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Painter Honor Sullivan has made a life for herself and her three daughters–Regis, Agnes, and Cecilia–at Star of the Sea Academy on the magical Connecticut shore. Here she teaches art at the convent school’s beautiful seaside campus, over which Honor’s sister-in-law, mother superior Bernadette Ignatius, keeps a benevolent and watchful eye. No one could have foreseen the day rebellious Regis would come home with the stunning news that she was getting married. Nor could anyone have guessed how that sudden announcement would soon change all their
Eleven years ago, Honor thought she had the perfect home, the perfect love, the perfect life. Then her husband, brilliant photographer and sculptor John Sullivan, broke her heart–and tore their little family apart. Now, hearing of Regis’s impending marriage, John has ended his self-imposed exile and returned to the family he’s always loved more than anything on earth. What he finds is one daughter still hurting over his abandonment, another who barely remembers him, and a third who may be in more trouble than anyone knows. And then there is Honor herself–and a passion that may have been interrupted but that has never waned.
Some things, like sandcastles, don’t survive the changing tides. But love, family, and friendship–just as fragile–have a way of standing against anything. It will take nothing short of a miracle to heal the rift between father and daughter, husband and wife, the past and the present–but a miracle is exactly what is in the works at Star of the Sea Academy. The only question is: Do you believe?
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Luanne Rice is the author of twenty-five novels, most recently Light of the Moon, What Matters Most, The Edge of Winter, Sandcastles, Summer of Roses, Summer’s Child, Silver Bells, and Beach Girls. She lives in New York City and Old Lyme, Connecticut.Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:
It was the land of their ancestors, and Honor swore she could hear their voices crying in the wind. The storm had been building since morning, silver mist giving way to driving rain, gusts off the sea now blowing the hedges and trees almost horizontal. The stone walls that had seemed so magical when she’d first arrived now seemed dark and menacing.
From the plane yesterday morning, Honor had been awed by the green, by the emerald grass and hedgerows and trees. Her three daughters had gazed down, excited and hoping they could see their father’s sculpture from the sky. He had written them letters about Ireland, and about the West Cork farmhouse he had found for them to stay in, and how he’d built his latest work on the very edge of a cliff overlooking the sea. They had fought to open the letters when they came, and be the one to read them out loud, and sleep with them under their pillows.
“There it is!” Regis, fourteen, had cried out, pointing at a crumbling castle.
“No, it’s there...” twelve-year-old Agnes had said, crowding her sister to point out the window. Square green fields ran along the coast, each dotted with tiny white farm buildings. Stone towers and ruined castles seemed to crown every high hill.
“They all look like the pictures he sent,” Cecilia, just seven, had said. “It doesn’t matter which house it is, as long as he’s in it. Right, Mom?”
“Right, sweetheart,” Honor had said, sounding so much calmer than she’d felt.
“It’ll be just like home, Mom,” Agnes had said, forehead pressed to the plane’s window. “A beach, and stone walls...only now we’ll be on the other side of the Atlantic, instead of home in Black Hall. It’s like going across a mirror...”
“Look at all that green,” Cecilia had said.
“Just like our green fields of home,” Agnes had said, unconsciously echoing the lyrics of a song her aunt used to sing to her.
“What’s the first thing you’re going to do when you see Daddy?” Regis had asked, turning to peer at Honor. There was such a challenge in her daughter’s face–almost as if she knew how troubled her mother felt.
“She’s going to hug and kiss him,” Agnes said. “Right, Mom?”
“That’s what I’m going to do, too!” Cece said.
“The first thing I’m going to do,” Regis said, “is ask him to show me his sculpture. It’s his biggest one yet, and it’s right at the edge of the highest cliff, and I want to climb up on top and see if I can see America!”
“You can’t see America across the Atlantic Ocean, can you, Mom?” Cece asked.
“I’ll be able to see it, I swear I will,” Regis said. “Dad said he could see it, so why wouldn’t I be able to?”
“Your father was speaking figuratively,” Honor said. “He meant he could see it in his mind, or his heart...the dream of America that our ancestors had when they left Ireland.”
“And Daddy’s still dreaming,” Cece said.
Cece had counted the days till this trip. Agnes prayed for his safety. And Regis followed in his footsteps. Although she didn’t want to be an artist, she did want to live life on the edge. Over the past year she had been delivered back to the Academy by the police twice–once for diving off the train bridge into Devil’s Hole, and once for climbing to the top of the lighthouse to hang the Irish flag.
Instead of being upset, John had gone straight to the lighthouse with his camera to take pictures before the Coast Guard could climb up to take the flag down. He had been touched by his daughter’s Irish pride, and by her way of making a statement–regardless of risk.
