Fiction Eileen Favorite The Heroines: A Novel

ISBN 13: 9781416548102

The Heroines: A Novel

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9781416548102: The Heroines: A Novel

Although a true lover of books, Anne-Marie Entwhistle prefers not to read to her spirited daughter, Penny, especially from the likes of Madame Bovary, Gone With the Wind, or The Scarlet Letter. These novels, devoted to the lives of the Heroines that make them so irresistible, have a way of hitting too close to home -- well, to the Homestead actually, where Anne-Marie runs the quaint family-owned bed and breakfast.

In this enchanting debut novel, Penny and her mother encounter great women from classic works of literature who make the Homestead their destination of choice just as the plots of their tumultuous, unforgettable stories begin to unravel. They appear at all hours of the day and in all manners of distress. A lovesick Madame Bovary languishes in their hammock after Rodolphe has abandoned her, and Scarlett O'Hara's emotions are not easily tempered by tea and eiderdowns. These visitors long for comfort, consolation, and sometimes for more attention than the adolescent Penny wants her mother to give.

Knowing that to interfere with their stories would cause mayhem in literature, Anne-Marie does her best to make each Heroine feel at home, with a roof over her head and a shoulder to cry on. But when Penny begins to feel overshadowed by her mother's indulgence of each and every Heroine, havoc ensues, and the thirteen-year-old embarks on her own memorable tale.

Eileen Favorite's lively, fresh, and enormously entertaining novel gives readers a chance to experience their favorite Heroines all over again, or introduces these fictional women so beguilingly that further acquaintance will surely follow. Narrated by the courageous and irreverent Penny, The Heroines will make book lovers rejoice.

"synopsis" may belong to another edition of this title.

About the Author:

Eileen Favorite teaches at the School of the Art Institute of

Chicago, where she received her MFA in writing in 1999. She was nominated

for a Pushcart Prize for her short story "Gangway: The Space Between Two

Houses." Her poetry and prose have appeared in literary magazines and her

essays and poems have aired on Chicago Public Radio. She lives in Chicago

with her husband and daughter.

Excerpt. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

CHAPTER 1

· The sorrow of delayed pubescence · Annoyance with Deirdre · Girlish Fantasies · Appearance of the Villain ·

I was so angry with mother! I stormed down the prairie trail, flip-flopsslapping my heels. Walking the mown path through the fifty-acre prairie wasthe only way to cool my head. Hell hath no fury like a pissed-off thirteen-year-old-girl, especially a late bloomer, impatient for her body'stransformation. I was pigtailed, knobby-kneed, and flat-chested, thirteen,but physically more like ten.

Retreating to the woods was an act of rebellion. My mother had forbidden me to go there at night, so I could hardly wait to get through the prairie andreach the dark and leafy trails. The sun was dropping behind the trees, and the cicadas rattled like electric maracas. The prairie grasses andwildflowers reached my shoulders, the flora so thick even someone as furious as I wouldn't dream of walking through it. I stuck to the path. Out on theprairie, the temperature dropped by five degrees, but it was still muggy.The noise from Route 41 sounded louder at night, cutting through the woodsand across the power lines. A far-off motorcycle gunned it, probably passinganother car. The engine whined, built up steam, then faded away. The sound of impatience. And escape. I could relate. An M-80 boomed. You heard themless frequently as the July days marched past the Fourth, but then one wouldboom on the twentieth. Boom! Somebody out there just couldn't stop.

I couldn't stop either. The scent of clover, the chicka-chick of some odd bird. Mother had gone too far with Deirdre this time, and I couldn'tstand it. I wished Deirdre would move on! Find some other bed-and-breakfastto colonize. Though colonize wouldn't have been my word at thirteen.Back then, I probably would have said, Move your butt down the road, girlie! Constant coverage of the Watergate trials and Deirdre were hardrivals for Mother's attention, which I craved in a classic pubescent way.I longed for motherly fussing precisely when my mother wouldn't give it; andI cringed when she touched my hair or asked how I was doing when I had a perfectly marvelous funk going. Her timing always seemed to be off.

But tonight Mother had gone too far. The weeping Irish girl had moaned somuch that another boarder had complained, so Mother had given her thefarthest room away from him: my room. My sanctuary with the dormer windowsand peerless cross-breezes! And Mother hadn't even asked if I would mind. Even though three other rooms were empty, she volunteered my room, as if itwere hers to give. I had spent the summer modifying the posters and pillowsto my new tastes: my growing collection of Zeppelin albums, my purple beanbag chair. All bought with money from chores. Now I had to relinquish itto a pouty Irish girl who possessed everything I craved for myself: flowing blond hair, angelic skin, perfect curves. I would be stuck on a mat in themusty cupola with the dead horse-flies and cobwebs. Unlike some boarderswho came for a week or two, Deirdre hadn't specified her departure date. Icould be trapped in the cupola for a month. I looked across the prairie atthe fireflies flickering in the weeds. Maybe I'd camp in the woods.

