Sometimes we’re allowed to glimpse the beauty within the brokenness . . .
Savannah Barrington has always found solace at her parents’ lake house in the Berkshires, and it’s the place that she runs to when her husband of over twenty years leaves her. Though her world is shaken, and the future uncertain, she finds hope through an old woman’s wisdom, a little girl’s laughter, and a man who’s willing to risk his own heart to prove to Savannah that she is worthy of love.
But soon Savannah is given a challenge she can’t run away from: Forgiving the unforgivable. Amidst the ancient gardens and musty bookstores of the small town she’s sought refuge in, she must reconcile with the grief that haunts her, the God pursuing her, and the wounds of the past that might be healed after all.
Where Hope Begins is the story of grace in the midst of brokenness, pointing us to the miracles that await when we look beyond our own expectations.
|Publisher:||Nelson, Thomas, Inc.|
|Product dimensions:||5.25(w) x 6.75(h) x 0.50(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 CatherineJWest.com, Facebook: CatherineJWest, and Twitter: @CathWest.
Read an Excerpt
"The heart will break, but broken live on."
— Lord Byron
My husband is leaving me.
The thought, the reality, presses against my throat as I stand outside and take in the view from the back patio of our home. Beyond the copse of Scotch pines that stand sentry at the boundary of the perfectly manicured lush green lawn, a patchwork of fields stretches north. Frost-covered fields that will soon be white with snow. Clean. Pure. Unblemished.
Beyond the horizon line I imagine another world. A world far from the Boston brownstones and skyscrapers less than an hour away. A world of warmth and sunshine, golden sands and sparkling oceans and second chances.
I imagine standing with one foot here, on this hard, cold, and unforgiving ground, the other hovering over an invisible marker that separates winter's edge and what lies beyond. And I wonder ...
The back door slams. His boots clomp down the wooden steps, hit the stone deck, and thud into silence a few feet behind me.
I cannot bring myself to turn around.
Tears warm my cold cheeks and I raise a trembling hand to swipe them away. Breathe. In and out. Forced effort. A sudden wind whips up and makes me shiver.
"Savannah ..." His sigh is heavy, but not quite reluctant. "I'm going now."
I nod and slowly turn to face the truth written on his face.
Our bedroom was barren last night when I arrived home from dinner with friends. Only my clothes remain. Naked hangers swing in silent accusation. He took most of his things then and hauled the remainder out the front door moments ago. His hands are empty.
I inhale again and find my voice. "Did you leave the keys?"
"The keys?" He sounds surprised. I can't for the life of me imagine why.
"For the house." I shiver again. "You won't need them."
"I should have one for emergencies." He clears his throat and his eyes narrow. "Don't you think?"
Yes. Of course.
Sirens wailing, screaming through the silence.
Anxious faces peering, stricken, speechless.
Bathroom tile cold against my cheek. Warm liquid pooling around my wrists.
Those kinds of emergencies.
I lock eyes with this man, this man I have known for twenty-four years, lived with for twenty, and promised to love forever. This man who gripped my hand while I cursed him through contractions. Three times. This man I have laughed and cried with, shared silly jokes with, and given all of myself to. This man who stood beside me, trembling and broken, as we watched a tiny casket being lowered into the ground.
This man I don't know at all anymore.
"Do what you want, Kevin." You always do.
"I think it's best. I won't ..." He looks away. His normally vibrant blue eyes seem oddly dull and his jaw quivers just a bit. "Look, Savannah —"
"Don't." I hold up a hand. The wind picks up speed and rustles through his dark hair.
At forty-two, Kevin is aging well. Not aging at all, actually. Runs for miles, eats what he wants, and doesn't put on a pound. I have just turned forty and find it hard to look in the mirror. Lines that were not there yesterday appear today. Gray hairs grow overnight. Weight does not come off as easily as it used to.
"I might go away." The thought slips out and startles me.
