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When Sandra is widowed tragically early in her early 40s, with no children to distract her, and a career as a college lecturer only keeping her mildly busy, she feels she needs a new direction in her life. This comes in the unlikely shape of Martha, a woman she meets completely randomly when they both stop to help in a medical emergency in a shopping mall. Martha has also experienced grief, but appears to have worked it through. She is also a keen, talented, but almost obsessive knitter, who lives and breathes her skill. Sandra is fascinated by her work, and eager to develop other strands to her career, decides to organise an exhibition on the history of women's clothing and textiles, asking Martha to help her by creating replicas of various items. What follows is not a conventional friendship, nor a conventional healing, but whatever it is, it changes Sandra's life very much for the better...
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Anne Bartlett lives in Adelaide with her husband, three sons and one daughter. She has worked as an editor, ghost writer, columnist, biographer, feature writer and children's writer and has been writer in residence at several schools. She has a Masters, and is completing a PhD, in Creative Writing.Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:
Ever since Jack’s funeral Sandra had been covered in glass. Not glass from an accident, shattered bits of windshield or the hard razor-cut edges of a plate glass window. Nothing like that.
Sandra was covered in a thick layer of elastic glass that stretched over her body like another skin, holding her in and keeping everybody else out. It moved with her wherever she went, invisible under her clothes, into the shower, into bed, into the sun, and kept her cold as ice. Friends knocked on it.
She could hear them, but the glass was over her eyes, too, so that everything she saw was far away, even though she knew she could reach out and touch. She was covered in ice-cold glass and would never be warm again. So when Sandra saw the gaudy envelope in the mailbox, her heart sank. She knew what it was her invitation to the annual dinner she and a group of school friends had maintained for over thirty years. She would have to go, of course; she couldn’t not go, but she dreaded it all the same. Another item on the list called First Meetings Post Jack. More hugging and caring and how-are-you-getting-on to negotiate. The first widow among them, an object of compassion, confrontation, and curiosity. How do you think she’s dealing with it? Not too badly.
Immersed herself in work. And what she couldn’t tell them, hadn’t told anyone, was that her days were as dry-eyed as a desert. She didn’t know how to weep. She reluctantly tore open the envelope and propped the invitation on the mantelpiece. Over the years they had tried a vast range of restaurants. This one would require a new dress.
That same afternoon Martha McKenzie walked down Muggs Hill Road, her strawberry hair glowing in the meek offering of the South Australian winter sun. She was rugged in her overcoat, and as usual she carried her three big bags: the expandable striped bag, the tapestry carpetbag, and the old brown suitcase. As she approached the corner near the bus stop something shimmering caught her attention. The shimmering was in front of a small bluestone church that Martha had passed hundreds of times but never entered. Martha was not in the habit of going to church. She was forty- seven years old and hadn’t needed church yet, nor it her. Martha was decidedly uninterested in churches; the last time she had been to church she was ten years old and had bitten an old man on the hand, for good reason. She was long-sighted, but she wore her glasses now for knitting. She squinted at the shimmering. Martha liked things to be right side up and comprehensible, though some things, she knew, could not be explained. This was like a heat haze or the flummery flow of air above a gas pump on a hot day. Martha looked carefully left and right down the narrow street, then tramped across it to the church. Here she was distracted by something else. Above the steps leading up to the front porch was a heavy wooden door, cheerfully painted but firmly shut, and on the door was a HELP WANTED sign, with a phone number and a cartoon of a woman with a vacuum cleaner. Martha sat heavily on the church steps her knees gave her trouble in winter to think about it, but she kept her fingers resting on the handles of her bags in case something untoward happened. The high column of shimmering was to her left, half over a cement path and half over a rose bed abutting the path. The silvery light didn’t seem to mind the prickly bare sticks of wintering roses; it moved and flowed among them without proper regard for itself. Like a waterfall, thought Martha, only nothing gets wet. She sat there watching it, her mind busy with other thoughts. Sometimes so many thoughts buzzed in her brain she felt as if she had a beehive on her shoulders instead of a head. This morning the buzzing was mild and had to do with the rose bushes in front of her, cleaning a church, and rectifying her current knitting problem, a complex lace pattern she had not been able to get right. Martha loved roses and noted that these needed pruning, but she couldn’t concentrate on anything properly. It was hard to concentrate when everything around seemed to sparkle. Then, in a moment of clarity, like a knot that untangles itself when tugged at both ends, the knitting problem resolved. Martha stood up, reread the notice on the church door, then tore it off and put it in the side pocket of one of her commodious bags. She closed her fingers around the handles she had barely let go of two of them stood stiffly, and went home.