Humidity blurred the peach half-moon. I usually took this walk earlier, butthe weeping Deirdre had monopolized Mother, and I'd had to clean the wholekitchen myself. While I swept the remnants of our cook Gretta's potatosalad and sauerbraten into the waste pail, Mother and Deirdre sipped ginger ale in the dining room, and Deirdre blathered about some boyfriend of herswho died. Gretta had the evening off, and Mother wasn't budging, so I had torush to stack the plates and wipe clean the counters and sweep the greatlinoleum floor.

I swatted my arm and hurried through the woods toward the spot where a greatblue heron I had named Horace lingered at sunset. I always tried to spot Horace before he detected me, but he took flight at the snap of a twig,unfolding his six-foot wingspan and gliding across the murky water. I hadmissed him tonight and it was no accident. It was Mother's fault. And Deirdre's too.

The residual buzz from a joint I'd smoked that afternoon with my neighborAlbie tilted my senses. Albert Gallagher was fifteen, a longtime nerd who'd recently morphed into a stoner. I wasn't a particularly capable joint smoker,and after a couple tokes, I noticed how the birds suddenly seemed to be havinggenuine conversations. I could deal with the whole alternate reality of thesound of the creek, but gawky and pimpled Albie was another story. Hesmiled at me too widely, his braces glinting, and I saw the chemistry-setdork of yesteryear. He had to be pretty desperate to hang out with me. I wasnot one of those thirteen-going-on-twenty-two type of girls. But I wasgrateful for his companionship in the summertime especially, and Motherhadn't really acknowledged that he wasn't the innocent boy he used to be. Her vigilance had waned precisely when it should have sharpened. She knew thatAlbie and I "took hikes" in the afternoons, but she had no clue about mynighttime excursions alone in the woods.

The woods at night had always been a forbidden zone, and up until a few monthsbefore, I'd always steered clear of them after dark. Mother never said precisely why I shouldn't go into them, and as my irritability with herincreased, so did my desire to venture farther into the woods. I was growingbeyond Mother's constant surveillance, and with every nightly walk throughthe woods that passed without incident, I became emboldened, venturingfarther and farther into the dark.

A mosquito whined in my ear, and I swatted it, first calmly, then spastically.Between the black branches the sky was gray. I ran across a short extension bridge, making the chains and planks rattle like hell, then I flew into another small prairie. The sudden appearance of a Tudor mansion shifted everything. At this point in my daily stroll I always slowed down. I trailedmy fingers along the flowers, suddenly elegant, suddenly cool. I pulled therubber bands out of my hair and let my curly red hair hang. I imagined ahandsome hero, half hidden by a velvet curtain, watching my pensive walkthrough the prairie and asking himself, Who might that creature be? Ienvisioned a future where every night I descended a spiral staircase, a butler handed me a champagne flute, and my dashing husband and I tangoed acrossthe living room. Back then, I had no doubt that my life would have a happyending.

After the second prairie, I wound up back in the dark woods. It was later,and therefore darker than I'd ever seen before. I turned on a bridle pathand heard something scamper through the fallen leaves. The cicadas' rattle grew louder, then suddenly stopped, as if warning me. A flame of fear blazedthrough my body; an animal, evil men, something was lurking and watching mefrom the dark corners of the woods. Two acorns thunked to the ground. ThenI heard beating hooves behind me. I jumped off the path and pushed far into the brambles, swearing that I would never disobey my mother again. Thescratchy, moist brush felt like a giant, thorny spider web, and mosquitoesimmediately started to feast on my exposed skin. I turned back to look atthe path.

I saw the silhouette of a man with billowing hair riding a horse at fullgallop. Wood chips flew into the air behind him. In one hand he held the bridle,and in the other a flaming torch of such orange fire, I could scarcely believeit was earthly. I squeezed my eyes shut and pressed against a tree trunk,praying he wouldn't see me, and wondering if this was why Mother had warnedme to avoid the woods at night.

"Where is she?" he roared.

The horse skidded to a halt, and he waved the torch into the trees, turning them from black to flickering gold. My fingers trembled, and it took everyounce of strength not to wet my pants. He held the torch high, next to hisface, and I saw his muttonchop side-whiskers, his thick beard. He peered down his long, sharp nose, then tilted the torch so it shone in my face. I crossedmy legs and hugged myself.

"Where is Deirdre?" he shouted.

It suddenly dawned on me that this girl I'd been fighting with and hatingand wishing would go away was a genuine Heroine. Boring Deirdre was one ofthem; even Mother hadn't guessed. Never before had a man leapt from the pages of a book to recapture a Heroine. Deirdre was so depressed - cryingall the time and monopolizing Mother's attention - she must have come fromsome awful romance. Only a cheap book would have binding too weak to hold backa stereotype like this guy. All of this flashed through my mind while my bodytrembled with terror. For, whatever the plot line, however base the literary merit, this guy and his torch were close enough to set the tree on fire.

Copyright © 2008 by Ellen Favorite

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