The Things We Knew

The Things We Knew

by Catherine West


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A can’t-miss story of family and lies, secrets and repressed memories, set against the stunning backdrop of Nantucket.

“An exceptional and poignant escape to Nantucket.” —Kathi Macias

Lynette Carlisle witnessed her mother’s death twelve years ago. But her memory only speaks through nightmares. Her four older siblings each left their Nantucket home as soon as they were able, never speaking of that tragic day.

Lynette alone stays with their father on the island, and when it becomes clear they are losing him to Alzheimer’s, she calls her siblings home, each of them bringing along their own secrets. They aren’t the only ones returning to the island—their childhood neighbor, Nick, comes home to his own family drama, never expecting a Carlisle family reunion. As Lynette spends time with Nick, she suspects he knows more about their mother’s death than he lets on.

With summer storms raging around them and their father speaking more and more of their mother’s death, the Carlisle siblings must face the truths threatening to surface. And these truths will either restore their shattered relationships or separate the siblings forever.

“A poignant, multi-faceted novel that pulled me in deeper with every turned page, The Things We Knew so adeptly explores the power of truth and its ability to set us all free. I can’t wait for readers to fall as hopelessly in love with Nick and the Carlisle family as I did. Well done, Catherine West!”—Katie Ganshert, award-winning author

“A beautiful exploration of the bonds that tie us together as family and the secrets that sometimes unravel those threads. Catherine West builds a world worth entering and characters that linger long after the last page is turned.” —Julie Cantrell, New York Times and USA TODAY bestselling author

“Smartly written and highly engaging, Catherine West's The Things We Knew dazzles, piercing the shadows of a family's tragedy with the light of love.” —Billy Coffey

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780718078102
Publisher: Nelson, Thomas, Inc.
Publication date: 07/12/2016
Pages: 352
Sales rank: 656,624
Product dimensions: 5.40(w) x 7.60(h) x 1.00(d)

About the Author

Catherine West writes stories of hope and healing from her island home in Bermuda. When she's not at the computer working on her next story, you can find her taking her Border collie for long walks on the beach or tending to her roses and orchids. She and her husband have two grown children. Visit her online at, Facebook: CatherineJWest, and Twitter: @CathWest.

Read an Excerpt

The Things We Knew

By Catherine West

Thomas Nelson

Copyright © 2016 Catherine J. West
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-0-7180-7810-2


Sometimes in the dead of night, Lynette Carlisle heard her mother's voice. Sometimes it was easy to forget her mother had been dead twelve years.

Curled up in bed, covers pulled tight, she strained to hear the whisper over the wind. Some nights the voice was clear, like Mom was right there in the room, the faintest scent of light musk and lavender tickling Lynette's imagination. Other nights, all she heard was her own sigh of disappointment as angry waves crashed against the Nantucket cliffs beyond the garden wall.

Some nights she welcomed the voice. Some nights it made her wish for the impossible and remember life as it had been, before.

Some nights, like tonight, it kept her awake and rattled the cage of her memory. Tonight the voice came to her, as it so often did, in a dream.

The message was urgent, but she couldn't remember a word of it.


That was it. She sat up in bed and rubbed her eyes.

Something about Dad.

A few sleepy moments later, Lynette stood in the doorway of her father's bedroom and stared at the empty bed. Red numbers glowed through the semidarkness. Four a.m. She checked the bathroom, but he wasn't there.

Thoughts of where he might be created a momentary state of paralysis. Lynette waited a moment, listening for any sound, but the big house was silent.

She pushed her arms through the sleeves of her robe as she thundered down the stairs to the ground floor. Her two Labradors sat stationed by the front door, indicating he'd already made good his escape.

Panic pushed her forward. This served her right for staying up too late trying to finish that painting.

"Dad!" Lynette pulled open the heavy door and a gust of cold, salty wind smacked her face. Spring nights on the island still held a chill. A full moon lit her way as she raced across the white gravel in bare feet. No time to go back for shoes. She gritted her teeth and pressed on toward the road. Shouts came from the direction of the house next door.

Dread dragged her to a stop.

Diggory and Jasper began to growl as another shout punctuated the silence. She hoped they wouldn't start barking. "Shush, guys." Lynette picked up her pace again, grateful when her feet finally sank into the soft stretch of grass between the two estates. She squinted down the winding drive that led to their neighbor's home, the Cooperage, and scrambled for a viable excuse.

