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Title: Careful What You Wish for: A Novel
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There was, of course, talk. In Liberty, gossip breathes with a life of its own, strings itself from house to house by lines -- telephone lines now, but back then it was laundry, and if good fences made good neighbors it was because of the alliances made across them on warm and windy afternoons.
Everyone in Liberty knew the story of Eleanor Blackmar Cline -- how her husband had taken up with a colored girl half his age, how he had flaunted her before his wife, and how she had scandalously insisted that the girl be brought to live with them and earn her keep.
As the last Blackmar to be born in Liberty, Eleanor Cline was accustomed to scandal. Disgrace and dishonor were Blackmar possessions -- something to be passed down, like the family home and the general store. Eleanor's great-grandmother, Helena, was a carpetbagger who had come to Liberty to ensure that voting rights were upheld. She was a powerful, independent woman with uncanny powers. She spoke with more passion than was seemly, and coaxed a flower garden out of soil choked with weeds. She was rumored to be a witch. Eleanor's mother, Evalie, was the wild one. Her scandal was a fatherless daughter.
Eleanor Blackmar grew up amid ugly rumors and sidelong glances, until she found absolution in her marriage to John Cline -- and the picture-perfect pies she cooled on the windowsill every afternoon for fifteen years. Eleanor was a devoted mother and a dutiful wife, and her admittance to the Liberty Ladies' Sewing Circle (run with unquestionable authority by the minister's wife) signaled her respectability. But being respectably married didn't protect Eleanor from scandal; it only raised the stakes of what she had to lose. And when her husband started seeing someone else -- keeping her in a room at the Victoria Hotel -- Eleanor Blackmar Cline made a choice she would never have imagined possible. She insisted that the girl come to live with them.
Haunted and catlike, with the desperate look of someone lost, Natalie proves to be a beautiful, uninhibited spirit who changes the lives of those around her. She brings life to the Cline household as to a dormant garden: to Adam, Eleanor's son, a studious and often worried boy, she brings a connection he cannot express and a longing he cannot explain; to Eleanor, encumbered by the restrictions of her husband and her small, fettered life, she brings a laughter that has been silent for years and a strength she has never known. Ultimately finding the courage to leave her small-minded town and abusive husband, Eleanor pursues her own path until, some fifteen years later, she is forced to return to the son she left behind and his enchanting young wife. Having once found the strength to stand alone, Eleanor must now find the courage to reach out to others.
Careful What You Wish For heralds the debut of a young writer of exceptional talent. Myrlin A. Hermes has crafted a rich novel of the South where magic hides in the dust of Main Street and the present lies tangled in the past. This is a story of shadow and light, a timeless tale of the struggle we all must face when trying to reconcile the demands of the family with the desires of the self.From Kirkus Reviews:
A 23-year-old authors rather weepy debut describes the pleasures and regrets of a woman who, in the late '40s, abandons her family, then tries to go home again years later. In the tiny southern hamlet of Liberty, the Blackmarsdescendants of Helena Blackmar, a carpetbagger who arrived in 1872 to stick her nose into the locals business and lecture them on the 15th Amendmentnever really fit in, even after theyd been in Liberty for several generations. The last of them, Eleanor Blackmar Cline, manages to marry a local shopkeeper, bear a healthy son, and join the ladies sewing circle, but even she finally proves all the locals suspicions about the family. When Eleanor discovers that her husband John has been keeping a mistress at the town brothel, she refuses to ignore the situationor to throw him out. Instead, she makes him move the girl into their home to earn her keep. The mnage ... trois is scandal enough, but Natalie is a mulatto to boot. Tongues wag, of course, but Eleanor actually becomes quite fond of Natalie, who is earthy and spontaneous in a way that she envies and eventually tries to emulate. Such is Natalies liberating effect upon Eleanor, in fact, that Eleanor soon concludes that her marriage is killing her. In 1948, she leaves husband and son and goes to live in New York, returning only 15 years later for the funeral when she receives word that John has died. The hardest part is the reunion with her son Adam, now married. Having had no communication with his mother in all the years she was away, he has told everyone that she died long ago. Can she now regain his affection, if not his love? A greatly overwrought story told in excruciatingly ominous prose (There is a secret about time that clocks do not know) that will drive away all but the Harlequin set. -- Copyright ©1999, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.
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