. When Mommy's eyes opened, she wasn't mad. "Good girl." Ruby smiled when Mommy pulled her into her lap, and Ruby found her familiar spot. She tried to look into Mommy's eyes, but they were closing. Mommy's eyes were full of blue sparkles, like something magic under the sea. "You have my eyes," Mommy always told Ruby, and Ruby always said, "I'll give them back," and Mommy laughed.
"Don't forget to brush your teeth again."
Ruby closed her eyes as her head rested against Mommy's chest. This was what she'd wanted, the hunger that had pulled her out of bed. She missed her mommy and her daddy, too. She wanted Mommy to put the baby down and play with her. She wanted Daddy to come home and give her a ride on his shoulders or play jungle forest with her. He was the elephant and Ruby was the little lost lion cub that he carried back to safety. Then he would tickle her with his trunk, and she would feed him peanuts. He was a good elephant.
Mommy let out a big breath and it was extra loud to Ruby, with her ear to Mommy's chest. Mommy didn't play jungle forest, but she liked to snuggle and read books to Ruby. But Mommy didn't read anymore because of the baby, and sometimes Mommy fell asleep in the middle of a snuggle. Like now. Sometimes that was boring, but tonight Ruby just waited and stroked Mommy's hair, winding the dark threads through her fingers until the ends sprang out.
Not ready to close her eyes, Ruby stared at the people on television. Talk, talk, talk. Grown-ups didn't know how to play. Their television was boring, but Mommy said there were no children's shows on at night. After a while she wriggled out of Mommy's lap and munched a few pieces of cereal. Mommy was still sleeping.
"Quiet," Ruby whispered. Holding the cup in both hands, she walked carefully on the floors, one bare foot in each square, until she was in Mommy and Daddy's room. Sometimes Aurora slept in here, but tonight she was in the laundry basket near Ruby's bed.
Propping her cup on the bed, Ruby climbed up and crawled to the middle. Facedown, she wriggled between the two pillows and pretended to be asleep. She pretended Daddy was on one side of her, Mommy on the other, like before. When Ruby sneaked into their bed, she was always the middle of the sandwich.
She squeezed her eyes shut, but she couldn't sleep. Maybe Daddy would come home tonight?
Ruby waited. She tried to breathe Daddy's smell from his pillow. She scrunched her ears, listening for the squeak of the front door, his heavy steps, the songs he sang to himself without moving his lips. No. She couldn't hear him.
Rolling over, she noticed the cup of cereals toppled onto the bed. Oops. She picked them up and scooted over to Daddy's side of the bed, where the table held only a tissue box. When Daddy got home, he was going to be hungry. "These will be a good snack for you." She began lining up the squares of Life, stopping to eat one occasionally when it was too crumbled or broken to be a square anymore. When she finished, the line of cereals curved around in a funny shape. Like an elephant trunk.
"I left you some peanuts, Daddy Elephant," she said, smooshing the side of her face into his pillow. Eyes closed, she pretended that she was waiting for Mommy and Daddy to come to bed. Soon. Things were always going to happen soon.CHAPTER 2
Half a dozen cars remained in the parking lot of the Montessori school as Tamarind McCullum approached the one-story building with tinted windows and a river stone faÃ§ade. Although the school wasn't really on her route home from the bus stop, Tamarind frequently took a detour to walk by and monitor the mood of the place, a potential school for her baby.
She slowed her pace, enjoying the walk after a long day at her desk, knowing the exercise was good for the baby, too. In the years that she and Pete had been trying to conceive, she had just about memorized those books on the "how to" of pregnancy and infant care. She knew that personal care during the first weeks and months of a child's life were important for bonding, but after that early- learning centers were an excellent way to nurture a child's independence and social skills. It took a village, and she and Pete wanted their baby to soak up culture, skills, and knowledge from the world around her. The Montessori school was the closest, but Tamarind had also heard great things about the Little Red Schoolhouse, which was ten minutes' drive from home.
Which to choose ... This was how she rolled, planning and researching in advance to make careful, informed decisions. As she'd already learned that the baby couldn't be enrolled until he or she was born, there were still six months to decide.
She turned toward the school as the front door opened and a little boy scampered out, racing across the deck. You could tell a lot by the attitudes of kids and their parents as they left the building at the end of the day. This dark- haired kid paused at the banister to wait for the man following him out.
"You forgot your collage, Brandon."
"Oh yeah." The boy lifted his arms to take the small poster. "See, Dad? You have snow in the winter, and then in the spring the snow goes away and flowers pop out of the ground."
"That's right. How many seasons?" the father asked.
"Four," Brandon said, waving his collage in the air.
