I am a Christian, a retired teacher, a mother and a grandmother. I love to read and I love the Lord Jesus Christ! Unless otherwise specified ,all visual illustrations are from the YOU VERSION APP of the Bible.
I never thought in my wildest dreams that a pandemic would strike our nation and that we would be unable to go to church for almost a year. But then it happened. My soul desired fellowship with other believers, a time of prayer and a time of praise. But all we had were the TV shows that we found that fed our thirst for more about Christ but which lacked the personal touch that I craved. Finally, in February of this year, I had had enough of this lockdown and my husband and I wanted to find a new church. I had been discontent in our previous one for many months, but my husband had been serving as a deacon and wanted to fulfill his commitment there before we moved on. So, how do you go about finding a new church? Do you make a list and check off the boxes to make sure that it’s a good fit? No! I suggest to you that you wait for God’s timing and He will show you where He wants you to be.
This last year was a year of many firsts for many people, including me. This was the first year in almost seventy years of life that I had a problem with one of my teeth and ended up needing a crown. I was more than a little dismayed about this process, especially since it was also the year that I broke my foot and was in a huge boot when I got there. The dental tech got me settled into the chair and was asking me about my boot. I told her that I had a small bone broken in my foot due to a fall and she shared with me that her small son had been in a terrible accident with his own foot and almost lost it. She then shared with me that she had her whole church praying for the little tyke since the doctors were all telling her that he would have to have his foot amputated. She was praising God that he was healed and walking around just fine on his two feet. I asked what church she attended that believed in the power of prayer and she shared with me that it is Compass Christian Church.
My husband and I visited and both of us were impressed with the number of Scriptures shared during a service, with the humility of the two pastors and with the friendliness of the church members. They have communion every Sunday; they sing and praise God every Sunday and they have a sermon that lifts up God and teaches, every Sunday. We have been happy there and plugged into a small group that meets in a nearby community so that we are making connections. It was amazing to us how fast the church was growing, from 200 people pre-pandemic to over 600 in three different services. One of the things that was very different for me was that the church is not part of a Charismatic Movement. They don’t practice the gifts of the Spirit and I really had to pray about that. From the time of my salvation almost five decades ago until now, the churches that we have joined have been one that practiced Acts 2 vocally and regularly. So, instead of dismissing this church because of the lack of speaking in tongues, prophesying,etc., I prayed and God spoke to my heart that I can still use my prayer language, quietly, for my own edification and for God’s glory. That is what I have been doing. As we worship at church and enter into God’s presence, it is a natural thing for me to pray in my prayer language. But no one has to hear and know that I am praying in tongues except for God and me. I feel like I’m in a prayer closet, alone with God, feeling His touch and His presence. I must say that this is different for me, but in a really good way. My focus is on God, not on whether I speak in tongues that week or not. My focus is on worshipping my Creator, not on being used by Him to prophesy. This church may be for a season for us, since we may have to move next year, but however long we are here, we are content. It is a good fit for us since we were both hungry for the Word and for fellowship with Christians.
For those who are gasping that I am setting aside the gifts of the Spirit, I want to assure you that I am not. The Holy Spirit is still active in my prayer time, my worship time and at church. It’s just not something that I have to toot my horn about because it’s a private thing between me and God and I’m okay with that. In fact, I’m better than okay. I’m happy that God is still there for me, in spite of all my circumstances and failings.
When I contacted the church secretary recently to ask for prayer about my kidney problem and new diet, I was put on the prayer list for the elders to pray for in their weekly meeting. The next week, one of the pastors came by where I was sitting to ask how I am doing and if there is anything they can do for me. Pray! Just pray, was my reply, because God made me and He already knows that I have some physical challenges. The change to a new diet is nothing new really since I have been on a stroke diet for six years. Now I have to be on a special low potassium kidney diet and have sought the help of a registered dietician since I have so many restrictions. I have also sought the comfort of God as I once again have to give up so many foods that I genuinely enjoy, like tomatoes and bananas and oranges.
But God is there, my church is praying for me and I am working things out. This church fits me. It makes me feel good to walk into the doors and it makes me feel fulfilled when I leave. No more wondering and worrying if the commentaries that were used for the sermons were accurate because the Scriptures are preached, just the Scriptures, no additions to be wondering about. Contented…blessed and glorifying God that He sent the dental tech at just the right moment to give me a testimony that sent me to the church that I fit into. It’s a God-incidence! He was there and He saw my need and met it. Isn’t that just like God? Praise His Name, for He is always worthy and always there!
Although this book is a part of a series, I have not read any of the other books and was able to thoroughly enjoy the story of Rosa and Wyatt as if it were a standalone. Rosa Galvez lives and works in the little beach town of Cannon Beach, managing the Brambleberry House apartments and running a little souvenir shop. She is totally content with her solitary life, letting into her heart her Irish setter Fiona. Then a new police officer needs a place to stay while his home is being repaired, so he takes at apartment at Brambleberry. Wyatt is recently widowed and has a young, precocious son names Logan. All of the characters were so realistically portrayed that I felt as though I could meet them on the street and instantly know who they were. I felt a great affinity for Rosa, a woman who has a lot of secrets in her past but who is determined to just hold them close and not let anyone touch her heart. Logan, however, could break a heart of stone and that is where Rosa begins to see that she needs to tell others about her past and let go of it. There is building suspense in this book which was unexpected for me since I was thinking this would be just a lighthearted romance. The romance was there, but the road to it was rocky and filled with intrigue. That kept me engaged and reading quickly so I could find out what Rosa’s secrets were and if she could overcome them in order to establish a lasting relationship with Wyatt. Two people with overwhelming hurts in their past discover love, so that was very heartwarming, if totally predictable. What was not predictable was all of the detours that they had to take to get to their happy ending. The plot was very well done, with some unexpected twists and even a sub-plot involving another tenant in the house, Jen and her daughter Addie. The multiple layers also added interest for me as I got to know more of the characters and felt empathy for them. The author did a masterful job of creating an engaging plot, characters with heart and soul, and an ending that wrapped everything up with a bow. Fans of romance will enjoy this journey to Cannon Beach! Disclaimer Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher via Netgalley. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255, “Guides Concerning the Use of Testimonials and Endorsements in Advertising.”
About the Author:
New York Times bestselling author RaeAnne Thayne finds inspiration in the beautiful northern Utah mountains where she lives with her family. Her books have won numerous honors, including six RITA Award nominations from Romance Writers of America and Career Achievement and Romance Pioneer awards from RT Book Reviews. She loves to hear from readers and can be reached through her website at www.raeannethayne.com.
Now that the deed was done, Rosa was having second, third and fourth thoughts about Wyatt Townsend moving in downstairs.
Why had she ever thought this would work?
That evening as she pulled weeds in the backyard after leaving the store, she had to fight all her instincts that were urging her to call up Carrie right now and tell her she had made a mistake. The apartment was no longer available.
“There is no law against changing your mind, is there?” she asked out loud to Fiona, who was lying in the grass nearby, watching butterflies dance amid the climbing roses.
The dog gave her a curious look then turned back to her business, leaving Rosa to sigh. She yanked harder at a stubborn weed that had driven deep roots into the ground.
She would do nothing. She had given her word and could not back out now. Integrity, keeping her word, was important. She had learned that first from her own mother and then from her adopted parents.
Lauren and Daniel Galvez were two of the most honorable people she knew. They would never think of reneging on a promise and she couldn’t, either.
Yes, Wyatt made her extremely nervous. She did not want him moving in downstairs. But she had given her word to his sister. End of story.
Because of that, she would be gracious and welcoming to him and to his sweet son.
Thinking about Logan left her feeling a little bit better about the decision. He was a very adorable boy, with good manners and a ready smile.
It was not the boy’s fault that Wyatt made her so nervous.
She had almost talked herself into at least accepting the new status quo, when an SUV pulled up to the house a half hour later.
Fiona lifted her head to sniff the air, then rose and hurried over to the vehicle to greet the newcomers.