"What? Where?" He cannot contain his astonishment. His eyes shift, uneasy under my stare, and I know what he's thinking. I have not taken a trip alone in years. Have not been alone in years. How will I survive?
"I don't know where." I grip my elbows and watch a few flakes of early snow descend from the sky. They rest on Kevin's head, as if a silent blessing from above. I give no such blessing. At this moment I abhor him.
"Let me know." He sounds tired. Looks tired. I don't know where he's been the past month, although I can imagine. No. That's not entirely true. I do know. He has not been in our bed. My bed. Even when he was there, I know now his mind was elsewhere.
"I'll tell Zoe." I fiddle with the zipper of my green down jacket and survey the lonely patio. Empty gray clay urns and neglected flower baskets testify to my horticultural failures. Snow bounces on the black tarp covering the pool. "We're supposed to get two inches tonight. Crazy, huh?"
"You want to discuss the weather?" He's incredulous, perplexed. "Zoe isn't talking to me." Now he's annoyed.
"Isn't she?" What a shocker.
Our daughter, our eldest, but not our firstborn, is stalwart and loyal to a fault. She hates him now, but I hope for both their sakes she will forgive him. Eventually.
I don't know if I will do the same.
I stiffen as I stare at him, stuffing down the overwhelming need to end this conversation. This miserable moment. Instead, it feels freeze-framed. Forever cemented in memory — this one defining moment in my life when I realize all I've done, everything I've poured myself into, has been for naught.
Memories meld together in a mosaic of children's activities, women's luncheons, and boring business dinners. Car pools and car washes and carnivals to raise money for whatever charity the school or church picked that year. A life now divided into three compartments: Zoe in college, Adam away at school, and me here. Where I've always been. With my other half about to step into his shiny black Mercedes-Benz and drive away.
"I'll text you then," I offer. "If you insist on knowing where I am."
"You don't text." One side of his mouth lifts in a half smile that fades too soon. I can't remember the last time I saw my husband really smile.
"Maybe I'll learn." I step aside to give him room. He won't go back through the house. Not with Adam there. And I don't want him to. "Well." I need to let him go. "Mustn't keep her waiting." She has apparently been waiting for this day for quite some time. And I never had a clue.
Kevin runs a hand down his face, lifts his shoulders under the heavy cashmere coat he wears. A soft plaid scarf hangs around his neck. It's new. I notice he no longer wears his wedding band. Three weeks ago, when I last saw him, he still did.
"I'll need to get in touch, Savannah. There'll be papers to sign at some point."
"Christmas." Visions of a decorated tree and stockings strung along the mantel skip across my mind. "What will we do for Christmas?
Thanksgiving?" Why am I asking these things?
Kevin shrugs again. "Adam has his ski trip over Thanksgiving.
Christmas ... I don't know." His phone vibrates from a pocket in his coat. "They're not little kids anymore."
No. They are not. But they are still kids.
Our kids. And he has broken their hearts.
Not to mention mine.
"Good-bye, Kevin." It's all I can say now. As much as I'd like to tell him how I really feel about what he's done, as many times as I've thought of telling him where to go, today the words won't come. Besides, I am already there.
It is not big enough for us both.
And some days I still believe I deserve this agonizing pain even more than he does.
* * *
Adam sits at the kitchen table, his sixteen-year-old lanky frame huddled over a half-eaten bowl of Cheerios. I lock the back door and try not to flinch at the sound of Kevin's expensive car engine revving. Tires peel off in a soul-shattering screech.
He can't get away fast enough.
Adam lifts the end of his spoon and lets it clatter against the bowl.
Over and over again, until I want to snap at him to stop. But I don't.
I shrug out of my coat, hang it up, and notice the array of shoes along the rack by the door has diminished in size. I kick off my loafers and forget where I put my slippers, so I walk across cold travertine tiles and return to the sink. Kevin arrived as I was doing the pile of dishes I'd ignored all week.
The water has gone cold.
