Fiction Classic Brenda Bowen Enchanted August

ISBN 13: 9781784701130

Enchanted August

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9781784701130: Enchanted August

An Indie Next Pick On a dreary day in Brooklyn, Lottie and Rose spot an ad on their children’s preschool bulletin board: Old, pretty cottage to rent on a small island. Springwater, blueberries, sea glass. August. Smitten, they take the place and find two others to share the rent. When they arrive on the island, they are transformed. And by the late-August blue moon, they open up: to one another and to the possibilities of lives quite different from the ones they’ve been leading.

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About the Author:

Brenda Bowen is a literary agent. She lives in New York, and spends as much of her summer as she can on an island much like Little Lost Island in Maine."Enchanted August"is her adult debut.

"From the Hardcover edition.""

Excerpt. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

June & July

CHAPTER ONE

When Lottie Wilkes opened her eyes on the morning of June 13, she congratulated herself on passing the one-year mark without having had sex with her husband.

Ethan sighed softly in his sleep. He turned over, draping an unconscious arm across her forehead. He was so dear in his sleep—the sweet shallow breaths, the familiar humid smell, the flutters behind the veiny lids—Lottie couldn’t get enough of looking at him, so soft, so vulnerable. He grunted.

Lottie remembered that it had been a year because almost exactly a year ago—the day before their anniversary—she and her husband had managed to find it in themselves to “log some sack time,” as he used to put it. Lottie had felt a little overlooked in that last exercise, as if she could have been anyone, and asked, “Can you kiss me like you used to?”

“Jesus Christ, Lottie!” he’d replied, before flinging off the covers and storming out of the apartment. Lottie had forgotten for the moment that he didn’t like being asked to do things, and promised herself no sex unless there was kissing. A promise she’d been able to keep.

Ethan opened his huge brown eyes. “Hi, Mommy,” he whispered.

“Shhh, sweetie,” said Lottie. “Don’t wake Daddy.”

Ethan would turn four in September. This month he was three and three-quarters. He was precocious with fractions. He was not precocious about sleeping in his own bed.

“Come on, sweetie,” she told him in a whisper. “Let’s get up.”

It was 5:42 A.M., and this June 13 was the seventh morning in a row that would have been better spent asleep. Summer officially started in eight days and yet it was gray, dreary, wet, cold; animals would stay in their dens, birds in their nests, fish in whatever they slept in—reefs? Ethan, of course, was impervious to weather. He could be relied on to wake up between 5:30 and 5:47 every morning, after having gone to sleep—screaming, under protest—somewhere shortly before midnight. And running headlong into their bed between 2:37 and 3:04. Ethan, of course, could take a two-hour nap late every afternoon, and did. Lottie and Jon could not.

Sleep deprivation is what really kills you about child rearing. Not spending time with their little selves or pushing them in strollers or talking, seriously, about whether doorbells are magic. That stuff is gorgeous. The killer is the two- to three-hour-a-night sleep regimen, not just once in a blue moon, but night after night after day after night. Sex was collateral damage. And truly, Lottie’s life was easier without it. Less laundry, too.

Lottie led Ethan to the bathroom. He was proud of his Pull-Ups, but not so proud that he didn’t soak them just before daybreak.

“Good boy!” said Lottie enthusiastically when Ethan stood pleased and tall next to the potty, emitting nothing. “Good try!”

She adored him, and not just because they looked alike: curly-haired, wide-eyed elves. She was stunned by the words in his little brain. She was struck dumb by the determination of his solid body. She marveled every time he framed a new idea.

“Breakfast, Mommy!” said Ethan this morning, and Lottie was overcome, as she was every morning.

And as they did every morning, the early hours passed in a flurry of bananas and instant grits and Z100 and train videos on YouTube. Jon arose at 7:15 as he did every morning and got dressed in his striving lawyerly suit and boxed shirt and kissed them both on the cheek on his way out to work.

“Bye, little buddy,” he said to Ethan. “Happy almost anniversary, hon,” he added to Lottie as he headed out the door, almost as if he, too, remembered. But not enough to want to do anything about it. “I’ll be home on the late side.”

