East Branch BOOK CLUB reads SHADOWS

I’d like to thank the book club at the east branch Saint John Library for reading my novel LET THE SHADOWS FALL BEHIND YOU.  I dropped by to visit them and thoroughly enjoyed their lively conversation.  Emily, the chief librarian, made delicious sweet treats and I brought chocolate.  Much sugar, caffiene and laughter was had by all.  What a thoughtful bunch of bibliophiles!

I especially loved the woman  who piped up at the end of our talk and asked me to read the last 2 paragraphs on page 251 which she felt summed up the heart of the book.  I agree one hundred percent!  It’s humbling and thrilling as a writer, when a reader connects with the soul of a story:

The tragedy was that everyone in the family had a story to tell. Brannagh could see that now. The leaver and the left behind.  And each person’s version would probably leave the impression that the teller of the tale was neither all sinner nor all saint, but simply human, with the struggle that being so entailed.  But they were stories that sometimes hid a dark truth that she had no way of  knowing completely. Ever.  She could only guess, take a blind leap, then let go.

And it seemed to her that the echoes of a family’s feeble attempts at love were at the heart of the anguish passed down from one generation to the next, an invisible inheritence undetectable to the naked eye, but skewered through the soul; a legacy of mistakes, fears, mistrust, disappearances, vulnerability, sickness, calluses formed around hearts, all these miserly clutchings threaded through one huge lump that a person blindly inherited with no say in the matter, that the universe left them on thier own to sort out.

Thank you East Branch for reading my novel and inviting me to talk about the book.  Until next time…happy reading!

 

 

 

LET THE SHADOWS FALL BEHIND YOU: Chapter One, Scene 5

celtic11I’m not sure about other writers, but I never come up with a theme for a novel until after the first draft is written.  Theme is organic in nature, and rises to the surface of the narrative as the story takes shape.  What is the theme of LET THE SHADOWS FALL BEHIND YOU?

 

If had to put it in one sentence it would be this:  SHADOWS is about the redeeming power of love and friendship. None of us escapes pain.  Our human connections are our saving grace.  Brannagh learns acceptance and letting go.  There comes a time in everyone’s life when they are drawn towards revisiting the past and laying it to rest.  This is part of Brannagh’s journey. She’s kind of stuck, I think, because she really just wants to avoid it all and get on with life. But, as is often the case, it won’t let her go. We are often drawn back, again and again, to the very thing we want to shy away from. Luckily, Brannagh has three loyal childhood friends who won’t let her drift away. They pull her back.

 

As promised, I’m posting consecutive scenes from Chapter One weekly, leading up to the official launch on May 10th.  Hope you enjoy the next instalment.  Just click EXCERPT on the menu above.  Each scene is separated by a *.

 

 

Kathy-Diane Leveille

Author of LET THE SHADOWS FALL BEHIND YOU

ISBN:978-1601641670

Leveille’s writing sings of heartbreak and redemption, and the wicked dancing moments in-between.”  Carol Bruneau author of Purple for Sky

Roads Unravelling Excerpt: The Chair

The Chair

 

 

As far as Willa could tell, the road to the farm, thirty kilometres west of Saint John,  hadn’t changed in twenty years.  It wound past the hill where she had picked blueberries every summer, and over the creek.  She stared out the truck window, jerking forward as Don shifted gears. The house was gone, burned down long ago.  The clothesline pole leaned drunkenly.  The root cellar had caved in, and the outbuildings looked ready to follow suit.  The barn was a hollow-eyed shell.  Fireweed, ragwort and thistles overran the gardens.

      Willa could feel the tension in her shoulders loosening.  She stretched and yawned.  She had spent years ignoring the farm when, all along, there hadn’t been much left to ignore. 

      Don pulled over to the side of the road.  Engine running, he opened the driver’s door and leaned out to get a better look.  He was as lean and wired as Willa was plump and unhurried.  “Goddamned soft and curvy,” he had said on their fourth date.  “Curvy as a double-scoop.”  Corny as day-old chowder, Willa had thought wryly, but she couldn’t resist letting herself slip, effortlessly beneath his cliched charm.  She knew perfectly well that Don was a dreamer, the worst kind, impetuous, high-strung and stubborn.  But he was also honest and fearless and couldn’t walk by a stroller without waggling his fingers in his ears. 