Rosa climbed to her feet a little more slowly, pulled off her gloves and swiped at her hair before she headed for the vehicle. She might be accepting of her new tenants, but summoning the same kind of enthusiasm her dog showed so readily would be a stretch.
When Rosa reached the vehicle, Logan was opening the back door and jumping to the ground, his little dog close behind.
Fiona barked a greeting, then leaned in to sniff the newcomer, tail wagging. The Townsends’ dog sniffed back, and a moment later, the two were circling each other with joy.
At least Fiona was happy to have them here.
“Hello, Logan,” Rosa said.
“Hi.” The boy beamed at her, showing off a gap in his teeth that she found adorable.
“Guess what?” he said. “We’re moving into your house! Dad says we can stay here until our house is done and I’ll have my own bedroom and won’t have to sleep in Aunt Carrie’s sewing room anymore.”
“This is so wonderful, no?” She smiled down at him, trying not to pay any attention to his father walking around the vehicle, looking big and serious and intimidating.
“What is the name of your dog?”
“This is Hank. Don’t worry. He’s nice.”
“I never doubted it for a minute,” she assured him. “Hello, Hank.”
She reached down to pet the dog, who responded by rolling over to have his belly scratched. Rosa loved him immediately.
“This is Fiona. She is also very nice.”
Logan grinned and petted Fiona’s long red coat.
Wouldn’t it be lovely if she only had to deal with the boy and the dog? Unfortunately, the boy had a father. She had to say something to Wyatt, at least. Bracing herself, she lifted her attention from the two dogs and the boy, and faced the man who always looked as if he could see through her skin and bones into her heart, and was not convinced he liked what he saw.
Available on June 29th, but you can pre-order now. Purchase Links:
This is a five plus stars book that had my mind percolating on the ending long after I had completed it. With the themes of amnesia, persevering love, evil that lurks and promises to destroy, this book was one that had me rooting for the underdog and gasping at some of the events in the plot. Well written does not begin to describe the plot. It was written in such a way that I became more than a reader or a spectator. I was waiting with bated breath until the villain was revealed and then I could not wait for the ending when the happy part came. When Jack disappeared from a beach in Maryland, Lily was determined to find him because she saw him as the love of her life, her second chance. Through happenstance, she finds him in Maine and follows him there, only to discover that he does not remember her at all. Lily befriends Jack’s sister Maya and is introduced to the real Jack, whose actual name is Ash. Unfortunately, Ash does not remember why he went to Maryland or anything really about his past. He does know that one of his former girlfriends disappeared and another died tragically, but he does not remember any details about either Celine or Kate. Lily accepts Ash as he is and wants to help him to remember. Maya is helpful, too, giving Ash a job to do while he recovers from his head injury. There are three points of view in the story and I found myself racing through each one, trying to find out what the truth was about Ash’s past and who Lily was and any secrets that Maya had. The action was fast-paced and non-stop, giving me time to take a deep breath before I plunged into the next heart-racing scene. With characters that were perfect for the parts they played, this book was like a play that I was watching unfold and I was sad when it ended. I cannot say more without giving away the shocking conclusion, but I will highly recommend this thriller to anyone looking for a book to entertain, enthrall and mystify. Wow! Just wow! Disclaimer Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher via Netgalley. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255, “Guides Concerning the Use of Testimonials and Endorsements in Advertising.”
Cold. Cold was the first word that came to mind. The first thing I noticed when I woke up. Not a slight, uncomfortable chill to give me the shivers, but a cramp-inducing, iced-to-the-bone kind of frozen. I lay flat on my stomach, my left ear and cheek pressed into the rough, grainy wet ground beneath me, my entire body shaking. As my thoughts attempted to assemble themselves into some form of understandable order, a wave of icy water nipped at my bare toes and ankles, my instincts pulling my feet out of reach.
I had a sudden urge to get up, a primal need to take in my surroundings and assess the danger—was I in danger?—but the throbbing pain deep in my head made the slightest effort to shift anything seem impossible. Lifting a finger would be too much effort, and I acquiesced, allowing myself to lie still for another few freezing seconds as the frigid water crept over the balls of my feet again. When I blinked my eyes open, I was met by a thick, fuzzy darkness enveloping me like a cloak. Where the hell was I? And wherever it was, what was I doing here?
When I lifted my head a fraction of an inch, I could barely make out anything in front of me. There was hardly a noise either, nothing but a gentle, steady rumble in the background, and the cry of a bird somewhere in the distance. I made my brain work its way backward—bird, rumble, sand, water—and the quartet formed the vaguely cohesive image of a beach.
Searching for confirmation, I inhaled the salty, humid air deep into my lungs as another slosh of water took aim at my calves. This time the discomfort was enough to push me to my feet, and I wrapped my arms around my naked torso, my sopping board shorts clinging to my goose-bump-covered thighs. An explosion of pain in my head threatened to send me back to my knees, and I swayed gently, wishing I had something to steady myself with, willing my body to stay upright. As I pressed a hand to the side of my skull, I let out a quiet yelp, and felt along a two-inch gash in my scalp. My eyes had adjusted somewhat to the lack of light, and my fingertips were covered in something dark that smelled of rust. Blood. How had I…?
Another low rumble made me turn around, shuffling slowly in a semicircle. The behemoth effort was rewarded by the sight of a thousand glistening waves dancing under the moonlight like diamonds, the water stretching out and disappearing into the darkness beyond. As my ears tuned in to the rhythmic whoosh of the waves, my mind worked hard to process each scrap of information it took in.
I’m definitely on a beach. It’s nighttime. I’m alone. What am I doing here?
Before I could answer the single question, a thousand others crowded my brain, an incessant string of chatter I couldn’t stop or get away from.
Where is everyone? Never mind them, where am I? Have I been here long? How did I get here? Where was I before? Where are my clothes? What day is it?
My legs buckled. Not because of the unfamiliar surroundings, the cold burrowing its way deeper into my core, or the pain in my head, which had increased tenfold. No. My knees hit the sand with a dull crunch when I realized I couldn’t answer any of the questions because I couldn’t recall anything. Nothing. Not the tiniest of details.
Including my name.
A frown settled over my face as I put my phone on the table, pushed the bowl of unfinished berry oatmeal away and stretched out my legs. It was Saturday morning, and I’d been up for ages, too eager—too hopeful—to spend a day at the beach with Jack, but those plans had been a literal wash-out. The start to the summer felt capricious, with this second storm in the last week of June poised to be much worse than the first. I’d convinced myself the weatherwoman had exaggerated or got her forecast completely wrong, but clouds had rolled in overnight anyway. As a result, I’d been unceremoniously woken up at two thirty by a trio of bright lightning, deafening thunderclaps and heavy raindrops pelting against my bedroom window.
At first, I’d pulled my pillow over my head to deafen the noise, and when that didn’t work, I rolled over and stretched out an arm. The spot next to me was empty and cold, and I groaned. Jack hadn’t come over to my place as I’d hoped he would, slipping into bed and pressing his naked body against mine. I’d buried my face back into my pillow and tried to ignore the tinge of disappointment. We hadn’t seen much of each other this past week, both of us too busy with our jobs to spend more than a night together, and I missed him. Jack had called the day before to tell me he’d be working late, finishing the stain on the cabinets he’d labored on for weeks before his boss had to let him go. Apparently expensive custom kitchens weren’t in as high demand in Brookmount, Maryland as originally thought.
“But you got laid off,” I’d said. “It’s your last day. Why do you care?”
“Because I made a commitment. Besides, it’ll help when I need a reference.”
Typical Jack, always keeping his word. He’d bought a lottery ticket once, and the clerk had jokingly asked if he’d give him half of any winnings. Jack had laughed and shaken the man’s hand, and when he won ten bucks on the ticket, had promptly returned to the store, and paid over the share as promised. His loyalty was one of the many things I loved about Jack, although part of me wished he weren’t quite as dedicated to his soon-to-be ex-boss.