Perhaps Mr. Cooper was away for the weekend.

If he wasn't ...

"I know you're in there, Cooper! Get out here this instant!" Her father's baritone voice punched through the night like a warhead honing in on its unsuspecting target. No stopping him now.

He stood on the front porch, swaying in the wind, his bathrobe flapping like dark wings, wild hair flying around his neck as he pounded on the double doors with both fists.

"Dad!" Lynette shot up the steps and grabbed his arm. "Stop it!" Perhaps it wasn't too late to just take him home. Perhaps, with a little luck, Mr. Cooper was indeed off the island.

The porch light came on and that hope washed out like the tide.

The lock turned, the door creaked open, and Nicholas Cooper peered around it.

"Nick." Lynette stepped back, fully expecting to be faced with an angry Anthony Cooper. Nick hadn't been back to Nantucket in years.

"Who ... what?" He stepped forward, blinking under the glow of the carriage lantern above them. "Mr. Carlisle?"

"Aha," Dad bellowed as he lunged for the young man. "Where is she? Tell me where she is before I beat the tar out of you!"

"Whoa, Mr. Carlisle?" Nick disentangled himself, put up his hands, and ducked out of reach. Bleary blue eyes caught hers. "Lynette?"

Lynette made a frantic grab for her father's arm. "Dad, stop! You're confused. Let's go home." She pushed him, hard. "Daddy!" Her childlike cry stopped his flailing. "STOP." She met his eyes and saw them fill with murky confusion.

His anger slunk away like a punished dog. "I ... I'm sorry. I ... forgot myself."

Lynette glanced at Nick and patted her father's arm. Dad clamped his mouth shut and studied his slippers.

"Let's go, Dad. It's okay." Lynette shook her head. It wasn't okay.

Not at all.

Dad trudged down the steps, sinking onto the last one. His shoulders heaved with a heavy sigh. The dogs settled by his feet, eyeing her for further instruction.

She wrestled with embarrassment and despair and forced herself to face Nick Cooper's questioning gaze.

"Is he all right?" Sleep still muddied his eyes. And apparently made him ask stupid questions.

"He'll be fine. Sorry about waking you." The quake in her voice betrayed her lack of confidence, but she refused to let tears escape.

Nick looked to where her father sat, rocking back and forth, humming. "Do you want me to call someone?"

Who would he call — the psych ward at the Cottage Hospital? She didn't think they even had one. "No." Lynette pulled the sash of her robe tight around her waist and shivered in the cool night air. She gathered up her scattered thoughts and put them away with her emotions. "I'm sorry about this, Nick. I'll just take him home." She turned toward the steps.

How could she explain something she didn't yet understand herself?

"Wait." Nick's hand rested on her shoulder, his unexpected touch comforting. "Can I drive you?"

That was so like Nick. Always trying to do the right thing. A smile tiptoed across her lips. "It's only next door. I think we can manage."

"Your feet." He pointed to her stinging soles, reminding her she'd have to endure more pain to get back home.

Lynette lifted her shoulders in resignation. Bruised feet she could deal with. It was the turmoil inside that tortured her.

"Hold up." He disappeared and returned with an old pair of boat shoes. "They're probably a bit big, but better than nothing."

She mumbled her thanks and slipped into the giant-sized loafers. Nick donned a pair of sneakers and helped her father up. His earlier outburst already forgotten, Dad chatted amicably with Nick as though he'd just happened over for a visit.

They took their time while the dogs ran ahead, sniffing the boxwoods and peeing on trees as though walks before dawn were commonplace. Lynette shuffled along behind Dad and Nick and wondered whether they would become so.

Once they reached home, she guided Dad in, turned to Nick, and handed over the borrowed shoes. "Thanks. Sorry about this."

"You don't need to keep apologizing." He hovered in the doorway, baggy pajama pants, T- shirt, and tousled hair giving him a boyish look. "Are you going to be okay?" He hesitated like he should come in but didn't want to.

She couldn't blame him.

"We'll be fine." Lynette nodded, more to convince herself, but her eyes stung as badly as her feet. "He won't remember it in the morning. I usually wake up, but —" A crash came from somewhere inside. "I have to go."

"Are you sure you'll be okay?"

"Yes. Welcome home, Nick." Lynette closed the door and leaned up against it.