     “This is it, chicka.  It’s ours.  All ours.”  Don slid back inside the truck, grinning like a fool.  Ten years after they met, he was still a salt-and-pepper, leather-skinned version of James Dean.


     “Sure it’s ours, all ours.” Willa laughed as he pinned her into the corner of the cab, popping the buttons on her shirt.  She made a half-hearted effort to shoo him away.  Temporarily.  Remember what Emily said–”

     “Shit.  Who cares what Miss Pucker Lips says?  It’s ours, chicka.  All ours.”   His head slid down her breast.

     Temporarily,” Willa whispered into his hair.  It smelt like peppermints and smoke.  The farm might have changed in the past twenty years, but she hadn’t.  Willa still hated the place.

         ***

They quickly developed a routine.  After scrubbing and bleaching away all the ingrained remains of chicken shit and horse manure, they slept in sleeping bags on the floor of the barn.  Don would rise first and go out to start a fire, fill the coffee pot and dig the eggs out of the cooler.  In a way, it was as if they were just on another camping trip on the Cabot Trail.  But when Willa pulled her sweater over her nightgown and stepped outside to gaze at her surroundings, the truth hit home.  She skewered bread on a two-pronged stick and sat on an upturned log, staring at the sparks and ashes spinning towards the sky.

     Willa knew everything about the farm there was to know.  It was boring, simple as that.  A trap.  She had always had that feeling as a kid and, as she’d grown older, had had to fight the conviction that she was its prisoner.  If Willa had had her choice, the farm would have been the last place she would have chosen to live. 


     Last spring, to her and her cousin, Emily’s, astonishment, their grandmother had left them the farm in her will.  Willa had wanted to take the family lawyer’s advice and sell it immediately, but life had taken an unexpected turn.


     Since the mine in Sydney, Nova Scotia, had closed the year before,  Don had been swaggering around their walk-up apartment.  He’d go to night school, he said, make a few bucks under the table helping out his cousin, Nathan, who owned a contracting firm, rebuild the engine in the truck, regrout the bathroom.   But by the time his pogie ran out, he’d stopped his prancing.  He could no longer pretend that the situation was  temporary.  He’d doze on the Lazy Boy in front of the TV all day.  Willa would come home from the library, where she had been hired to repair and bind damaged books, arms full of volumes of Better Homes and Gardens, and discover that he hadn’t even bothered to start supper.  She grew alarmed.  They seemed to have reversed poles.  The more lethargic and laid back Don became, the more high-strung and sleepless Willa became.  By the time she went home to Saint John, New Brunswick to visit her mother, Beth, at Loch Lomond Villa, Willa’s nails were raw and ragged.  She’d developed a habit of jumping at sudden movements or sounds. 

     Her cousin, Emily, showed up at the home during that visit, the bracelets that circled her arm from elbow to wrist clanking loudly to announce her arrival.  She planted a lipstick butterfly on Beth’s cheek, then turned to Willa.  “Oh, Wilhelmina, I was hoping I’d run into you.  The nurse told me she expected you around twoish.”’ She dumped a gold-wrapped box of Ganong’s on Beth’s lap.

     “Willa.  My name’s Willa.”  Willa reached over to help Beth unwrap the cellophane off the candy.

     “Hey!”  Beth swatted at Willa’s hand.

     Emily made a show of cooing over the birthday card and nightgown Willa had given Beth.  When Beth’s cheeks were bulging with caramel-laced nougat, Emily folded her arms across her chest and leaned against the wall.  “I’ve had a brain wave,” she announced.


     “Ungh?”  Willa sucked greedily on a chocolate-covered cherry, eyeing the gold-plated badge on Emily’s lapel.  It read Coastal Realty, Agent of the Month.

     “As co-inheritors of the farm, we hire a contractor to renovate the barn into a trendy loft.  Then we put it up for sale before the bottom drops out of the market, and double our profit.”

      Willa fought the urge to wince, and reached for another chocolate.

     “Or…..”  Emily paused and gently extracted a piece of lint out of Willa’s hair.  “You and Don could fix it up.  He isn’t engaged at the moment, is he?  I’ll pay the labour costs, and fifty percent of materials.  You can deduct your fifty percent from the split on the final sale.”