I grab the plug, yank it upward, and watch reluctant soapy suds swirl toward the eager drain. As I pick up a glass to load in the dishwasher, it slips, shattering against the white ceramic sink.
"Why do you need a sink that looks like a bathtub?" My mother's first question once her inspection of our newly built home was complete.
"It's called a farmhouse sink, Mom. I like them. Plenty of room for large pots."
Who knew ten years ago, when we built our dream home, that this day would come? Who knew my husband would turn his attentions elsewhere? That he would decide it was no longer worth the effort to keep a marriage together after tragedy.
That he would declare we were no longer worth the effort.
If someone had told me then what I know now, I would have called them a raving lunatic.
My fingers curl around the splintered shards too tightly. A stinging sensation shoots up my arm as red drops drip and streak the smooth white stone, and my sink is no longer sacred.
A word I seldom use escapes before I can think.
"Mom. Here." Adam is beside me with a wad of paper towels. He watches through worried eyes as I squeeze them around my fingers.
"Just a scrape. I'll be fine." Someday perhaps this will be true.
But today it is a lie.
"Dad is such a jerk."
"Adam." I blink wetness. Tears still come too quick, too often. I suppose there are other things my son could have said. Other words he wanted to use. I think I've thought them all.
He lifts a brow, and suddenly he is not the little boy I remember. He is a man ready to go to war, whichever one calls first. Ready to take on the world and win. But I don't want him to. I want him to remain a child, to keep him here at home, safe, protected. Yet I know I can't. I have failed both my children in this regard.
Failed all of them.
I pour coffee and sit, clutching my hand, willing my heart to slow down. Adam slumps into the chair opposite me and flicks his finger against a couple of crisp green bills taking up space on the table.
"Two hundred bucks." He snorts. "That's what he left me. I told him I didn't want his stupid money, but he left it." His cheeks blotch and his eyes fill.
"I'm sorry." I reach across the table and he slips his hand in mine and we sit, silent.
"I don't have to go back to school." He sets his jaw, so like his father. Pulls back his hand and rakes long fingers through his dark hair. Another mannerism I recognize.
"Of course you do." I hope my smile is brave. "You'll be home for Christmas. And I ... I thought I might take a trip." The idea still surprises me. I'll have to find a fill-in for my Meals on Wheels days. And let the library know I won't be around to help out. Maybe this isn't such a good idea. But I don't think I can bear many more nights alone in this house.
"Yeah?" Adam tips his chair back and grins. "Going to Aunt Peg's?"
The suggestion sends a shudder through me and we laugh. I cannot dream up a greater punishment than a visit to my horsey sister's Kentucky ranch, alive with cats and dogs and rabid barnyard animals and her four unruly children.
"That wasn't what I had in mind, no."
"She called. Aunt Peg." He picks up a crinkled note and winds it around his finger. "While you were outside with Dad. And then Uncle Paul called. And then Grandma."
We're going down the line. They are all watching, waiting, holding their breath. I tuck my hair behind my ears and smile. "Well, you've been busy."
"Wanna know what Aunt Peg said?" His blue eyes are too gleeful and I shake my head.
"Something you shouldn't be repeating, I'm sure." My sister uses minimal discretion when it comes to airing her true feelings over what Kevin has done. While I appreciate her support, I should probably ask her to tone it down a tad around the kids.
But Zoe has said it all already. With such venom that she frightens me. I don't want her to hate Kevin. I don't want to hate Kevin. And I don't, always. Just most of the time.
Adam ... I worry about Adam. He seems to be sitting on the fence, shell-shocked, wondering when and where the next grenade will fall. He insisted on being here this weekend. Thought it would be easier on me, I suppose.
But not on him. I doubt he thought of that. I should have been firm. I told Zoe to stay away; I knew she would make a scene. I should have said the same to Adam. Stay at school where you don't have to witness the unraveling of a marriage that was meant to last. Where you don't have to watch the life you knew and counted on crumble into broken pieces that cannot be put back together.
