Jill Anthony spent her youth in the ski town of Sparkle, Colorado, but more than a decade has passed since she left. Then a devastating tragedy, coupled with the worst kind of betrayal, makes her want to run away, but the only place she knows to go is home: Sparkle.
Lisa Carlucci looks in the mirror one morning and realizes that she no longer wants to treat her body like a Holiday Inn. She’s going to hold out for love. The only problem is, love might come in the form of her ski-bum best friend, who lives next door with his ski-bum friends in a trailer known as “The Kennel.”
Cassie Jones, at age ten, has lost her mother and no longer believes in anything. Her only solace comes from the messages she believes her deceased mother is sending her through the heart-shaped rocks they once collected in the streams and hills of Sparkle.
Three people at the crossroads of heartbreak and healing. Three lives that will be changed one winter in Sparkle, Colorado. One tender, funny, tear-jerking novel that you won’t soon forget.
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Kaya McLaren is also author of On the Divinity of Second Chances and Church of the Dog. She lives and teaches third and fourth graders on the east slope of Snoqualmie Pass in Washington State. When Kaya’s not working, she likes to telemark ski, sit in hot springs, moonlight hike, and play in lakes with her dog, Big Cedar.Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:
SNOW REPORT FOR NOVEMBER 17
Current temperature: 29F, high of 33F at 3 P.M., low of 22F at 4 A.M.
Clear skies, winds out of the southwest at 10 mph.
25" mid-mountain, 33" at the summit. 1" new in the last 24 hours. 6" of new in the last 48.
Cassie and her babysitter, Nancy, sat silently at the table eating Lean Cuisine cheese cannelloni frozen dinners. Nancy’s breathing bothered Cassie, even though she knew Nancy couldn’t help having sinus problems. Cassie just didn’t want to listen to it. It reminded her of her mother’s last two weeks, when her breathing had become so difficult. To make it worse, Nancy was sitting at her mother’s place at the table.
Cassie looked up at Nancy, wishing she weren’t there—not in her mother’s place at the table or in her mother’s place as her caregiver.
“Do you need something, Cassie?” Nancy asked.
“Don’t sit there anymore,” Cassie said.
Nancy looked startled and slowly stood. “Where would you like me to sit?” she asked gently.
Cassie looked at her father’s place at the table. “There,” she said. “He’s the one you’re replacing.”
She looked back down at her cheese cannelloni while Nancy moved. The mere smell of it made her stomach turn. Of all the frozen dinners, it was the least offensive, but it was offensive nonetheless. She’d never eaten out of cardboard during the ten years of her life that her mother was alive, and she feared that if she kept eating Lean Cuisine, she would become as weak and fat as Nancy. She stared at her food and wondered if any of it really mattered.
All of her Olympic dreams were going down the tubes anyway. She hadn’t even joined ski team this year. When she skied, she felt sad now, so deeply sad that she just wanted lie down in the snow and fall asleep.
She looked down at her dinner again and wanted to throw it, but she couldn’t rally enough will even for that. She simply said, “I hate this crap,” got up, walked up the stairs to her room, and locked herself inside.
From her room, Cassie could hear the sound of Nancy’s regular evening routine—the lid of the stainless-steel garbage can opening and closing as she threw away the cardboard trays, the spring in the dishwasher door creaking as she opened it to put in the forks, the sound of running water and the microwave beeping two and a half minutes later. Finally, Cassie heard the questions and buzzers on Jeopardy! and occasionally Nancy’s voice when she shouted out the few answers that she knew. As usual, the TV stayed on for the duration of the night, and the noise, combined with Nancy’s snoring, drowned out the sound of Cassie’s sobs during or after her nightmares.
* * *
Mike Jones wanted to believe that Kate’s soul was eternal, but he wasn’t sure if a person could believe in that without believing in God. Believing in God wasn’t so easy. Five hours ago, he was on a call for a woman who drove off a steep embankment and miraculously was okay. She gave full credit to God. And now he was here, at this accident, a head-on collision between a semitruck and a family in a minivan. Both parents and one child were dead. The other child appeared to have a punctured lung and probably internal bleeding. She was barely hanging on. With a dying little girl in the back of his aid car who would wake up without her family if she made it at all, he couldn’t help wondering where God was this time.
It made no sense to him, this idea that some people got God and some people didn’t. There were those who had told him that we could not know the intention behind God’s plan for us—that we had to trust that we were in good hands and that maybe as our lives unfolded, we would see how something was for the best. And then there were the others who believed everything was a test, that God tried to protect us from the bad things, but sometimes Satan won and that Satan tried to do things to diminish our faith in God. Mike glanced back as he drove on and listened to John and Ben continuing to work to stabilize the girl. He did not see how the outcome of this accident would ever be for the best. And he did not see Satan, either. He saw only misfortune—human error and misfortune. It brought him the most peace to simply believe that people were imperfect, and life was imperfect, and sometimes bad things just happened. And if you were lucky, emergency services would show up in time to give you a second chance at life.