Her heart thumped out unasked questions.

Once her older brother Gray's best friend and extra member of their family, Nick Cooper left Nantucket without warning, five years ago.

Left them.

She longed to know where he'd been, what he'd been doing, and why he'd returned. And whether he remembered that night so long ago — the night of her nineteenth birthday — the first, and only, time he'd kissed her.

The last time she'd seen him.

* * *

Lynette watched Dad more carefully over the next week. To her relief, he hadn't wandered off again and he was sleeping better. Which meant she could too. On Sunday afternoon, she put the finishing touches on a painting while he napped.

Up here in the art studio on the third floor of the house, things never seemed quite so terrible. She dropped her brush into a small jar of turpentine and stepped back from her latest creation. Dad had taught her to let the painting speak for itself.

This one certainly did.

Along a stretch of white Nantucket sand, families gathered for Fourth of July festivities. Kids played Frisbee, dogs raced after the flying disks, and toddlers poked chubby toes at the white foam waves while anxious mothers hovered over them. High on the hill behind the beach, a sprawling gray- shingled house presided over the holiday scene, a flagpole proudly sporting the red, white, and blue to celebrate the day. Gulls dotted the pale blue cloudless sky.

Off to the side of the organized chaos, a girl sat alone on the rocks. She hugged her knees to her chest, her gaze fixed on the wide expanse of Atlantic beyond the shore, her face half hidden by a mane of sun- kissed blond hair.

It would do.

Another painting rested on an easel across the room.

Lynette drew in a shaky breath, pulled toward it by an inexplicable force. This was the piece she'd stayed up so late working on the other night, the culprit, she was sure, behind the dream that had woken her.

She'd wanted to re-create the inside of the house as it had been that day all those years ago, but only a staircase floating in midair had emerged, the rest of the painting splattered in dark shades, burnt sienna, cobalt blue, and specks of black.

Memories hovered out of reach, hidden in the shadows of her mind.

She'd prayed for the memory of that day to be restored for years now, yet it remained as blank as a new canvas. Perhaps it was better this way. Perhaps it was time to let it go.

Lynette picked up a paint- splattered sheet and covered the evidence.

She shook off a shiver and went back to tidy up the area she'd been working in. Between her job at the day care and worrying about Dad, the days were long and tiring.

A sudden gust of wind whistled through an open window, melding pungent scents of oils and turpentine with sea air. A shutter banged against the side of the house and made her jump.

The floorboards squeaked as Lynette marched over them and pulled the window shut. The locks were rusty, but with a little effort, she secured them. Diggory gave her a mournful glance while Jasper slept on, oblivious. "Sorry, Diggs. We'll have to go out later. Looks like rain."

She retied her messy ponytail and surveyed the space designated as an art studio since before she was born. The long room was scattered with paintings, some on easels, some stacked against the walls, many completed, others left half done to taunt and jeer.

She and Dad used to spend hours up here. From the time she was very small, he encouraged her to paint, let her create a colorful mess and called it art.

She didn't know when he'd last set foot in here.

Drake Carlisle's greatest works languished under sheets, unseen and unappreciated. Banished.

Her mother had little interest in drawings and paintings; photography had been her passion. Capturing moments most would miss. She'd never been serious about it. A hobby, she'd called it. Lynette's gaze dragged to the door on the far side of the room. The darkroom — bolted shut and padlocked years ago. Her father's doing.

Everything in that room remained out of reach, locked away like the difficult things Lynette didn't like to think about.

Strains of Handel's Water Music suddenly filled the air and chased away the ghosts.

Lynette frowned and wondered where she'd tossed her cell phone. She found it hiding beneath a sketch pad. "Hello?"

"Hey, sweetie, it's Evy. How's that painting coming along?"

Lynette marveled at her friend's timing and dropped into the old rocker by the window. "The beach scene I told you about? I just finished it." She pushed off with her bare feet and began to rock.

"Wonderful. When can you bring it in?"

"Oh." She studied the paint flecks on her hands. Blue, yellow, red. Similar stains marked her jeans and shirt, probably her hair. She'd scrub them out later, but the red always remained. "I don't know."

Evy huffed. "I thought we had a deal. You promised me you would start selling your work on a regular basis, remember?"