Whatever that meant.

Lottie and Ethan busied themselves getting ready for preschool. Four hours a day and twenty-seven thousand dollars a year. That was the thought she had every morning as she pushed the stroller up the slope to Happy Circle Friends. Twenty-seven thousand dollars a year that she didn’t make and Jon did and that neither of them could put toward their college loans. And Happy Circle was the cheap one.

This morning the twenty-seven thousand dollars seemed more punitive than usual. It would have been so much easier to do preschool at home. The weirdly warm rain pelted down in sheets from the leaden sky. Lottie didn’t have rain boots—or at least she couldn’t find them, again, on her way out the door—and her feet would be soaking before they got to Third Avenue. Ethan was kicking against the plastic sheeting of his stroller, loving his power over the raindrops, which he directed into rivulets from within his cocoon.

The parking lot of dripping strollers crowded the vestibule of the former church that housed both Happy Circle Friends and its tonier rival, President Pre. Lottie’s purple leggings were soaked from knee to hem. Most of the Happy Circle moms were not her friends, but Lottie tried to be friendly to everyone. She was the friendly type. Her hair was so wet she shook it out like a dog all over Ethan—he loved that—as she said good-bye to him.

“Good boy, Mommy!” said Ethan and patted her like a puppy. “Go now.” Once he was at the Lego table he didn’t want her around. “Bye, sweetie Ethie!” said Lottie, and even she knew she’d have to stop calling him that soon. She braced herself to start back out into the rain, picking her way through the soggy souped-up Maclaren strollers to the vestibule.

It was really coming down now. What was this, hail? The rain hadn’t let up since mid-May. Of course, soon they’d be begging for a little cool rain once the savage heat of August blew in. Lottie adjusted her slicker and put her hands in her pockets. Maybe a large skim latte would help.

As she turned to leave, something caught her eye: a new notice on the old-fashioned bulletin board by the front door. There, among “Our Beloved Nanny Is Leaving” and “Breast-feeding Coach—Beyond Pain to Lactation,” was one that read:

Hopewell Cottage

Little Lost Island, Maine.

Old, pretty cottage to rent, on a small island.

Springwater, blueberries, sea glass.

August.

All at once she was aware of a sharp intake of breath just behind her.

“Is that because of the cottage?” Lottie asked. She didn’t even know whom she was asking.

“I’m sorry?”

“Was your gasp because of this sign?” She turned to see another mom—so different from her! Tall and Nordic with a square face and superpale blue eyes. This was a President Pre mother, a big-deal President Pre mother: Rose Arbuthnot, an actual genius.

The other mom quickly folded up a letter that Lottie could see was on President Preschool letterhead. Lottie had heard they were always sending parents letters—e-mail wouldn’t do for President Pre. President Pre was tough.

“Little Lost Island,” said Rose, not quite to herself.

Rose Arbuthnot was married to a writer, Fred Arbuthnot (she took his name!), who was famous in the Slope for being one of their two residents who had won a MacArthur Award. He was the genius, not her. Lottie recalled that he was also a genius at creating found art and running a hospice and weaving tapestries from hemp collected at City Island marinas. Or something. He was a success at everything he tried. Now he was working on a Major Novel, apparently, but certainly it hadn’t come out yet. Still, great things were expected of him.

And yet here was Rose, whose face up close looked even paler (her eyelashes were actually transparent), focusing on the note on the preschool letterhead as if it held her fate on its creamy surface.

“Hopewell,” Lottie said to her again. “We need to go there.”

 · · · 

“Rose? Shall we head back to my space?”

Rose was startled out of staring at the sign on the bulletin board by the dulcet voice of Patience, the aptly named head of school at President Pre. She was glad for the interruption; she wanted to get out of there before she could be assailed again by the other mom. She knew the subtext of every conversational gambit of this preschool parenting crowd. “Are all Ben’s teeth in?” meant “When will he stop biting?” “Beatrice and Benedick—what terrific names” meant “Wow, you are pretty pretentious, even for Park Slope.” And the ultimate, “How is your husband’s book coming?” which meant the thing she wanted most to avoid: “How in God’s name do you live so well when neither one of you makes any money?”

