Excerpt from book:
Her mom didn’t come home for dinner—the third time that week.
That was the first hint Ellie Tucker had that maybe her father was right. Maybe her mother had done something so terrible this time that their family really would break in two. And no one and nothing would ever put them back together.
Ellie was fifteen that hot, humid Savannah summer, and as the Friday afternoon hours slipped away, as six o’clock became six thirty, she joined her dad in the kitchen and helped him make dinner. Tuna sandwiches with a new jar of mayonnaise, warm from the cupboard. They worked without talking, her mother’s absence weighing heavy in the silence of the passing minutes. The refrigerator didn’t have much, but her dad found a bag of baby carrots and put them in a bowl. When the food was on the table, he took his spot at the head, and Ellie sat next to him.
The place across from her, the spot where her mother usually sat, remained glaringly empty.
“Let’s pray.” Her father took her hand. He waited for several beats before starting. “Lord, thank You for our food and our blessings.” He hesitated. “You know all things. Reveal the truth, please. In Jesus’ name, amen.”
The truth? Ellie could barely swallow the dry bites of her sandwich. The truth about what? Her mother? The reason she wasn’t home when the doctor’s office she worked at closed an hour ago? No words were said during the meal, though the quiet screamed across the dinner table. When they were finished, her dad looked at her. His eyes were sad. “Ellie, if you would do the dishes, please.” He stood and kissed her on the forehead. “I’ll be in my room.”
She did what she was asked. Twenty minutes later, she was still finishing when she heard her mom slip through the front door. Ellie looked over her shoulder, and their eyes met. Lately, Ellie felt more like the mother, the way a mother might feel when her kids were teenagers. Her mom wore her work clothes, black pants and a white shirt. As if work had just now gotten done.
“Where’s your father?” Her mother’s eyes were red and swollen, her voice thick.
“In his room.” Ellie blinked, not sure what else to say.
Her mom started walking in that direction; then she stopped and turned to Ellie again. “I’m sorry.” Her shoulders dropped a little. “For missing dinner.” She sounded like someone Ellie didn’t know. “I’m sorry.”
Before Ellie could ask where she’d been, her mom turned and walked down the hall. Ellie checked the clock on the microwave. Seven thirty. Nolan had another hour in the gym, another hour shooting baskets. Then Ellie would ride her bike to his house, the way she did most nights. Especially this summer.
Since her parents had started fighting.
She dried her hands, went to her room, and shut the door behind her. A little music and some time with her journal, then Nolan would be home. She turned on the radio. Backstreet Boys filled the air, and instantly, she dropped the sound a few notches. Her dad said he’d take away her radio if she listened to worldly music. Ellie figured worldly was a matter of opinion. Her opinion was the Backstreet Boys’ music might be as close to heaven as she was going to get in the near future.
The boys were singing about being larger than life when the first shout seemed to rattle her bedroom window. Ellie killed the sound on the radio and jumped to her feet. As much tension as there had been between her parents lately, neither of them ever really shouted. Not like this. Her heart pounded loud enough to hear it. She hurried to her bedroom door, but before she reached it another round of shouts echoed through the house. This time she could understand what her father was saying, the awful names he was calling her mom.
Moving as quietly as she could, Ellie crept down the hall and across the liv
Kingsbury knows how to get down to business; readers start worrying from the opening sentence about 15-year-old Ellie Tucker and her family: "Her mom didn't come home for dinner, the third time that week." Family troubles prompt Ellie's abrupt move from Georgia to California, but before that happens she and her best friend Nolan write letters to one another that they bury and agree to unearth in 11 years. During that time, Ellie and Nolan naturally change, their paths diverging; he becomes an NBA star, she a single mother. Reckoning with loss and forgiveness for bad choices are required for healing. Kingsbury's themes are familiar, and her writing has benefited from a change of publisher. The action clips along, and readers root for the main characters. The fan-fic element of her writing remains— there's not only an NBA star but another celebrity affecting the action. But the author pours a fervent message about love and reconciliation into a novel that makes the lesson of hope go down much more easily than it would via sermon.