“You could come over to my place when you’re done,” I said, smiling slowly. “I’ll leave the key under the umbrella stand. I don’t mind you waking me up gently in the middle of the night…or not so gently.”
Jack laughed softly. The sound was something I’d fallen in love with eighteen months ago after our eyes had met across a crowded bar, the mother of all uninspired first-encounter clichés, except in this case I’d been forced to admit clichés weren’t always a bad thing.
“It’ll be really late, Lily,” he said, his voice deep. His English accent was something of a rarity in our small coastal town, and still capable of making my legs wobble in anticipation of his next words. “I’ll go for a quick swim now, then finish up work. How about I come over in the morning? Around nine? I’ll bring you breakfast in bed.”
“Blueberry pancakes from Patti’s? With extra maple syrup?”
“This time I’ll order three stacks to make sure I get some.”
“Pancakes or sex?” I said, before telling him how much I loved him, and whispering exactly how I’d thank him for waking me with sweet weekend treats. I’d hoped it might change his mind and he’d come over earlier, except it was ten now, and he still hadn’t showed. It was odd. Jack detested being late as much as he loved being early. He often joked they set Greenwich Mean Time by his father’s old watch, which Jack had worn since his dad passed a little over a decade before we’d met, when Jack was only twenty.
I checked my phone again. Jack hadn’t answered either of my calls, another anomaly, but I tried to talk myself into believing he’d worked late into the night to make the final good impression he wanted, and overslept. Maybe there was a line at Patti’s—the restaurant was slammed every weekend—and perhaps his phone was set to silent.
I picked up my bowl and wandered to the kitchen. My place was the smallest of six apartments, a tiny but well-maintained one-bedroom in a building a few miles from the beach, farther than I’d planned, but the closest I could afford. I’d lived there for almost five years, had furnished it with an eclectic assortment of third-hand furniture, my favorite piece a royal blue microfiber sofa I’d bought for fifty bucks, and which Jack swore was the most comfortable thing he’d ever sat on. Whenever he sank down into it and pulled me on top of him with a contented sigh, I’d tease him about what made him happier; the squishy, well-worn cushions, or me.
Slow-paced at first and then quickly picking up the pace as the book raced to a surprise conclusion, this book showed the author at her best. The story of Alice and Leo’s move into a new home in an exclusive neighborhood was relatable and at times horrifying because of all of the secrets that the neighborhood held close to the chest. Alice had no idea that the reason Leo could afford the home is that a murder happened in it. When she does discover the truth, she wants to know more about the victim, more about the killer, just more. Her quest for the truth leads her down a dangerous path and twisted me into the story, too. As more was revealed, I got more and more invested in the story and in the atmosphere of mystery. Alice is a protagonist but not particularly strong since she falls for every ploy and kept frustrating me with her lack of wisdom. The theme of neighbors with secrets was captivating, but I especially liked Alice’s “friendship” with the deceased therapist Nina. Determined to find out more about Nina and her death, Alice becomes obsessed and so did I as she delved more into the past and discovered layers of secrecy. The genre is psychological suspense and the author is at her best game in this genre. Entertaining and intriguing, this was a propulsive mystery that held me captive for hours until I reached a stunning and unexpected conclusion. Think roller coaster ride that just suddenly goes over a cliff. I enjoyed the ride but was not a fan of the ending, but that could just be me. Disclaimer Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a complimentary copy of this book from St. Martin’s Press via Netgalley. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255, “Guides Concerning the Use of Testimonials and Endorsements in Advertising.”
BIO: B A Paris is the internationally bestselling author of Behind Closed Doors, The Breakdown, Bring Me Back and The Dilemma. Having sold over one million copies in the UK alone, she is a New York Times bestseller as well as Sunday Times bestseller and a number one bestseller on Amazon and iBooks. Her books have been translated into 40 languages. Having lived in France for many years, she and her husband recently moved back to the UK. (Bio from author’s website on Amazon)
Coming on July 13, 2021! Don’t wait! Pre-order now from one of the following retailers:
This book was a captivating read about family relationships, external threats and the love that overcomes all obstacles. Adrian Rizzo was raised by her mother Lina to be fierce and independent, so when she strikes out on her own to do exercise videos and offer a line of exercise clothing on her own, that was no surprise to anyone. However, when she decides to move home to her grandparents’ house in Maryland, that does cause a little stir. Adrian is loving, compassionate and kind and wants to look after her grandfather, so I admired her willingness to upend her life and sacrifice the easy way for the way that was slightly more challenging but so beneficial to her and her beloved Popi. Lina and Adrian narrowly escaped death once when attacked in their home in NYC, so Adrian does not welcome the threatening notes that she receives regularly from a non-admirer that she calls the poet. The plot is complex and well-written so that it drew me in quickly to the lives of the Rizzos and their close friends. I really fell in love with the dog Sadie, a huge dog who is obedient to every command from Adrian but who is a gentle giant. I liked Adrian’s strength and resilience and thought that her character was extremely well-developed, from her childhood on. This book is like a saga of the Rizzo family and includes their tragedy, their loves lost and gained and their complicated relationships. The author certainly knows how to weave a generational story into a book that enthralled me and made me want to know more each time I finished a new chapter. With mystery, murders, romance and plenty of drama, this contemporary fiction is one for the record books of great novels! Disclaimer Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a complimentary copy of this book via the Booked Up All Night Sweepstakes and the publisher, St. Martin’s Press. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255, “Guides Concerning the Use of Testimonials and Endorsements in Advertising.”
Nora Roberts was born in Silver Spring, Maryland, the youngest of five children. After a school career that included some time in Catholic school and the discipline of nuns, she married young and settled in Keedysville, Maryland.
She worked briefly as a legal secretary. “I could type fast but couldn’t spell, I was the worst legal secretary ever,” she says now. After her sons were born she stayed home and tried every craft that came along. A blizzard in February 1979 forced her hand to try another creative outlet. She was snowed in with a three and six year old with no kindergarten respite in sight and a dwindling supply of chocolate.
Born into a family of readers, Nora had never known a time that she wasn’t reading or making up stories. During the now-famous blizzard, she pulled out a pencil and notebook and began to write down one of those stories. It was there that a career was born. Several manuscripts and rejections later, her first book, Irish Thoroughbred, was published by Silhouette in 1981.
Nora met her second husband, Bruce Wilder, when she hired him to build bookshelves. They were married in July 1985. Since that time, they’ve expanded their home, traveled the world and opened a bookstore together.
Through the years, Nora has always been surrounded by men. Not only was she the youngest in her family, but she was also the only girl. She has raised two sons. Having spent her life surrounded by men, Ms. Roberts has a fairly good view of the workings of the male mind, which is a constant delight to her readers. It was, she’s been quoted as saying, a choice between figuring men out or running away screaming.
Nora is a member of several writers groups and has won countless awards from her colleagues and the publishing industry. Recently The New Yorker called her “America’s favorite novelist.”
This book will be available on Tuesday, May 25, 2021, but it is available for pre-order now. Purchase Links:
I thought that this book was an amazing look at a multi-generational family, with their triumphs, their tragedies and their love stories. Many thanks to #StMartinsPress and the contest at “Booked Up All Night”! Escape into a good book…LEGACY!
I really enjoyed this multi-layered love story. Leo comes to Philadelphia trying to find his sister Lara who has gone incommunicado with him. Once there, he befriends Officer Aubrey Rawlins who works a beat in the city. The two pair up to try to investigate what has happened to Lara. It was heartwarming to see the deep love Leo had for Lara, so much so that he was willing to leave his career in Cincinnati behind in order to find her and support her once he did. That was one kind of love. There was also the developing relationship between Aubrey and Leo, a kind of love that had to mature because both were wounded in the past. Once I read the book, I understood all the ways that Leo was an “unlikely protector” but he seemed more like a superhero in my book. He was willing to go to any length to find Lara and face any danger necessary in order to protect her from the same. I enjoyed getting to know the characters and more about the plight of the homeless and how some unscrupulous people can take advantage of them. There were characters who were lovable, likable and deplorable. It was a perfect quick read and thoroughly enjoyable. Disclaimer Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a complimentary copy of this book from the author via Book Funnel. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255, “Guides Concerning the Use of Testimonials and Endorsements in Advertising.”
