Shelter: A Novel
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A gorgeous, poetic literary debut from award-winning author Frances Greenslade, Shelter is a brilliant coming-of-age story of two strong, brave sisters searching for their mother.
For sisters Maggie and Jenny growing up in the Pacific mountains in the early 1970s, life felt nearly perfect. Seasons in their tiny rustic home were peppered with wilderness hikes, building shelters from pine boughs and telling stories by the fire with their doting father and beautiful, adventurous mother. But at night, Maggie—a born worrier—would count the freckles on her father’s weathered arms, listening for the peal of her mother’s laughter in the kitchen, and never stop praying to keep them all safe from harm. Then her worst fears come true: Not long after Maggie’s tenth birthday, their father is killed in a logging accident, and a few months later, their mother abruptly drops the girls at a neighbor’s house, promising to return. She never does.
With deep compassion and sparkling prose, Frances Greenslade’s mesmerizing debut takes us inside the extraordinary strength of these two girls as they are propelled from the quiet, natural freedom in which they were raised to a world they can’t begin to fathom. Even as the sisters struggle to understand how their mother could abandon them, they keep alive the hope that she is fighting her way back to the daughters who adore her and who need her so desperately.
Heartwarming and lushly imagined, Shelter celebrates the love between two sisters and the complicated bonds of family. It is an exquisitely written ode to sisters, mothers, daughters, and to a woman’s responsibility to herself and those she loves.
He was awake and playing solitaire on the table pulled up to his chest. “Mag! ” he said. “Sit down. I’ve got sweet bugger-all to do here. ” “Want to play Canasta? ” “Get the other deck out of the drawer. ” Ted shuffled the cards and began dealing. He looked different in the hospital bed, smaller, and older. The light blue gown tied loosely around his neck emphasized his bony collarbone, the pale blue veins of his neck and the almost translucent skin of the hollow at his throat. He had lost about thirty pounds, according to Bea’s phone reports, and he was in constant pain.
That’s okay,” he said. “Try again, Maggie. ” Once we were riding along in second I relaxed a little into Dad’s warm chest. His freckled arms, and his scent of sweat and tobacco, made a protective circle around me. I drove until the track petered out into grass, then Dad took over again. The woods closed around us, a lit tunnel of yellow, orange and red. Aspen leaves whipped the truck windows and caught in the mirrors; trees scraped along our sides; a branch with brilliant yellow leaves caught in the windshield wipers and fluttered there like a butterfly trying to free itself.
Who are you going to tell? ” “What is it? ” “It’s about John. The reason he left town. It wasn’t because he wanted to see the world. In that letter that he wrote to me? The one I burned? ” “Yeah. ” “He told me he left because he’s homosexual. Weird, eh? I mean you wouldn’t think it somehow. I don’t know a lot about sex or anything, but it sure seemed to me like he liked it. But maybe I forced him. ” “You didn’t force him, Jenny. You can’t force a guy to have sex. ” “But are you shocked? ” “I’m kind of shocked, yeah.
Rita put a Carole King 8-track on in her truck and kept the doors open while they chopped and we stacked. They both sang along to “I Feel the Earth Move. ” They synchronized their movements, two axe-wielding dancers matching rhythms until someone’s axe stuck and threw them off. That night, Rita stayed over. I listened to their low voices rising and falling in the kitchen. When I came out of our room for a glass of water, the conversation stopped. “Can’t sleep? ” Mom said, and they waited while I filled my glass and stood drinking.
The branches were too small, and even if they could have held me, the trunk was now too far from the one Cinnamon was in. I considered going home to get Mom. But I just couldn’t stand the thought of leaving her there, so I stayed in the tree. “Mom will come looking for me,” I told her. “Don’t worry. She knows where to find me and she’ll get you down. ” After about an hour, the sun started to come up in the distance and I felt a bit warmer. A little while later I heard the screen door slam and then I heard, very faintly, Mom calling “Ma-ggie!