     Willa dropped the chocolate back into the box.

     “I mean, if you’re worried about money.”

     Willa stood up and smoothed her rumpled skirt.  “We aren’t worried about money.” 

      Willa had driven back to Nova Scotia calculating how much she and Don would save living rent free for six months and whether or not she could afford to drop her contract with a local antique store that auctioned rare books.  Don eyed her suspiciously while she explained the plan, but by the time she was finished, he was whooping and hollering that this was payback time because they could use the profits for a down payment on a house and quit pouring rent money down the drain every month. 

     Now, every morning, Willa chewed her toast  and watched Don poking at the fire.  While she would worry about the consequences of quitting her job at the library and leaving the antique store high and dry,  he would stand back and size up the barn, eyes shining.  He would strut back and forth swilling his coffee, jabbing a finger in the air as he explained how he was going to leave the ceiling large and open and airy and put in a huge window overlooking the fields.  He’d build flower boxes and paint them periwinkle blue, the colour of Willa’s eyes.


      Willa followed behind him during the day collecting debris in the wheelbarrow.  She would bring it outside and sort what could be burnt and what had to be hauled to the dump.  But she had no desire to explore, no desire to head outside the small circle of familiarity that she and Don were forming.  When Don went to Kent’s to buy materials, she stayed behind.  She had no need to go into Saint John other than to visit her mother.  She let Don take care of replenishing the groceries and ice for the cooler.  Whenever Don left in the truck she would sit on a log facing the barn, reading one of the books she had brought with her.  The book, in a way, acted as a partition.  It blocked out what lay beyond the parameters of Don’s excitement, the sheer joy he received in being a working man, a man with hopes and dreams again.

     Occasionally she would find Don watching her with a puzzled expression.  He would call her to help out with a task, to hack-saw or hammer, pencil in measurements, sand support joints.  But Willa, who was normally ultra-efficient, had become like one of the carpenters on the old television show Green Acres.  Like Alph and Ralph, she was all thumbs and couldn’t seem to keep Don’s instructions straight.  He would shake his head and chuckle and shrug when she went back outside and buried her nose in her book.  Willa figured that he was so caught up in his new creation that he couldn’t care less what she did.  Until the last week of July rolled around. 

     She was handing nails to Don when, suddenly, he grabbed her wrist, eyes challenging hers.  “Go into town and get me a cold beer, chicka.”

     “Can’t,” she said quickly, turning away from him.

     He cursed under his breath.

     She glanced calmly over her shoulder.  “I’m bringing all the trash to the dump.”


     Don sprang off the log.  “I don’t know what the hell your problem is, girl, but I’m getting fed up with this little game–”

     “Game?”  Willa’s eyebrows rose.  She tossed the nails into the pail.  Sweat ran down her brow.  She folded her arms across her chest.  “Emily’s coming tomorrow with an interested buyer.  Do you think that big pile of crap is going to impress her?”

     Don stared for a minute, then scooped his shirt off the floor.

     “I’ve got to clean it up.  Wheel it down to the garbage dump–”

     “Bullshit,” Don muttered, stomping out. 

     Willa felt a flutter of panic growing beneath her ribs.  She hated fights.  She hurried after him, trying to grab the tails of his shirt.

     He swung open the door of the truck, jerking back.  His eyes were dark, as bottomless as the well.  “Are you ashamed of me, Willa?” he demanded.  “Is that it?”

      The question was so unexpected, it knocked the wind out of her sails.  Her hand flew to her mouth. 

       “‘Cause I can’t figure why else you won’t go into town with me, not for groceries, or a cold brew, or just a ride, when I’ve been busting my ass, sweatin’ gumballs–”

      “Of course I’m not ashamed of you!  Whatever made you–?”

      “The hell you ain’t!” he growled, jumping into the truck.  “You go into town once a week to visit your Ma.  But when I ask you to come with me, the answer’s always no.  So I figure it must be me you don’t want your old friends to see.  Don’t take a rocket scientist to clue in to that one, chicka.”

     “No!  Wait–”


     Long after the tires had bumped down the road, Willa stood staring.  Sometimes Don was so dense she wanted to bop him one.

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