“Yes, absolutely,” said Rose. She knew exactly why Patience wanted to see her. The Arbuthnot donation to the annual fund, as massively generous as it was, may have been found wanting. The check had been cashed swiftly, though.

The other mother turned to her and extended her hand. The sleeves of her slicker dripped on Rose’s wrist. She had enviably curly dark hair and an expressive face. Harpo Marx’s kid sister. “I’m Ethan’s mom, from Happy Circle,” she said. Rose didn’t quite understand the sudden friendliness, but this woman was looking at her with sympathy, even solidarity. She was hard to resist. But Rose did. “I have to go,” she said.

“I know,” said the woman. “I think we should both go.”

“What?” said Rose.

“I’m Lottie Wilkes. Ethan’s mom,” said the mother again, enunciating clearly, as if Rose didn’t speak the language, “and I think we should try to go to Hopewell Island. Because we need to get away from this.”

“It’s Little Lost Island. Hopewell Cottage.” Rose was a careful reader. “But I don’t need to get away.”

“Rose?” It was Patience.

“I have to go.” She followed Patience down the narrow hall covered with cheery artwork and encouraging signs and Purell dispensers. She and Fred had moved heaven and earth to get the twins accepted here. Even with a MacArthur it was touch and go at admissions time, especially as there were the two children. But now that Bea and Ben were here, they’d be set till graduate school. Or so everyone said. She sighed and hoped that Patience didn’t pick up on it.

Please, have a seat,” said Patience. Rose sat. Patience opened with chitchat about the school’s upcoming summer program and its benefits, which Rose was already aware of, as both the twins were enrolled. Then she moved to the miserable weather, vacation plans, the politics of the Park Slope Food Coop. Rose knew Patience well enough to recognize this phase of the conversation as the softening up.

“I’m sorry Fred can’t be here,” said Rose. Much as she liked the school, she did not care for Patience’s oversolicitous social manner. “That woman could sniff out cash in an abattoir,” said Fred when they got the note tucked into Ben’s stroller last night, requesting their presence in Patience’s “space.”

“Can you take this one for the team?” he had asked. Rose felt she took a lot for the team, especially where the twins were concerned. Luckily Patience did not grasp quite how much the Arbuthnots were worth, or she’d be all over them to break ground on a new building. This letter had a slightly different tone, though, so maybe Patience had new intelligence.

“I’m sorry too. But I’m sure you know why we asked you here,” said Patience.

Rose nodded. “I think I do.”

Patience folded her arms, looked her straight in the eye, shook her head, and said, “We’re very concerned about Ben.”

Pause.

She continued to look at Rose, waiting. Waiting for what?

“What do you mean, you’re concerned about Ben?”

“We love Ben very much here at President Pre. He has a bright, creative mind and a very free spirit. But the academic year is almost over. And he continues to find it challenging to settle down.” Rose couldn’t speak. Patience shook her head again, each back-and-forth freighted with some sorry meaning. “We feel he may have special requirements. He is a marvelous boy, but we wonder whether he might need more help elsewhere.”

The overemphasized words hit Rose like a fist of ice to the face. What was she saying? Rose barely registered as Patience went on to tell her about excellent psychiatrists and highly recommended therapies that could aid Ben’s development.

“I can understand that you may not want to separate him from his twin, but we feel that might be the best thing for both Bea”—pause, significant pause—“and Ben.”

What was she talking about? Separate the twins? They were almost the same person. They didn’t want to be apart! They were hugging each other when she had the C-section. Maybe if she hadn’t had the C-section Ben would have come out different. Better. Her mind raced. He’s being kicked out of preschool?

Where was Fred? He’d slash this woman to ribbons.

Then Patience deployed her parting shot: “Ben is welcome to stay here for our summer program, which is largely nonacademic.” Nonacademic! “But in the fall . . . I’m sure you can understand. It may not be a good fit. Of course, with the necessary support systems in place, we could see how it goes. For the first semester, perhaps.”