This book will be available on Tuesday, May 25, 2021. Purchase Links:
This book was a good Amish story with lovable characters and a plot that had some surprises and unexpected twists in it. Lauren Nolt is a former member of the Amish community in Lancaster County where she is sent by her employer to win the people over to the idea of building a casino in their community. When her car breaks down during an ice story, Lauren is stuck asking for assistance from widower Adam Hershberger, a mechanic who used to bully her in their childhood. Lauren stays with her Aunt Sylvia, a feisty older Amish woman who speaks the truth in love to Lauren and who was my favorite character in the book. Her wisdom led Lauren to many hours of thoughtful reflection. When Lauren meets Adam’s precocious daughter Mary Beth, it was life love at first sight. Mary Beth is a cute little matchmaker who wants her dad to have a new wife and for herself to have a new mother. Although parts of the book were predictable, there were numerous secrets revealed and some surprises, too, so it was was a really captivating read. I was totally invested in the story of Lauren and Adam and rooting for little Mary Beth to get her way with them. This is a great first book in a new series and I look forward to more! Disclaimer Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher via Netgalley. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255, “Guides Concerning the Use of Testimonials and Endorsements in Advertising.”
This was a great summer read that took me away from the doldrums of pandemic quarantine onto the road of discovering new things and being open to new adventures. Kathleen is an eccentric and fun eighty-year old who is determined to go on a road trip across America. She needs a companion and chooses Martha, a twenty-something who is still trying to find herself and her purpose in life. Kathleen leaves behind her morose and worrying daughter Liza, a middle-aged woman who is burdened down with her responsibilities in life and has forgotten to take care of herself. There is thus a character for all generations to relate to: wild and carefree Kathleen who has just gotten her second wind in life; stalwart and long suffering Liza who is desperate to discover a place for herself beyond her family and its stress; and Martha, the exuberant young woman who is open to adventure. At the beginning, the tone of the book was one of humor and was light-hearted. As the book progressed, there were some somber and thought-provoking moments. Reading the book was like taking a journey on the road of life and the three main characters portrayed traveling down this road perfectly. This was an uplifting story of self-discovery and being open to looking for and finding new things in life, even at an advanced age. I loved this book and highly recommend it to those who enjoy contemporary fiction and a good read. Disclaimer Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher via Netgalley. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255, “Guides Concerning the Use of Testimonials and Endorsements in Advertising.”
Author Bio: USA Today bestselling author Sarah Morgan writes hot, happy, contemporary romance and women’s fiction, and her trademark humor and sensuality have gained her fans across the globe. Described as “a magician with words” by RT Book Reviews, she has sold more than eleven million copies of her books. She was nominated three years in succession for the prestigious RITA® Award from the Romance Writers of America and won the award three times: once in 2012 for Doukakis’s Apprentice, in 2013 for A Night of No Return and in 2017 for Miracle on 5th Avenue. She also won the RT Reviewers’ Choice Award in 2012 and has made numerous appearances in their Top Pick slot. As a child, Sarah dreamed of being a writer, and although she took a few interesting detours along the way, she is now living that dream. Sarah lives near London, England, with her husband and children, and when she isn’t reading or writing, she loves being outdoors, preferably on vacation so she can forget the house needs tidying.
It was the cup of milk that saved her. That and the salty bacon she’d fried for her supper many hours earlier, which had left her mouth dry.
If she hadn’t been thirsty—if she’d still been upstairs, sleeping on the ridiculously expensive mattress that had been her eightieth birthday gift to herself—she wouldn’t have been alerted to danger.
As it was, she’d been standing in front of the fridge, the milk carton in one hand and the cup in the other, when she’d heard a loud thump. The noise was out of place here in the leafy darkness of the English countryside, where the only sounds should have been the hoot of an owl and the occasional bleat of a sheep.
She put the glass down and turned her head, trying to locate the sound. The back door. Had she forgotten to lock it again?
The moon sent a ghostly gleam across the kitchen and she was grateful she hadn’t felt the need to turn the light on. That gave her some advantage, surely?
She put the milk back and closed the fridge door quietly, sure now that she was not alone in the house.
Moments earlier she’d been asleep. Not deeply asleep—that rarely happened these days—but drifting along on a tide of dreams. If someone had told her younger self that she’d still be dreaming and enjoying her adventures when she was eighty she would have been less afraid of aging. And it was impossible to forget that she was aging.
People said she was wonderful for her age, but most of the time she didn’t feel wonderful. The answers to her beloved crosswords floated just out of range. Names and faces refused to align at the right moment. She struggled to remember what she’d done the day before, although if she took herself back twenty years or more her mind was clear. And then there were the physical changes—her eyesight and hearing were still good, thankfully, but her joints hurt and her bones ached. Bending to feed the cat was a challenge. Climbing the stairs required more effort than she would have liked and was always undertaken with one hand on the rail just in case.
She’d never been the sort to live in a just in case sort of way.
Her daughter, Liza, wanted her to wear an alarm. One of those medical alert systems, with a button you could press in an emergency, but Kathleen refused. In her youth she’d traveled the world, before it was remotely fashionable to do so. She’d sacrificed safety for adventure without a second thought. Most days now she felt like a different person.
Losing friends didn’t help. One by one they fell by the wayside, taking with them shared memories of the past. A small part of her vanished with each loss. It had taken decades for her to understand that loneliness wasn’t a lack of people in your life, but a lack of people who knew and understood you.
She fought fiercely to retain some version of her old self—which was why she’d resisted Liza’s pleas that she remove the rug from the living room floor, stop using a step ladder to retrieve books from the highest shelves and leave a light on at night. Each compromise was another layer shaved from her independence, and losing her independence was her biggest fear.
Kathleen had always been the rebel in the family, and she was still the rebel—although she wasn’t sure that rebels were supposed to have shaking hands and a pounding heart.
She heard the sound of heavy footsteps. Someone was searching the house. For what, exactly? What treasures did they hope to find? And why weren’t they trying to at least disguise their presence?
Having resolutely ignored all suggestions that she might be vulnerable, she was now forced to acknowledge the possibility. Perhaps she shouldn’t have been so stubborn. How long would it have taken from pressing the alert button to the cavalry arriving?
In reality, the cavalry was Finn Cool, who lived three fields away. Finn was a musician, and he’d bought the property precisely because there were no immediate neighbors. His antics caused mutterings in the village. He had rowdy parties late into the night, attended by glamorous people from London who terrorized the locals by driving their flashy sports cars too fast down the narrow lanes. Someone had started a petition in the post office to ban the parties. There had been talk of drugs, and half-naked women, and it had all sounded like so much fun that Kathleen had been tempted to invite herself over. Rather that than a dull women’s group, where you were expected to bake and knit and swap recipes for banana bread.
Finn would be of no use to her in this moment of crisis. In all probability he’d either be in his studio, wearing headphones, or he’d be drunk. Either way, he wasn’t going to hear a cry for help.
Calling the police would mean walking through the kitchen and across the hall to the living room, where the phone was kept and she didn’t want to reveal her presence. Her family had bought her a mobile phone, but it was still in its box, unused. Her adventurous spirit didn’t extend to technology. She didn’t like the idea of a nameless faceless person tracking her every move.
There was another thump, louder this time, and Kathleen pressed her hand to her chest. She could feel the rapid pounding of her heart. At least it was still working. She should probably be grateful for that.
When she’d complained about wanting a little more adventure, this wasn’t what she’d had in mind. What could she do? She had no button to press, no phone with which to call for help, so she was going to have to handle this herself.
She could already hear Liza’s voice in her head: Mum, I warned you!