But I haven't played this game before. I don't know the rules.
"Uncle Paul said to tell you he loves you. You don't have to call him back, but you can if you want."
My older brother does not mince words, but he is kind. Always kind.
When I called to tell him the news two months ago, I sat through unnerving silence on the other end for quite some time. And then my Baptist preacher brother uttered sentiments he certainly was not taught in seminary. Words I'm sure he had not said since high school. I miss Paul. Oregon is too far.
It's funny how we all went in different directions. Paul out west, me on the East Coast, and Peg, as usual, somewhere in between. My retired parents spend most months in Florida.
Tomorrow, when I put Adam on the bus and he heads back to school in upstate New York, for the first time in longer than I can remember, I will be alone.
Pathetically, unwittingly, yet utterly alone.
I have absolutely no idea what to do with that.
"In three words I can sum up everything I've learned about life: it goes on."
— Robert Frost
I wake slowly Sunday morning, and the world is somehow still spinning.
In the kitchen, armed with coffee, I sit at the table and open my laptop. I didn't have the energy last night. But now I'm ready to give my furious feelings freedom. Blogging was something I kind of fell into years ago, after Shelby died. One of my many counselors suggested journaling. Writing down all the emotions I couldn't yet voice. A friend suggested taking it a step further and starting a blog. "You could really help people, Savannah. You know, deal with their grief."
Because I'm not the only parent who has lost a child. She didn't say it. But back then, that's how it felt. Like I was the only one. Little did I know, the blog I began for cathartic reasons would turn into a popular community of soul survivors. None of whom know my real name.
"Mornin', Mom." Adam is already dressed, khakis and a white button-down, clean and pressed. His hair is damp and combed off his face. It still makes me grin to see the kid who would only wear jeans and a red T-shirt to school until he was about ten dressed like a grown-up.
I twist the rings on my left hand and try on a smile. Part of me will be relieved when he's back at school. Putting on a brave face has worn me down. "How'd you sleep?" I won't ask if he's packed, ready to go. He will be. He is as thorough and organized as his father.
I hate this. Sending him away to school was not my idea, yet he seems happy enough there and he's doing well. Still. Good-byes are always the worst. And this weekend I've had my fill.
"I slept okay. You didn't, huh?" He shoots me a grin.
"Is it that obvious?" I pull my robe tight and wonder what I must look like after playing tug-of-war with the bedcovers all night. My hair feels like forest creatures have made their home in it. My head hurts. And I ache like I've run a marathon. Not that I have, ever, but I imagine a body the day after might feel this way.
"Want to come to church?" He forages the fridge.
"I'll make eggs." I push my chair back, but he shakes his head.
"I can do it." He grabs the carton and heads for the cooktop on the island. His search for the frying pan is noisy. "So, church?"
Laughter gets stuck in my throat. "Um ... you see me, right?" Church is not on my list of things to do this morning. Hasn't been on my list of things to do for quite some time.
We've always been involved, both Kevin and me. Raised in Christian homes, we inherited our faith and passed it along nicely. We took the kids to Sunday school, youth group, attended Bible studies ... I took my relationship with God very seriously for a lot of years. I was what they call a "woman of faith" once. And now?
Now I'm just broken.
We wanted a miracle. Asked for one. Maybe even expected one.
And when it didn't happen, when God didn't come through, my faith faltered.
And yes, I know how shallow that sounds.
* * *
After the service, I hover behind a potted palm in one corner of the modern sanctuary's sprawling foyer and pretend to study the bulletin.
There is nothing worse than standing in a crowded room feeling completely alone. I remember now why I haven't been to church in a while.
People cast cautious glances my way. A few smile and nod as they pass, saying things like, "So nice to see you, Savannah," but I know what they're saying behind their hands. The widened eyes, the whispers, the wondering. Bad news travels fast along the prayer chain.
Excerpted from "Where hope begins"
Copyright © 2018 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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