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Mary Alice Monroe

The Book Club

Mary Alice Monroe The Book Club
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Excerpt from book:

June 21, 1997

Eve Porter stepped out from her house into the brilliance of an early morning sun. She immediately raised her palm to shield her eyes; the piercing light was too strong.

Inside, her house was quiet and dark. Bronte and Finney were asleep in their rooms, the dog was whining, and she hadn't yet had a cup of coffee. Tom was prowling the rooms with nervous energy, gathering his work and packing last-minute items into his suitcase. Most mornings Eve liked to linger over her coffee, open the windows to the fresh morning breezes and relish her few moments of solitude before the family's demands pressed her into action. On this morning, Eve felt driven outdoors by her husband's prickly tension and a nagging guilt she resented. She needed some distance, just a bit of fresh air.

Eve remembered the days when she stayed one step behind Tom as he prepared to go on a business trip. "Here are your tickets. I found your beeper. Can I order you a cab? Don't you want anything for breakfast? Let me refresh your coffee." She was his trusty sidekick, or as Tom often put it, he was the captain and she the navigator.

Lately, however, she felt the ship was going down. For no one reason she could articulate, she'd begun looking for lifeboats. It wasn't so much that she doubted the competence of Tom, it was just that the buttons of his jacket didn't shine quite as bright anymore. Or perhaps the voyage was just too long.

Eve shook these mutinous thoughts out of her mind and stepped out into the morning air. "Today will be a good day," she said firmly, silencing her heart murmuring, "He will not ruin my day." She made her way toward the rustling breezes and birdsong in her garden, turning away from the closed, dark house. The early-morning air smelled sweet and the sun shone softly on the cheery colors of her perennial bed. She bent to admire droplets of dew cupped in the furry leaf of a lady's mantle.

Today was the first day of summer, she realized, her spirits lifting like a kite. She loved milestones of any sort: birthdays, anniversaries, holidays, checks on the calendar, notches on a growth chart. Today would be special, brand-new. She felt it deep inside. Summer was here with sunny days and balmy nights, the informality of barbecues and dips in the swimming pool. She was so relieved to have the grind of the school year finished. She missed playing with her children.

She really should wake them to say goodbye to their father, but they were so tired; she'd let them sleep a bit longer. Finney had a football game at noon and Bronte wanted a ride to the mall at two. With Tom gone for a few days, and the children out of school, she could relax a bit herself. Perhaps even squeeze in a little extra time in her garden this morning, she thought, noting that her tobacco plants needed deadheading.

She slipped to her knees, relishing the coolness of the morning dew that soaked the thin cotton of her pajamas. She no longer expected anyone to help her with the weeding or the planting. The children had complained so bitterly for so many years that she'd stopped demanding their time, and Tom, well, he never had the time or the interest. They had such busy lives and it was her job, as the mother and wife, to make certain all went smoothly in the home. But it was such a large home…and theirs was a large property, too, one of the largest in Riverton. The children were proud of their home and this she felt was her success. She'd decorated the twelve rooms herself, sewn countless yards of drapes and coordinated all the improvements. She'd even landscaped the entire lot, planting with her own delicate hands over fifty shrubs and countless perennials.

Gardening was her hobby after all, she told herself as she dug in the earth. No one asked her to plant these flowers that she ado

"With its evocative, often beautiful prose and keen insights into family relationships, Monroe's latest is an exceptional and heartwarming work of fiction."

–Publisher's Weekly starred review of The Beach House


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