If she survived, she’d never hear the last of it.
Fear was replaced by anger. Because of this intruder she’d be branded Old and Vulnerable and forced to spend the rest of her days in a single room with minders who would cut up her food, speak in overly loud voices and help her to the bathroom. Life as she knew it would be over.
That was not going to happen.
She’d rather die at the hands of an intruder. At least her obituary would be interesting.
Better still, she would stay alive and prove herself capable of independent living.
She glanced quickly around the kitchen for a suitable weapon and spied the heavy black skillet she’d used to fry the bacon earlier.
She lifted it silently, gripping the handle tightly as she walked to the door that led from the kitchen to the hall. The tiles were cool under her feet—which, fortunately, were bare. No sound. Nothing to give her away. She had the advantage.
She could do this. Hadn’t she once fought off a mugger in the backstreets of Paris? True, she’d been a great deal younger then, but this time she had the advantage of surprise.
How many of them were there?
More than one would give her trouble.
Was it a professional job? Surely no professional would be this loud and clumsy. If it was kids hoping to steal her TV, they were in for a disappointment. Her grandchildren had been trying to persuade her to buy a “smart” TV, but why would she need such a thing? She was perfectly happy with the IQ of her current machine, thank you very much. Technology already made her feel foolish most of the time. She didn’t need it to be any smarter than it already was.
Perhaps they wouldn’t come into the kitchen. She could stay hidden away until they’d taken what they wanted and left.
They’d never know she was here.
A floorboard squeaked close by. There wasn’t a crack or a creak in this house that she didn’t know. Someone was right outside the door.
Her knees turned liquid.
Oh Kathleen, Kathleen.
She closed both hands tightly round the handle of the skillet.
Why hadn’t she gone to self-defense classes instead of senior yoga? What use was the downward dog when what you needed was a guard dog?
A shadow moved into the room, and without allowing herself to think about what she was about to do she lifted the skillet and brought it down hard, the force of the blow driven by the weight of the object as much as her own strength. There was a thud and a vibration as it connected with his head.
“I’m so sorry—I mean—” Why was she apologizing? Ridiculous!
The man threw up an arm as he fell, a reflex action, and the movement sent the skillet back into Kathleen’s own head. Pain almost blinded her and she prepared herself to end her days right here, thus giving her daughter the opportunity to be right, when there was a loud thump and the man crumpled to the floor. There was a crack as his head hit the tiles.
Kathleen froze. Was that it, or was he suddenly going to spring to his feet and murder her?
No. Against all odds, she was still standing while her prowler lay inert at her feet. The smell of alcohol rose, and Kathleen wrinkled her nose.
Her heart was racing so fast she was worried that any moment now it might trip over itself and give up.
She held tightly to the skillet.
Did he have an accomplice?
She held her breath, braced for someone else to come racing through the door to investigate the noise, but there was only silence.
Gingerly she stepped toward the door and poked her head into the hall. It was empty.
It seemed the man had been alone.
Finally she risked a look at him.
He was lying still at her feet, big, bulky and dressed all in black. The mud on the edges of his trousers suggested he’d come across the fields at the back of the house. She couldn’t make out his features because he’d landed face-first, but blood oozed from a wound on his head and darkened her kitchen floor.
Feeling a little dizzy, Kathleen pressed her hand to her throbbing head.
What now? Was one supposed to administer first aid when one was the cause of the injury? Was that helpful or hypocritical? Or was he past first aid and every other type of aid?
She nudged his body with her bare foot, but there was no movement.
Had she killed him?
The enormity of it shook her.
If he was dead, then she was a murderer.
When Liza had expressed a desire to see her mother safely housed somewhere she could easily visit, presumably she hadn’t been thinking of prison.
Who was he? Did he have family? What had been his intention when he’d forcibly entered her home? Kathleen put the skillet down and forced her shaky limbs to carry her to the living room. Something tickled her cheek. Blood. Hers.
She picked up the phone and for the first time in her life dialed the emergency services.
Underneath the panic and the shock there was something that felt a lot like pride. It was a relief to discover she wasn’t as weak and defenseless as everyone seemed to think.
When a woman answered, Kathleen spoke clearly and without hesitation.
“There’s a body in my kitchen,” she said. “I assume you’ll want to come and remove it.”
This was a well-written and extremely complex suspense thriller dealing with some very emotional issues, including child abduction, child abuse, relationship issues and, of course, secrets that kill. The time frame jumps sporadically from past to present and there are four narrators, including a missing child, a young child at home, a midwife named Meredith and her neighbor Kate. I was confused at first because of the complicated points of view and timelines, but I quickly got pulled into the story and ended up enjoying it immensely. In fact, I got so invested that it was hard to put the book down in the last few days of my reading it. The story is about a small town with two woman and a child suddenly missing. Supposedly a safe place, the town is no longer considered safe and there is a lot of speculation about what happened to Shelby Tebow, Meredith and six year old Delilah. There was a lot of backstory to this book, and since I don’t want to spoil it for anyone, I will just say that the background information is important to the understanding of the story, so I had to pay careful attention to it. I discovered the secrets and mysteries as I read as the clues were very nuanced and I was not able to figure things out. I will say that there were a lot of coincidences that weren’t quite believable, but they did not take away from my enjoyment of the story. At the end, I wanted more. I wanted to know more about the missing child, more about the neighbor, more about Meredith’s family and their future together. This was an engrossing book, but it did have some disturbing scenes in it that are not for the faint of heart. Fans of thrillers with some really intense scenes will enjoy this book. Disclaimer Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher via Netgalley. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255, “Guides Concerning the Use of Testimonials and Endorsements in Advertising.”
11 YEARS BEFORE
The text comes from a number I don’t know. It’s a 630 area code. Local. I’m in the bathroom with Leo as he soaks in the tub. He has his bath toys lined up on the edge of it and they’re taking turns swan diving into the now-lukewarm water. It used to be hot, too hot for Leo to get into. But he’s been in there for thirty minutes now playing with his octopus, his whale, his fish. He’s having a ball.
Meanwhile I’ve lost track of time. I have a client in the early stages of labor. We’re texting. Her husband wants to take her to the hospital. She thinks it’s too soon. Her contractions are six and a half minutes apart. She’s absolutely correct. It’s too soon. The hospital would just send her home, which is frustrating, not to mention a huge inconvenience for women in labor. And anyway, why labor at the hospital when you can labor in the comfort of your own home? First-time fathers always get skittish. It does their wives no good. By the time I get to them, more times than not, the woman in labor is the more calm of the two. I have to focus my attention on pacifying a nervous husband. It’s not what they’re paying me for.
I tell Leo one more minute until I shampoo his hair, and then fire off a quick text, suggesting my client have a snack to keep her energy up, herself nourished. I recommend a nap, if her body will let her. The night ahead will be long for all of us. Childbirth, especially when it comes to first-time moms, is a marathon, not a sprint.
Josh is home. He’s in the kitchen cleaning up from dinner while Delilah plays. Delilah’s due up next in the tub. By the time I leave, the bedtime ritual will be done or nearly done. I feel good about that, hating the times I leave Josh alone with so much to do.
I draw up my text and then hit Send. The reply is immediate, that all too familiar ping that comes to me at all hours of the day or night.
I glance down at the phone in my hand, expecting it’s my client with some conditioned reply. Thx.
Instead: I know what you did. I hope you die.
Beside the text is a picture of a grayish skull with large, black eye sockets and teeth. The symbol of death.
My muscles tense. My heart quickens. I feel thrown off. The small bathroom feels suddenly, overwhelmingly, oppressive. It’s steamy, moist, hot. I drop down to the toilet and have a seat on the lid. My pulse is loud, audible in my own ears. I stare at the words before me, wondering if I’ve misread. Certainly I’ve misread. Leo is asking, “Is it a minute, Mommy?” I hear his little voice, muff led by the ringing in my ears. But I’m so thrown by the cutthroat text that I can’t speak.