"I remember. But honestly, Evy, it's not that good, and —"

"Nonsense. Honey, trust me, you're good. I sold your last two paintings for a much higher price than we anticipated, right? Listen, have you thought about doing a show? It's the beginning of May. Tourists will be coming in soon."

Lynette played with her necklace, a strand of wooden beads from Africa. Her brother Ryan sent them last year in the Christmas package for her and Dad. If only Ryan could have delivered them in person.

She thumped her head against the back of the rocker. "I won't do a show."

"So you've won the lottery?"

"No." Lynette scrunched her eyes and wished she'd never met Evy McIntyre. "I'll keep painting, but only if we stick to my rules."

"I know. I promise I won't use your real name." Evy let out a honk worthy of a Canada goose. "Honey, you can call yourself Attila the Hun for all I care. Just bring me your stuff. I'll get you cash, like you asked. How about Wednesday?"

Lynette poked at a hole in her jeans. Scraped at the red paint, pried it off with a fingernail. "I'm working."

"Wednesday is your day off."

"Fine, Evy. You win. I'll see you then. Happy?" Lynette imagined her friend's wide smile.

"Delirious." A throaty laugh crackled down the line and Lynette ended the call. Evy could talk her into anything, blast the woman. She should call her back, tell her she changed her mind. Tell her there would be no more paintings.

Tell her ... what?

Evy was right.

To say they needed the money was an understatement.

Lynette left the studio by way of the rickety back stairs, the dogs at her heels. On the second floor she poked her head into Dad's bedroom. He should be up from his nap by now.

"Dad? You awake?"

The overpowering scent of Old Spice shot up her nose. A spilled bottle lay on top of his dresser. Clothes were strewn about the floor and falling out of the highboy's open drawers. His bed was empty, sheets rumpled and hanging off the side of the antique four-poster. The bathroom was vacant, water streaming from the tap. Lynette turned it off, gave the rusting spigot an extra twist just to be sure.

"Dad?" Her heart began to dance to the erratic beat that started up every time he did this. A draft from the open windows scattered pages of a newspaper on the round table, but the faded chintz curtains barely budged against the wind. Lynette pushed the curtains back and tied them in place with silky gold cords that were likely older than her. She fumbled with the heavy wood-framed windows, eventually latched them, and caught a glimpse of the sky, now dark and menacing.

"Dad?" She ran down the main stairs and into living room. Calm, calm, calm. He was probably in there reading. Lynette stopped in the doorway. "Dad?" Only the cat occupied her father's favorite chair by the window. Moxie rested on top of an open book, yellow eyes glinting as she flicked her tail and put her head back down.

"Oh, Dad, where did you go this time?"

Diggory and Jasper circled her legs, whining. Furious, frantic thoughts filled her head of what she would do when she found him. Would this be her life from now on? Chasing after the kids at the day care, chasing Dad during her time off?

She raced to the sliding glass door in the kitchen and slipped into her loafers. And then she saw him.

He stood by the stone wall at the edge of their property, facing the stormy sea. Monstrous black clouds loomed westward as drops of rain began to splash against the salt-stained glass.

Relief washed through her and doused out anger.

Lynette grabbed her Windbreaker from the coatrack and stepped onto the porch. A fierce wind tried to push her back, but she leaned into it and pulled her hood over her head. The dogs raced across the lawn, barking above the noise of the coming storm.

Dad didn't move.

Thunder rumbled off in the distance as Lynette ran over the already soggy lawn toward him, careful to avoid the anthills and patches of thistle. By the time she reached him, her breath came in spurts and rain stung her cheeks like tiny pinpricks.

"Dad, there's a storm coming!"

He startled when she took his arm. "Lynnie? What are you doing home? Shouldn't you be in school?"

Rain ran along the crevasses of his face. "No, Dad." School would be a welcome release, were she still the young girl he pictured in his muddled mind.

Lynette got him inside as quickly as he would allow. She sat him down and went for a towel. No use suggesting he go upstairs to change, too much effort. The dogs scattered water as they shook themselves and then settled under the kitchen table.

She worked to keep her voice steady. "Here, dry off. I'll make us some tea." Her heart rate slowly returned to normal. He could have gone anywhere, fallen, decided to climb the wall ...

Somehow she'd have to figure out how to get him to the doctor again.


Excerpted from The Things We Knew by Catherine West. Copyright © 2016 Catherine J. West. Excerpted by permission of Thomas Nelson.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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