That was it. Meeting over. Patience got up and shook Rose’s hand. Rose could not believe that she found herself permitting her to do it. I want to kill you, she thought. You should never go near either one of my children. I hate you. You are a monster.

The strollers were like a barricade of SUVs against the door. Rose pushed through them, deliberately upsetting the oh-so-carefully calibrated hierarchy of whose stroller deserved which space, because everything in Park Slope was based on some kind of fucking self-righteous moral order.

She braced herself for the rain, now sheeting down, and called Fred from the shelter of a doorway. It smelled like cat pee. It took all her strength not to throw up. He picked up right away, even though he hated anyone to call when he was writing. “How’d it go?”

Rose told him. But as she talked, she couldn’t stop her anger from shifting. “Why weren’t you here? You should have been here.” I’m blaming Fred, she thought. Stop.

“You said it was fine for just you to go.”

“He manipulates us, Fred, even at three.” Oh, God! Now Ben! “We should have done more when he was younger. When he gets out of control it’s tough. It’s tough on Bea, too. He needs a stronger hand.” Was his sister already a victim? Was she an enabler? Ben was a pest at home. Sometimes he was. What must he be like at school?

“Do you think he’s worse at school?” Fred asked.

“What do you mean, worse?” said Rose. For Fred to say it was treasonous. “Are you saying he’s bad? Are you saying you want your three-year-old on medication?”

“Rose, I don’t even think they give medication to three-year-olds.”

The rain was so loud she had to shout to hear herself. “She said they do! She knows excellent psychopharmacologists! Is that what you want for him? I don’t even want him in the summer program there at this point.”

“Then what are you going to do with him this summer?” Fred said.

“What am I going to do?”

There was silence for a while.

“Rosie, we can’t have this conversation on the phone,” Fred said. “Come home. Let’s talk.”

She didn’t want to go home. She didn’t want to see Fred and she...

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Book Description Vintage Publishing, United Kingdom, 2015. Paperback. Book Condition: New. Language: English . Brand New Book. Brenda Bowen s Enchanted August is a perfect summer read - for any time of the year Everyone needs a place like Hopewell Cottage - a romantic holiday rental on a small, sunny island. For Rose and Lottie, it s a refuge from the frenzy of the school gates. For Beverly, it s a chance to say goodbye to two lost loves. And for disgraced movie star Caroline, it offers the anonymity she craves. But on tiny Little Lost Island, with its cocktail parties, tennis matches and Ladies Association for Beautification, will they really find the answers to their very modern problems? `Delightful. I m dreaming of blueberries and Maine lobster. We all need a sunny island or castle to which we can run away Helen Simonson, author of MAJOR PETTIGREW S LAST STAND. Bookseller Inventory # AAZ9781784701130

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Book Description Vintage Publishing, United Kingdom, 2015. Paperback. Book Condition: New. Language: English . Brand New Book. Brenda Bowen s Enchanted August is a perfect summer read - for any time of the year Everyone needs a place like Hopewell Cottage - a romantic holiday rental on a small, sunny island. For Rose and Lottie, it s a refuge from the frenzy of the school gates. For Beverly, it s a chance to say goodbye to two lost loves. And for disgraced movie star Caroline, it offers the anonymity she craves. But on tiny Little Lost Island, with its cocktail parties, tennis matches and Ladies Association for Beautification, will they really find the answers to their very modern problems? `Delightful. I m dreaming of blueberries and Maine lobster. We all need a sunny island or castle to which we can run away Helen Simonson, author of MAJOR PETTIGREW S LAST STAND. Bookseller Inventory # AAZ9781784701130

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Book Description Vintage. Book Condition: New. Everyone needs a place like Hopewell Cottage - a romantic holiday rental on a small, sunny island. For Rose and Lottie, it's a refuge from the frenzy of the school gates. For Beverly, it's a chance to say goodbye to two lost loves. And for disgraced movie star Caroline, it offers the anonymity she craves. Num Pages: 320 pages. BIC Classification: FA. Category: (G) General (US: Trade). Dimension: 130 x 197 x 29. Weight in Grams: 226. . 2015. Paperback. . . . . Books ship from the US and Ireland. Bookseller Inventory # V9781784701130

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