I glance at the phone again. I haven’t misread.
The text is not from my client in labor. It’s not from any client of mine whose name and number is stored in my phone. As far as I can tell, it’s not from anyone I know.
A wrong number, then, I think. Someone sent this to me by accident. It has to be. My first thought is to delete it, to pretend this never happened. To make it disappear. Out of sight, out of mind.
But then I think of whoever sent it just sending it again or sending something worse. I can’t imagine anything worse.
I decide to reply. I’m careful to keep it to the point, to not sound too judgy or fault-finding because maybe the intended recipient really did do something awful—stole money from a children’s cancer charity—and the text isn’t as egregious as it looks at first glance.
I text: You have the wrong number.
The response is quick.
I hope you rot in hell, Meredith.
The phone slips from my hand. I yelp. The phone lands on the navy blue bath mat, which absorbs the sound of its fall.
Whoever is sending these texts knows my name. The texts are meant for me.
A second later Josh knocks on the bathroom door. I spring from the toilet seat, and stretch down for the phone. The phone has fallen facedown. I turn it over. The text is still there on the screen, staring back at me.
Josh doesn’t wait to be let in. He opens the door and steps right inside. I slide the phone into the back pocket of my jeans before Josh has a chance to see.
“Hey,” he says, “how about you save some water for the fish.”
Leo complains to Josh that he is cold. “Well, let’s get you out of the bath,” Josh says, stretching down to help him out of the water.
“I need to wash him still,” I admit. Before me, Leo’s teeth chatter. There are goose bumps on his arm that I hadn’t noticed before. He is cold, and I feel suddenly guilty, though it’s mired in confusion and fear. I hadn’t been paying any attention to Leo. There is bathwater spilled all over the floor, but his hair is still bone-dry.
“You haven’t washed him?” Josh asks, and I know what he’s thinking: that in the time it took him to clear the kitchen table, wash pots and pans and wipe down the sinks, I did nothing. He isn’t angry or accusatory about it. Josh isn’t the type to get angry.
“I have a client in labor,” I say by means of explanation. “She keeps texting,” I say, telling Josh that I was just about to wash Leo. I drop to my knees beside the tub. I reach for the shampoo. In the back pocket of my jeans, the phone again pings. This time, I ignore it. I don’t want Josh to know what’s happening, not until I get a handle on it for myself.
Josh asks, “Aren’t you going to get that?” I say that it can wait. I focus on Leo, on scrubbing the shampoo onto his hair, but I’m anxious. I move too fast so that the shampoo suds get in his eye. I see it happening, but all I can think to do is wipe it from his forehead with my own soapy hands. It doesn’t help. It makes it worse.
Leo complains. Leo isn’t much of a complainer. He’s an easygoing kid. “Ow,” is all that he says, his tiny wet hands going to his eyes, though shampoo in the eye burns like hell.
“Does that sting, baby?” I ask, feeling contrite. But I’m bursting with nervous energy. There’s only one thought racing through my mind. I hope you rot in hell, Meredith.
Who would have sent that, and why? Whoever it is knows me. They know my name. They’re mad at me for something I’ve done. Mad enough to wish me dead. I don’t know anyone like that. I can’t think of anything I’ve done to upset someone enough that they’d want me dead.
I grab the wet washcloth draped over the edge of the tub. I try handing it to Leo, so that he can press it to his own eyes. But my hands shake as I do. I wind up dropping the washcloth into the bath. The tepid water rises up and splashes him in the eyes. This time he cries.
“Oh, buddy,” I say, “I’m so sorry, it slipped.”
But as I try again to grab it from the water and hand it to him, I drop the washcloth for a second time. I leave it where it is, letting Leo fish it out of the water and wipe his eyes for himself. Meanwhile Josh stands two feet behind, watching.
My phone pings again. Josh says, “Someone is really dying to talk to you.”
Dying. It’s all that I hear.
My back is to Josh, thank God. He can’t see the look on my face when he says it.
“What’s that?” I ask.
“Your client,” Josh says. I turn to him. He motions to my phone jutting out of my back pocket. “She really needs you. You should take it, Mer,” he says softly, accommodatingly, and only then do I think about my client in labor and feel guilty. What if it is her? What if her contractions are coming more quickly now and she does need me?
Josh says, “I can finish up with Leo while you get ready to go,” and I acquiesce, because I need to get out of here. I need to know if the texts coming to my phone are from my client or if they’re coming from someone else.
I rise up from the floor. I scoot past Josh in the door, brushing against him. His hand closes around my upper arm as I do, and he draws me in for a hug. “Everything okay?” he asks, and I say yes, fine, sounding too chipper even to my own ears. Everything is not okay.
“I’m just thinking about my client,” I say. “She’s had a stillbirth before, at thirty-two weeks. She never thought she’d get this far. Can you imagine that? Losing a baby at thirty-two weeks?”
Josh says no. His eyes move to Leo and he looks saddened by it. I feel guilty for the lie. It’s not this client but another who lost a baby at thirty-two weeks. When she told me about it, I was completely torn up. It took everything in me not to cry as she described for me the moment the doctor told her her baby didn’t have a heartbeat. Labor was later induced, and she had to push her dead baby out with only her mother by her side. Her husband was deployed at the time. After, she was snowed under by guilt. Was it her fault the baby died? A thousand times I held her hand and told her no. I’m not sure she ever believed me.
My lie has the desired effect. Josh stands down, and asks if I need help with anything before I leave. I say no, that I’m just going to change my clothes and go.
I step out of the bathroom. In the bedroom, I close the door. I grab my scrub bottoms and a long-sleeved T-shirt from my drawer. I lay them on the bed, but before I get dressed, I pull my phone out of my pocket. I take a deep breath and hold it in, summoning the courage to look. I wonder what waits there. More nasty threats? My heart hammers inside me. My knees shake.
I take a look. There are two messages waiting for me.
The first: Water broke. Contractions 5 min apart.
And then: Heading to hospital.—M.
I release my pent-up breath. The texts are from my client’s husband, sent from her phone. My legs nearly give in relief, and I drop down to the edge of the bed, forcing myself to breathe. I inhale long and deep. I hold it in until my lungs become uncomfortable. When I breathe out, I try and force away the tension.
But I can’t sit long because my client is advancing quickly. I need to go.
Excerpted from Local Woman Missing @ 2021 by Mary Kyrychenko, used with permission by Park Row Books.
About the Author:
Mary Kubica is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of six novels, including THE GOOD GIRL, PRETTY BABY, DON’T YOU CRY, EVERY LAST LIE, WHEN THE LIGHTS GO OUT, and THE OTHER MRS. A former high school history teacher, Mary holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from Miami University in Oxford, Ohio, in History and American Literature. She lives outside of Chicago with her husband and two children. Her last novel THE OTHER MRS. was an instant New York Times bestseller; is coming soon to Netflix; was a LibraryReads pick for February 2020; praised by the New York Times; and highly recommended by Entertainment Weekly, People, The Week, Marie Claire, Bustle, HelloGiggles, Goodreads, PopSugar, BookRiot, HuffingtonPost, First for Women, Woman’s World, and more. Mary’s novels have been translated into over thirty languages and have sold over two million copies worldwide. She’s been described as “a helluva storyteller,” (Kirkus Reviews) and “a writer of vice-like control,” (Chicago Tribune), and her novels have been praised as “hypnotic” (People) and “thrilling and illuminating” (Los Angeles Times). LOCAL WOMAN MISSING is her seventh novel.