Almost like his sculptures; he called them “sandcastles,” which called to mind gentle beaches, families building fragile towers in the sand at the water’s edge. But John’s installations were sharp, kinetic, made of rock and fallen trees, dangerous to build.
Now, on this craggy headland in West Cork, the spiky top of his latest–the bare, unadorned branches of a tree that had fallen somewhere, hauled here by John–was visible over the next rise, at the edge of a cliff, ninety-foot granite walls that dropped straight into the churning sea.
Honor stood at the bedroom window of the farmhouse he’d rented, looking out. John came out of the shower to stand behind her, putting his arms around her and leaning into her. Their clothes lay in a heap beside the bed. Her sketchpad, abandoned yet again, sat on the desk. She had made a few drawings, but her heart wasn’t in it.
“What were you drawing before?” he asked, his lips against her ear. He sounded tentative, as if he wasn’t sure how she’d respond.
“Nothing,” she said. “You’re the artist in the family.”
Honor pressed against his body, wishing she could turn off her thoughts and give in again to the desire that overtook her every time she saw her husband. She wished he hadn’t asked about her drawing.
She gazed down at the small pile of moonstones–luminous, worn smooth by the waves at the foot of the cliff, a gift from John the minute she’d stepped off the plane–on the desk beside her sketchpad. She knew he’d meant them as a peace offering, but her heart was reluctant to accept it. She felt turned inside out, frayed from the stress of trying to keep up with him. He turned her toward him, pulled her body against his, and kissed her.
“The girls,” Honor said.
“They’re sleeping,” he whispered, gesturing toward their daughters’ room as he tried to pull her back to bed.
“I know,” Honor said, “They’re jet-lagged and exhausted from the excitement of being here, seeing you.”
“But what about you?” he asked, stroking her hair and kissing the side of her neck. He sounded so hopeful, as if he thought maybe this trip could stop what they both felt happening between them, stop what they had always had from slipping away forever. “You’re not tired?”
“Yes, me too,” she said, kissing him. She was beyond tired; of wanting him to come home, of worrying that he’d get hurt or killed working on his installations alone, of wishing he’d understand how worn out she was by the demands of his art. At the same time, she was tired of being blocked. It was as if his intense inspiration had started killing the fire of her own. Even her drawings, such as they were, were of his soaring sculpture just over the next rise. She peered out the window, but the structure was now obscured by today’s wild storm.
He had taken them all to the cliff edge yesterday, when they’d first arrived. He’d shown them the ruins of an old castle, a lookout tower built a thousand years ago. Sheep grazed on the hillsides, impossibly steep, slanting down to the sea. The sheep roamed free, their curly white wool splashed with red or blue paint, identifying them for their owners. They grazed right at the base of John’s sculpture.
It affected Honor deeply–to see her husband’s work here in Ireland. They had dreamed of coming for so long–ever since that day twenty five years ago when she, John, Bernie, and Tom had found the box in the stone wall. Honor knew that John had always felt a primal pull to be here, to try to connect with the timeless spirits of his family, as Bernie and Tom had done years earlier. In this green and ancient land, his own family history meshed powerfully with his artistic instincts, an epiphany in earth and stone.
His sculpture awed her, as his work often did–she found it inspiring, disturbing, stunning, rather than beautiful. She knew the physical effort it took him to drag the tree trunks and branches here to the cliff’s edge, to raise them up and balance them against the wind, to haul rocks into the pile–cutting his hands and forearms, bruising his knuckles. John had hands like a prize-fighter’s: scarred and swollen. Only, it had so often seemed to Honor, that the person he was most fighting was himself.
The sculpture rose up from the land like a castle; echoing the ruins just across the gap. It seemed to grow from the ground, as if it had been there forever, a witness to his family who had worked this land, farmed these fields, starved during the famine. He was descended from famine orphans, and as he and Honor and their daughters walked the property, she had to hold back tears to think of what their ancestors had gone through.
And what John experienced now. He was an artist, through and through. He channeled powers from far beyond his own experience–became one with the ghosts, and the bones, and the spirits that had suffered and died. That’s why he’d come to Ireland alone–to haunt the Cobh docks from which his family had emigrated, to drink in the pubs, and to build this monument to his Irish dead.
His sister Bernie–Sister Bernadette Ignatius–was probably the only person who really understood him. Honor loved him, but she didn’t get what drove him, and she was also a little scared of him. Not that he’d ever hurt her or the girls, but that he’d die in pursuit of his art. It wore her down, it did.
She’d felt exhausted yesterday, standing at the base of his huge, ambitious, soaring, reckless installation. How had the wind and the weight of his materials not carried him over the edge of the cliff? How had the storm-scoured branches, the bark stripped right off them,...
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Book Description Books on Tape, 2006. Condition: New. book. Seller Inventory # M1415930724