Tamarind smiled at the boy's enthusiasm. Score points for the Montessori school, she thought as she moved ahead and the school disappeared behind the hedge of the neighboring house. She had been leaning toward this school, but she would tour both facilities before she made a choice. One of the trickier things would be testing how the administration and parents of the schools would react to having a family of color in their community. The Portland area was primarily white, with a small percentage of Asian residents. There would be no student exactly like their baby, no other children with an African-American and Indian heritage. Tamarind could accept that, as long as the school community could accept her and Pete's child.
That worried her sometimes. "What if kids are mean to our son or daughter because his skin is browner than theirs or her food smells different?" Tamarind had asked her mother, Rima, who was thrilled about the prospect of a grandchild.
"Some kids find reasons to pick on their classmates. Others will be more accepting. But every child has challenges. This is part of life."
"That scares me," Tamarind admitted. "My heart will break if I have to watch my child suffer."
"The heart is stronger than we think," Rima told her. "Your kid will be fine. Everyone has problems. We figure them out. But every child is different, like a snowflake. That's the beauty of variety in this world."
Her mother's confidence, which often came out in the form of bossiness, had been reassuring to Tamarind in the years that she and Pete had been trying to conceive. Now that there was a baby on the way, Rima was already laying out the plans for Tamarind and their newborn to come and live with Rima and Karim for a few weeks after the birth. It was an old-fashioned Indian tradition for a daughter to return to her mother's home during that time.
"For how many weeks?" Pete had asked, reluctance in his voice.
"Six weeks. It's enough time for me to take care of Tamarind and that gives her time and energy to take care of her new baby," Rima had explained.
"Wow. That seems like a long time," Pete had said. "Maybe too long. I'm going to miss her, and you know, I can take care of her, too."
"You can visit on weekends," Rima had agreed. "The rest of the time, you go to work while I nurture Tamarind back to health. This is a mother's job — the boring things like feeding and cleaning, the important things like lifting the spirits. This is what mothers do for their daughters."
"I see." Pete had been wise enough not to argue with her mother, though he'd expressed his concerns to Tamarind in private. He was concerned at having his wife and baby so far away in Seattle. And what about his family? Didn't they deserve a chance to see the baby, too?
"They can visit the baby in the hospital," Tamarind had said, pointing out that most of his family lived in the Portland area. "And we'll be in my parents' house, under my mom's care. Is there anyone more capable in the world?"
"Your mom is a dynamo. She's great," Pete admitted. "I'm just not sure I'll be able to share you and the baby."
"Please. I know it's asking a lot of you, but this is one of the old traditions I want to keep. After a woman gives birth, no one can take care of her like her mother. At least that's what my mom and the aunties have told me."
"I'll think on it," he'd said. She had planned to give him a week or two before nudging him, but the next morning he'd slipped his arms around her waist while she'd been sipping from a mug of herb tea.
"You're carrying our baby," he'd said, his lips brushing the sensitive lobe of her right ear. "You've been going through the nausea. Your body is changing. Once the baby is here, the least I can do is let you recover with your mom."
"Thanks, sweetie." She had melted against him, her eyes tearing up at the goodness of her man, her Pete. He would be a wonderful daddy.
As the blue Honda pulled out of the school parking lot, Brandon glanced at her through the window of the back seat and smiled, revealing two missing teeth in the front. Stinkin' adorable.
She smiled back. There was a good chance that she would see Brandon and his dad again. A very good chance.CHAPTER 3
The gray shroud of sleep clung stubbornly to the air as Glory Noland opened her eyes in a panic. What was that awful shrieking sound? And the acrid smell, the dull blur of smoke that hung under the ceiling —
The smoke alarm. Fire. Her babies!
Clawing her hair from her eyes, she shot up on the couch and turned toward the kitchen wall.
The stovetop lit the dark apartment, flames licking a pot that glowed red.
On her feet, raking back her hair, Glory wasn't sure what to do first.
Someone was banging on the apartment's front door, adding to the shrill screech of the smoke detector as Glory hurried from the sofa to the horrid glow of the stovetop. Heat seared the air as she reached for the knob to turn the flame off. Smoke leached from the black disk in the red-hot pot. Ruined.
Glory coughed and swatted at the smoke as she stepped back from the heat. She could have burned down the house, killed them all. Even now, this putrid smoke was probably damaging their lungs, seeping under the door of the kids' room. Her little ones.
First, protect the girls. Glory shoved open the wimpy window over the sink and turned on the fan in the range hood.
Swallowing hard over the dry grit in her throat, she used a potholder to pick up the pot. The heat radiating from the hot metal made her wince. She knew she had to get it out of here, but where? She cast about, looking for a place to put the searing-hot metal.
"Open this door!" Ellen's low croak thundered at the door.