This was a powerfully written and emotion-stirring novel about the horrors of war and the ability to survive. I will be honest and state from the beginning that this was a hard book for me to read because the author did such a fantastic job of painting the setting and describing the events of 1942 Poland in graphic detail. As I read, I found myself captured by the story and the characters, but I was biting my nails and crying as I read parts of the story of Sadie and Ella, two unlikely friends. Sadie is a young woman, eighteen years old, when the story begins and has been moved by the Nazis to the ghetto, along with her family. Before the Nazis can clear out the ghetto and move all of the Jews there to concentration camps, Sadie and her family escape to live under the city in the sewers. Dark, smelly and filled with rats, the sewer was described in excruciating and heartbreaking detail. One day, as Sadie looks up through the grate, she sees another young woman. Ella’s father went to war and never returned, so she is stuck living with her stepmother who seeks to gain favor with the Germans by inviting them to parties at her home. When Ella and Sadie spy each other through the grate, an unlikely friendship begins and the story really took off. I kept waiting for the two of them to be caught and dragged away to some Nazi place of torture. What happens is what makes the story, so I can’t say much about the events following their propitious meeting. I can say that this story wrapped itself around my head and my heart and made me think long and hard about how thankful I should be for my freedom and the things I take for granted. This book was thought-provoking and well written as well as obviously well researched. It is an extremely emotional tale of the atrocities committed by the Nazis, the desperation of those desiring to survive and the friendship and hope that took place during these horrific times. Fans of historical fiction will not want to miss this book! Disclaimer Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher via Netgalley. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255, “Guides Concerning the Use of Testimonials and Endorsements in Advertising.”
Kraków, PolandMarch 1942
Everything changed the day they came for the children.
I was supposed to have been in the attic crawl space of the three-story building we shared with a dozen other families in the ghetto. Mama helped me hide there each morning before she set out to join the factory work detail, leaving me with a fresh bucket as a toilet and a stern admonishment not to leave. But I grew cold and restless alone in the tiny, frigid space where I couldn’t run or move or even stand straight. The minutes stretched silently, broken only by a scratching—unseen children, years younger than me, stowed on the other side of the wall. They were kept separate from one another without space to run and play. They sent each other messages by tapping and scratching, though, like a kind of improvised Morse code. Sometimes, in my boredom, I joined in, too.
“Freedom is where you find it,” my father often said when I complained. Papa had a way of seeing the world exactly as he wanted. “The greatest prison is in our mind.” It was easy for him to say. Though he manual ghetto labor was a far cry from his professional work as an accountant before the war, at least he was out and about each day, seeing other people. Not cooped up like me. I had scarcely left our apartment building since we were forced to move six months earlier from our apartment in the Jewish Quarter near the city center to the Podgórze neighborhood where the ghetto had been established on the southern bank of the river. I wanted a normal life, my life, free to run beyond the walls of the ghetto to all of the places I had once known and taken for granted. I imagined taking the tram to the shops on the Rynek or to the kino to see a film, exploring the ancient grassy mounds on the outskirts of the city. I wished that at least my best friend, Stefania, was one of the others hidden nearby. Instead, she lived in a separate apartment on the other side of the ghetto designated for the families of the Jewish police.
It wasn’t boredom or loneliness that had driven me from my hiding place this time, though, but hunger. I had always had a big appetite and this morning’s breakfast ration had been a half slice of bread, even less than usual. Mama had offered me her portion, but I knew she needed her strength for the long day ahead on the labor detail.
As the morning wore on in my hiding place, my empty belly had begun to ache. Visions pushed into my mind uninvited of the foods we ate before the war: rich mushroom soup and savory borscht, and pierogi, the plump, rich dumplings my grandmother used to make. By midmorning, I felt so weak from hunger that I had ventured out of my hiding place and down to the shared kitchen on the ground floor, which was really nothing more than a lone working stove burner and a sink that dripped tepid brown water. I didn’t go to take food—even if there had been any, I would never steal. Rather, I wanted to see if there were any crumbs left in the cupboard and to fill my stomach with a glass of water.
I stayed in the kitchen longer than I should, reading the dog-eared copy of the book I’d brought with me. The thing I detested most about my hiding place in the attic was the fact that it was too dark for reading. I had always loved to read and Papa had carried as many books as he could from our apartment to the ghetto, over the protests of my mother, who said we needed the space in our bags for clothes and food. It was my father who had nurtured my love of learning and encouraged my dream of studying medicine at Jagiellonian University before the German laws made that impossible, first by banning Jews and later by closing the university altogether. Even in the ghetto at the end of his long, hard days of labor, Papa loved to teach and discuss ideas with me. He had somehow found me a new book a few days earlier, too, The Count of Monte Cristo. But the hiding place in the attic was too dark for me to read and there was scarcely any time in the evening before curfew and lights-out. Just a bit longer, I told myself, turning the page in the kitchen. A few minutes wouldn’t matter at all.
I had just finished licking the dirty bread knife when I heard heavy tires screeching, followed by barking voices. I froze, nearly dropping my book. The SS and Gestapo were outside, flanked by the vile Jüdischer Ordnungsdienst, Jewish Ghetto Police, who did their bidding. It was an aktion, the sudden unannounced arrest of large groups of Jews to be taken from the ghetto to camps. The very reason I was meant to be hiding in the first place. I raced from the kitchen, across the hall and up the stairs. From below came a great crash as the front door to the apartment building splintered and the police burst through. There was no way I could make it back to the attic in time.
Instead, I raced to our third-floor apartment. My heart pounded as I looked around desperately, wishing for an armoire or other cabinet suitable for hiding in the tiny room, which was nearly bare except for a dresser and bed. There were other places, I knew, like the fake plaster wall one of the other families had constructed in the adjacent building not a week earlier. That was too far away now, impossible to reach. My eyes focused on the large steamer trunk stowed at the foot of my parents’ bed. Mama had shown me how to hide there once shortly after we first moved to the ghetto. We practiced it like a game, Mama opening the trunk so that I could climb in before she closed the lid.
The trunk was a terrible hiding place, exposed and in the middle of the room. But there was simply nowhere else. I had to try. I raced over to the bed and climbed into the trunk, then closed the lid with effort. I thanked heavens that I was tiny like Mama. I had always hated being so petite, which made me look a solid two years younger than I actually was. Now it seemed a blessing, as did the sad fact that the months of meager ghetto rations had made me thinner. I still fit in the trunk.
When we had rehearsed, we had envisioned Mama putting a blanket or some clothes over the top of the trunk. Of course, I couldn’t do that myself. So the trunk sat unmasked for anyone who walked into the room to see and open. I curled into a tiny ball and wrapped my arms around myself, feeling the white armband with the blue star on my sleeve that all Jews were required to wear.
There came a great crashing from the next building, the sound of plaster being hewn by a hammer or ax. The police had found the hiding place behind the wall, given away by the too-fresh paint. An unfamiliar cry rang out as a child was found and dragged from his hiding place. If I had gone there, I would have been caught as well.
Someone neared the door to the apartment and flung it open. My heart seized. I could hear breathing, feel eyes searching the room. I’m sorry, Mama, I thought, feeling her reproach for having left the attic. I braced myself for discovery. Would they go easier on me if I came out and gave myself up? The footsteps grew fainter as the German continued down the hall, stopping before each door, searching.
The war had come to Kraków one warm fall day two and a half years earlier when the air-raid sirens rang out for the first time and sent the playing children scurrying from the street. Life got hard before it got bad. Food disappeared and we waited in long lines for the most basic supplies. Once there was no bread for a whole week.
Then about a year ago, upon orders from the General Government, Jews teemed into Kraków by the thousands from the small towns and villages, dazed and carrying their belongings on their backs. At first I wondered how they would all find places to stay in Kazimierz, the already cramped Jewish Quarter of the city. But the new arrivals were forced to live by decree in a crowded section of the industrial Podgórze district on the far side of the river that had been cordoned off with a high wall. Mama worked with the Gmina, the local Jewish community organization, to help them resettle, and we often had friends of friends over for a meal when they first arrived, before they went to the ghetto for good. They told stories from their hometowns too awful to believe and Mama shooed me from the room so I would not hear.