He thought about all the times he’d saved someone’s life and the person had attributed this miracle to God. Part of him was always tempted to make a joke of it, something like No, that was my hand stopping the bleeding or No, God didn’t send me; the trucker with the cell phone did. Why, he wondered, was it so hard to see humankind as capable of creating miracles? Miracles were just second chances if you really thought about it—second chances when all hope was lost.
But maybe he had it all wrong. Maybe there was more to it than that.
Eight months ago, the day before he’d found out about Kate’s cancer, he went on a call that he thought about from time to time. A man had lost control of his car on the ice going down a long hill and plowed right into the back of another car. The front of his car was crushed, and his foot was caught on the gas pedal somehow. He said he saw flames creep out of the hood of the car and thought he was a goner. Then he noticed two identical tall, Nordic-looking men, one on the side of the road to his right and the other walking over to his door. Flames were now licking into the car around the edges of the fire wall. The twin on the side of the road disappeared, while the other opened his door, freed his foot, lifted him out of the car, and set him down on the side of the road. When a state patrol officer arrived shortly after, the man told him about the twins, wanting to thank the one who saved his life. The officer told him there was no one else at the scene besides the people in the car in front of him, and no one in the car in front had seen anybody. As Mike had driven him to the hospital to be checked, the man tried to understand how no one else could have seen them. He wondered out loud if they were angels.
The next day when Kate’s doctor told Mike and her about the cancer, he wondered whether the man in the car accident and his angel story were sent to him to give him faith, faith that something would protect and strengthen his wife throughout her battle, that something would lovingly take her home when she died. He wanted to believe it. He did. But as time had gone on and he and his daughter, Cassie, witnessed unbearable and seemingly unending suffering, he couldn’t help wondering about the God that would not grant a miracle then. He saw no divinity in all that suffering. He saw no divinity in God taking his daughter’s mother. He saw no divinity in any of it. But he did see divinity in the outpouring of support for his family from the community.
So at the end of the day, here was what Mike was able to believe in: people. It was people and their kindness that made him feel blessed. It was people who were the heroes, and people who were generous, and people who comforted one another.
And he believed in nature, in survival instincts, in the way living things will cling to every last shred of life and fight for it. He believed in a cell’s ability to multiply and repair even the most heinous injuries. He believed in life.
And just as he thought that, the girl in the back of the aid car flatlined despite all their efforts. And while he was glad she wouldn’t be waking up in severe pain in the hospital without her parents and her brother, he was not glad she was dead. He wondered again where God was now, but truly he did not want to hear anyone make up a story to try to explain. He did not want to hear any more explanations, anyone else grasping to make sense of things that didn’t make sense. He wished more people would just admit they didn’t know.
He was glad that it wouldn’t be up to him to notify the family’s relatives. It had been only four months since Kate died, and he found it extremely difficult to deal with other people’s grief while he dealt with his own. And even though he did not believe in God, he hoped the mourners did. He hoped they had some story they told themselves that would comfort them and would get them through such a huge loss, a story that would help them get out of bed in the morning when the weight of their loss would pin them down.
John and Ben were quiet in the back. What they all knew well was this: Life was fragile. And sometimes it was unspeakably sad.
* * *
Two blocks down the street from Mike and Cassie’s house, Lisa Carlucci pretended to be asleep as Cody quietly dressed next to the bed. She didn’t take it personally that he was sneaking out. She understood. She’d done it herself. And truthfully, she was relieved. She didn’t want to have to look at him in the light of day and see how much this hadn’t meant to him. It was bad enough to have seen it in the dark. She wasn’t mad at him, though. She had chosen this situation knowing full well what it was and what it wasn’t.
She felt discomfort in her core, a feeling that was hard to name, but something like anger and something like emptiness. She waited to hear Cody descend the stairs, no doubt bristling with fear that he would wake her every time a stair squeaked. She actually smiled just thinking of his inner terror. She listened to the front door open and then close. Only then did she open her eyes. She was thankful that he shut the door quietly because she didn’t want any of the guys next door to look out and see him leave. For that same reason, she was ...
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Book Description Brilliance Audio, 2012. Compact Disc. Book Condition: Brand New. unabridged edition. 5.50x6.50x1.00 inches. In Stock. Bookseller Inventory # 1469220245