Sandra was reading in the study she had oncce shared with Jack. Outside it was cold and getting dark. It was already dark and cold inside, except for this room, the smallest room at the back of the house. The study was easy to keep warm; there was no point in warming the whole house for one peeeeerson. To her left was a pile of books on ancient textiles and a stack of tagged journal articles waiting to be read. To her right was a neat tray of work completed: essays marked, forms filled out, a letter supporting a student’s application for scholarship extension. Even here Sandra was spare with the heating. She wore thick socks, a heavy sweater, and a jacket over that, but her fingers were still cold. Wear wool, said Sandra’s mother across fifty years of living, Wear that woolen sweater I made you it’s much warmer. But in spite of her fascination with textiles, Sandra had dismissed the comfort and warmth of wool long ago. Wool was too slow, too impractical for a modern world: it might be machine washable but it still ruined in the dryer. Wool was too romantic, too pastoral too innocent. The nursery rhymes about sheep Baa Baa Black Sheep, Little Bo Peep all had happy endings. Wool was just one of the many textiles she had studied over the years. It was durable if you could keep the moths out, but she had no personal interest in it. Wool was noteworthy as a phenomenon, but not viable in Sandra’s fast and busy world. As for Australia riding on the sheep’s back, those days were over. It was ten months since Jack’s death.
After the chaos caused by his illness and the many changes in learning to be single again, Sandra was pretending that she led an ordered life.
Her desk was clear except for the papers in use, her books straight and easy in their orderly rows, the bulletin board uncluttered. She had covered the flat, bleak surface of Jack’s empty desk with potted plants and piles of books, but the plants failed to thrive and the books were those she never read. Her screen saver resolved into Jack’s face. He smiled at her from under his cotton sun hat and above his favorite woolen jacket, made by a local weaver. His face was crinkled against the wind blowing that day on the top of Mt. Buffalo; the stubbly beard showed new gray. It wasn’t a particularly well-composed photo, but it caught the light in his dark eyes, the lurking amusement that had stopped Sandra from taking herself too seriously. On difficult days she turned the screen saver off so she could get on with her work. Jack’s photo was one of many available on the program’s random choice, but sometimes the timing was terrible. On the wall opposite the computer was a print of Frederic Cotman’s One of the Family, oil on canvas, 1880. Jack, the impossible romantic, had loved that painting, the suffused golden light, the cozy family sitting down to lunch, the interplay of action and relationship, the ridiculous horse at the door. But to Sandra it had seemed a mockery, a kind of pretense, something longed for but unattainable. It looked warm and soft and comfortable, like an old cotton dress, but reality was different. Reality was a cotton dress too small, buttons lost and seams fraying into holes. After Jack died, Sandra took the painting down from the dining room wall, but when she tried to carry it out to the shed, somehow it wouldn’t go. So, although she hadn’t liked it for more than twenty years ever since it became clear that they would have no children she took it to her study and hung it on the wall at her back. There, she had said to Jack’s reappearing photo, with the grim amusement that got her through the days: I don’t like it, but have it if you want. Jack, like Sandra, had begun academic life as a historian. Since those early years their paths had diverged: Sandra had begun with war history and moved easily to feminism and perceptions of women’s work, then concentrated on textiles. Jack had made an even bigger shift: his interest in the impact of white settlement on local Aboriginal populations had evolved into a committed amateur interest in the threatened bird species of southern Australia. Jack might have been romantic, but when it came to disappearing birds he was an utter pragmatist. Driven by alarm at the rapid rate of species extinction, he had been a keen volunteer on revegetation programs, both locally in the Adelaide Hills and farther north, where the introduced rabbits, sheep, and goats had decimated the natural habitat. Eventually his hobby dominated his work; his research was inventive, his record-keeping thorough, his books and journal articles internationally respected. In a climate of environmental pessimism he worked hard and hopefully for the future, developing action plans for the preservation and reintroduction of birds like the diamond firetail and the Mount Lofty Ranges spotted quail-thrush. Jack worked for the future but lived thoroughly in the present. Sandra had seen how every chance finding of even common feathers gave him a little rush of pleasure. She did not share his fascination another magpie feather, another wattlebird killed by a cat but she envied his delight. With more unusual feathers his wide mouth wreathed into smiles, his brown fingers pressed and smoothed. Such simple access to joy. Her own life seemed com...
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Book Description Penguin, 2018. Paperback. Condition: NEW. 9780141020655 This listing is a new book, a title currently in-print which we order directly and immediately from the publisher. Print on Demand title, produced to the highest standard, and there would be a delay in dispatch of around 10 working days. For all enquiries, please contact Herb Tandree Philosophy Books directly - customer service is our primary goal. Seller Inventory # HTANDREE01444416