Several months after the ghetto was created, we were ordered to move there as well. When Papa told me, I couldn’t believe it. We were not refugees, but residents of Kraków; we had lived in our apartment on Meiselsa Street my entire life. It was the perfect location: on the edge of the Jewish Quarter but easy walking distance to the sights and sounds of the city center and close enough to Papa’s office on Stradomska Street that he could come home for lunch. Our apartment was above an adjacent café where a pianist played every evening. Sometimes the music spilled over and Papa would whirl Mama around the kitchen to the faint strains. But according to the orders, Jews were Jews. One day. One suitcase each. And the world I had known my entire life disappeared forever.
I peered out of the thin slit opening of the trunk, trying to see across the tiny room I shared with my parents. We were lucky, I knew, to have a whole room to ourselves, a privilege we had been given because my father was a labor foreman. Others were forced to share an apartment, often two or three families together. Still, the space felt cramped compared to our real home. We were ever on top of one another, the sights and sounds and smells of daily living magnified.
“Kinder, raus!” the police called over and over again now as they patrolled the halls. Children, out. It was not the first time the Germans had come for children during the day, knowing that their parents would be at work.
But I was no longer a child. I was eighteen and might have joined the work details like others my age and some several years younger. I could see them lining up for roll call each morning before trudging to one of the factories. And I wanted to work, even though I could tell from the slow, painful way my father now walked, stooped like an old man, and how Mama’s hands were split and bleeding that it was hard and awful. Work meant a chance to get out and see and talk to people. My hiding was a subject of much debate between my parents. Papa thought I should work. Labor cards were highly prized in the ghetto. Workers were valued and less likely to be deported to one of the camps. But Mama, who seldom fought my father on anything, had forbidden it. “She doesn’t look her age. The work is too hard. She is safest out of sight.” I wondered as I hid now, about to be discovered at any second, if she would still think she was right.
The building finally went silent, the last of the awful footsteps receding. Still I didn’t move. That was one of the ways they trapped people who were hiding, by pretending to go away and lying in wait when they came out. I remained motionless, not daring to leave my hiding place. My limbs ached, then went numb. I had no idea how much time had passed. Through the slit, I could see that the room had grown dimmer, as if the sun had lowered a bit.
Sometime later, there were footsteps again, this time a shuffling sound as the laborers trudged back silent and exhausted from their day. I tried to uncurl myself from the trunk. But my muscles were stiff and sore and my movements slow. Before I could get out, the door to our apartment flung open and someone ran into the room with steps light and fluttering. “Sadie!” It was Mama, sounding hysterical.
“Jestem tutaj,” I called. I am here. Now that she was home, she could help me untangle myself and get out. But my voice was muffled by the trunk. When I tried to undo the latch, it stuck.
Mama raced from the room back into the corridor. I could hear her open the door to the attic, then run up the stairs, still searching for me. “Sadie!” she called. Then, “My child, my child,” over and over again as she searched but did not find me, her voice rising to a shriek. She thought I was gone.
“Mama!” I yelled. She was too far away to hear me, though, and her own cries were too loud. Desperately, I struggled once more to free myself from the trunk without success. Mama raced back into the room, still wailing. I heard the scraping sound of a window opening and felt a whoosh of cold air. At last I threw myself against the lid of the trunk, slamming my shoulder so hard it throbbed. The latch sprang open.
I broke free and stood up quickly. “Mama?” She was standing in the oddest position, with one foot on the window ledge, her willowy frame silhouetted against the frigid twilight sky. “What are you doing?” For a second, I thought she was looking for me outside. But her face was twisted with grief and pain. I knew then why Mama was on the window ledge. She assumed I had been taken along with the other children. And she didn’t want to live. If I hadn’t freed myself from the trunk in time, Mama would have jumped. I was her only child, her whole world. She was prepared to kill herself before she would go on without me.
A chill ran through me as I sprinted toward her. “I’m here, I’m here.” She wobbled unsteadily on the window ledge and I grabbed her arm to stop her from falling. Remorse ripped through me. I always wanted to please her, to bring that hard-won smile to her beautiful face. Now I had caused her so much pain she’d almost done the unthinkable.
“I was so worried,” she said after I’d helped her down and closed the window. As if that explained everything. “You weren’t in the attic.”
“But, Mama, I hid where you told me to.” I gestured to the trunk. “The other place, remember? Why didn’t you look for me there?”
Mama looked puzzled. “I didn’t think you would fit anymore.” There was a pause and then we both began laughing, the sound scratchy and out of place in the pitiful room. For a few seconds, it was like we were back in our old apartment on Meiselsa Street and none of this had happened at all. If we could still laugh, surely things would be all right. I clung to this last improbable thought like a life preserver at sea.
But a cry echoed through the building, then another, silencing our laughter. It was the mothers of the other children who had been taken by the police. There came a thud outside. I started for the window, but my mother blocked me. “Look away,” she ordered. It was too late. I glimpsed Helga Kolberg, who lived down the hall, lying motionless in the coal-tinged snow on the pavement below, her limbs cast at odd angles and skirt splayed around her like a fan. She had realized her children were gone and, like Mama, she didn’t want to live without them. I wondered whether jumping was a shared instinct, or if they had discussed it, a kind of suicide pact in case their worst nightmares came true.
My father raced into the room then. Neither Mama nor I said a word, but I could tell from his unusually grim expression that he already knew about the aktion and what had happened to the other families. He simply walked over and wrapped his enormous arms around both of us, hugging us tighter than usual.
As we sat, silent and still, I looked up at my parents. Mama was a striking beauty—thin and graceful, with white-blond hair the color of a Nordic princess’. She looked nothing like the other Jewish women and I had heard whispers more than once that she didn’t come from here. She might have walked away from the ghetto and lived as a non-Jew if it wasn’t for us. But I was built like Papa, with the dark, curly hair and olive skin that made the fact that we were Jews undeniable. My father looked like the laborer the Germans had made him in the ghetto, broad-shouldered and ready to lift great pipes or slabs of concrete. In fact, he was an accountant—or had been until it became illegal for his firm to employ him anymore. I always wanted to please Mama, but it was Papa who was my ally, keeper of secrets and weaver of dreams, who stayed up too late whispering secrets in the dark and had roamed the city with me, hunting for treasure. I moved closer now, trying to lose myself in the safety of his embrace.
Still, Papa’s arms could offer little shelter from the fact that everything was changing. The ghetto, despite its awful conditions, had once seemed relatively safe. We were living among Jews and the Germans had even appointed a Jewish council, the Judenrat, to run our daily affairs. Perhaps if we laid low and did as we were told, Papa said more than once, the Germans would leave us alone inside these walls until the war was over. That had been the hope. But after today, I wasn’t so sure. I looked around the apartment, seized with equal parts disgust and fear. In the beginning, I had not wanted to be here; now I was terrified we would be forced to leave.
“We have to do something,” Mama burst out, her voice a pitch higher than usual as it echoed my unspoken thoughts.
“I’ll take her tomorrow and register her for a work permit,” Papa said. This time Mama did not argue. Before the war, being a child had been a good thing. But now being useful and able to work was the only thing that might save us.
Mama was talking about more than a work visa, though. “They are going to come again and next time we won’t be so lucky.” She did not bother to hold back her words for my benefit now. I nodded in silent agreement. Things were changing, a voice inside me said. We could not stay here forever.
“It will be okay, kochana,” Papa soothed. How could he possibly say that? But Mama laid her head on his shoulder, seeming to trust him as she always had. I wanted to believe it, too. “I will think of something. At least,” Papa added as we huddled close, “we are all still together.” The words echoed through the room, equal parts promise and prayer.
Excerpted from The Woman With the Blue Star @ 2021 by Pam Jenoff, used with permission by Park Row Books.
About the Author:
Pam Jenoff is the author of several books of historical fiction, including the NYT bestseller The Orphan’s Tale. She holds a degree in international affairs from George Washington University and a degree in history from Cambridge, and she received her JD from UPenn. Her novels are inspired by her experiences working at the Pentagon and as a diplomat for the State Department handling Holocaust issues in Poland. She lives with her husband and 3 children near Philadelphia, where she teaches law.