Glory crossed the small living space in four steps and used her free hand to open the front door. Her landlady blocked the vestibule.
"What the hell are you doing? It's the middle of the night." Ellen gathered her fleece jacket closed as she glared at the pot. "Are you cooking meth?"
"My breast pump. I was sterilizing it. I fell asleep." Maneuvering around Ellen, she stepped out into the damp, cool night. The patter of rain on the rhododendron bushes was a welcome relief from the alarm. Glory held the hot pot out to collect some rain. It steamed as she placed it on the concrete porch. Cool drops landed on her head and shoulders, leaving dark slashes on her T- shirt and jeans. She had fallen asleep in her clothes again. Again and again.
"That smell." The smoker's voice drew her back from the garden escape. Ellen raked her gray hair away from her face as she sniffed. Most days it was combed and sprayed into a gray cloud around her head, but sleep had broken the hold of hair spray, making it jut out in disarray. Kind of goth, or very Einstein. "Is that toxic smoke?" Ellen began swinging the door, fanning the smoke. "Was it plastic? The PCBs are going to kill us all."
"I hope not." Lingering in the rain, Glory wondered if it could be true. Most of the smoke had hung at the ceiling, and she doubted it made it past the closed bedroom doors. Funny that the girls hadn't woken up. Some nights, a sneeze could do it; other times, they slept like tiny boulders.
"And why were you cooking this pump?"
"Sterilizing it. You have to keep it clean."
"And why would you need a breast pump? You got no husband to feed the baby."
But I do, Glory wanted to argue. I do have a husband, a man who fires my soul and shares my dream for our daughters. Love of my life, I need you here! But right now, it was not to be. Winston needed to be in Alaska, working in an oil job to make enough money to pull them out of debt and build a nest egg. Despite Mom's warnings of unreliable men, Glory had found a gem. A man with a big heart and the desire to provide for his family.
"What would you even do with breast milk?" Ellen couldn't back off a topic until she had chewed her way through.
"It's for day care. So I can get a job." Glory hated having to explain herself to Ellen, who always pushed too far, asking how much things cost and criticizing Glory's decisions. "I've been interviewing at the mall."
"The mall? And you're paying someone else to watch your kids? Don't you know the money you pay for day care is gonna eat through your paycheck?"
"I need to work."
"You need to make money someway. You're behind on the rent."
"I know. We talked about that." Inside the smoke alarm ceased its ear- piercing alarm, a huge relief. Glory swiped a splat of rain from her forehead and scraped her dark hair back, tying it off with a band from the pocket of her jeans. Now that the topic of money had come up, this conversation was doomed.
"Being a little late is one thing, but now you owe two months, and we're coming up on June. I don't think you understand how it feels to be kept waiting."
Waiting? Glory's whole life was a waiting game. Waiting for Winston to call. Waiting for him to return. Waiting for the baby to arrive. Waiting for the kids to drop off to sleep. Waiting to hear about a job.
Waiting for life to get better.
"I'm sorry. I ..." If only they could catch a break. Winston had been searching for a new job since the refinery he'd been working for went off-line a few weeks ago. He said the low price of oil was hurting the industry. Now the little bit of cash Glory had made as a barista before Aurora was born was running out. "I'm going to pay you, Ellen."(Continues…)
Excerpted from "The Sisters"
Copyright © 2018 Rosalind Noonan.
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
A sweet and captivating story!!
Thank you NetGalley for the ARC of The Sisters by Rosalind Noonan that I read and reviewed. This book was just okay for me. I really struggled getting through it because it jumped around so much and I found myself getting lost and I just was not enjoying the book or the characters all that much. I am giving The Sisters three out of five stars.
This was so different from the type of book I normally read. Deftly written, Rosalind Noonan draws you in from the beginning, and once you're in - it is difficult to put down. I read over half the book in one night, finishing it with tears in my eyes. The writing was so vivid and the characters were amazing each in their own way. The story was heartwarming and heart-wrenching at the same time. A wonderful story of love and loss in the darkest circumstances. Rosalind Noonan’s insights into the human psyche show unusual wisdom and candor. She is so skillful at making her characters believable and so real that you find yourself jumping on an emotional roller coaster right with them. My heart ached especially for the mother whose love for her daughters never wavered amidst great sorrow and joy. Ms. Noonan has a strong understanding of writing the perfect ending, a real life ending and not a fairytale one. I love a story that is filled with real life kindness, hope and strength. My heart was warmed to have spent the time within the story. It is a great read a book about the power of family, and healing. The author does a magnificent job developing all of the characters. Somehow I felt I had encountered all of them at some point in my own life. If you think a book about a parent's worst nightmare is not something you will enjoy, think again. This book is much more than you might first think and is a pleasure to read.