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The Girl Who Stopped Swimming
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The ghost leads Laurel to the real Molly floating lifelessly in the Hawthorne’s backyard pool. Molly’s death is inexplicable–an unseemly mystery Laurel knows no one in her whitewashed neighborhood is up to solving. Only her wayward, unpredictable sister is right for the task, but calling in a favor from Thalia is like walking straight into a frying pan protected only by Crisco. Enlisting Thalia’s help, Laurel sets out on a life-altering journey that triggers startling revelations about her family’s guarded past, the true state of her marriage, and the girl who stopped swimming.
Richer and more rewarding than any story Joshilyn Jackson has yet written, yet still packed with Jackson’s trademarked outrageous characters, sparkling dialogue, and defiantly twisting plotting, The Girl Who Stopped Swimming is destined both to delight Jackson’s loyal fans and capture a whole new audience.
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Until the drowned girl came to Laurel's bedroom, ghosts had never walked in Victorianna. The houses were only twenty years old, with no accumulated history to put creaks in the hardwood floors or rattle at the pipes. The backyards had tall fences, and there were no cracks in the white sidewalks. Victorianna had a heavy wrought-iron gate guarding its entrance. The intricately curled top looked period, but it was new as well. It ran on hydraulics, and it swung wide only for those who knew the code.
Laurel and David had moved into the big house on Chapel Circle thirteen years ago, when Laurel was only nineteen, and since that day she hadn't seen so much as a glimmer of her dead uncle Marty. He was tethered to the three-bedroom brick ranch where her parents still lived, half an hour away in tiny Pace, Florida. As a girl, she had seen him often, mostly on the nights before a storm broke.
She'd be fast asleep on her old Cinderella sheets, faded and soft from a thousand washings, with Anne of Green Gables or a Trixie Belden book lying open-spined on her bedside table. Then he would be there, standing on her side of the room by her bed, mournful and transparent. He didn't belong near the ruffled shade on her reading lamp, and his feet should not have been allowed to rest beside her cotton trainer bra and Thalia's dirty Keds and the abandoned issues of Tiger Beat scattered on the floor. The stuffed pony Laurel had loved best was still allowed a place at the end of her bed, but Marty was not reflected in its glass eyes, as if her loyal pony doll refused to acknowledge his presence.
He'd smile at her, one hand tucked easy in the waistband of his faded Levi's, the other reaching out to her, ready to show her secret scenes, her own personal ghost of Christmas never.
A thin finger of moonlight came through the bullet hole left of his center, reaching to touch Laurel's eye and help her lids come shuddering down. She'd leave them closed and roll away. In the morning, the sun would light up dust motes in the place where he'd been standing.
He left a cold spot in the room that she didn't like to walk through, and sometimes she'd see the impression that his blanched cowboy boots had left in the nap of the rug. Once, her sister, Thalia, caught Laurel down on her knees, trying to smooth away those faint footprints.
"Are you feeling up the carpet, Bug?" Thalia asked.
Laurel only shrugged and stilled her hands. Thalia slept light and woke often, but she never saw Marty.
Laurel brought Thalia over to see the house in Victorianna a few days after she and David moved in. They'd been married all of five weeks. Thalia sat in the passenger seat, drawing her upper lip back from her teeth, higher and higher, while Laurel drove her slowly through the winding streets. The lip was practically touching Thalia's nose by the time they'd passed six blocks' worth of the large pastel Victorians with their gingerbread and curling gables and romantic little balconies.
"It looks like Barbie's Dream House threw up in here," Thalia said. "A bunch of times. Like, went full-on bulimic."
"I think it's beautiful," Laurel said. Her tone was mild, but low in her belly, she felt the baby flip, popping sideways like an angry brine shrimp. "Look, this one's ours."
She pulled in to the driveway. Laurel and David's house was the palest blue, trimmed in deep plum and heather. Two gargoyles hidden in the eaves watched over her with fierce eyes. A weathervane on the roof told her the wind's plans for the day.
Thalia glanced from the turret to the sloped roof and then shook her head.
"You say something nice," Laurel said, putting one hand over the swell of her abdomen. She was four months gone, and Shelby was so little, Laurel could only feel her fierce spins from the inside.
"Okay," Thalia said, with the O stretched long, as if to buy her thinking time. Then she lifted her chin, manufacturing a June Cleaver smile. "It looks clean. Like they don't even let dogs pee here."
Laurel laughed. "I think that's in our charter."
She started to get out, but Thalia put one hand on her arm, stopping her. "Seriously? This is what you want? This house, this husband, a baby at nineteen?" Laurel nodded, and Thalia let her go. But Laurel heard her mutter under her breath, "It's like you're living inside a lobotomy."
"Oh, stop it," Laurel said. "That doesn't even make sense."
"Sure it does," Thalia said. "Lots of things live in holes. This place is a hole where your brains used to be."
Thalia never grew to like Victorianna any better, but then she also said Laurel's quilts, with all their jarring elements secreted or undercut, were too pretty to be considered art. Real art, Thalia said, went for the jugular. Laurel would let a bleached bird's skull peek out of the gingham pocket of a country Christmas angel, but she'd never replace the angel's pretty head with it. It wouldn't feel right. Laurel saw her quilts complete in her mind's eye, and she knew every piece—innocent, macabre, or neutral as beige velvet—must be subject to the larger pattern. Likewise, Victorianna's pieces made a whole that Laurel thought was lovely.
Her neighbors might have their own especial favorite sins; they drank or fought, they cheated on their taxes or each other. But they washed and waxed their cars on Saturdays, and they kept their hedges and lamps trimmed. They put up neighborhood-watch signs and kept their curtains open, ever vigilant. Old-fashioned glass lampposts lined the streets, so that even at night, a ghost would be hard put to find a shadowed path to Laurel's door.
Even so, that night the drowned girl came anyway.
A storm was gathering, so Laurel checked that the chain was on their bedroom door before climbing into bed. She was more likely to sleepwalk when the air was humid enough to hold the taste of electricity. She'd rise and undo locks, pull up windows, unpack closets and drawers. Once, she'd left a puffy beaded poppy she was hand-sewing sitting out on her bedside table. She fell asleep thinking that the black beads at the poppy's center were as glossy and round as mouse eyes, and then she rose in the night and picked out every stitch. Her hands liked to open and undo while she was sleeping. The chain was no challenge. Its true job was to rattle against the door frame and wake up David so he could lead her back to bed.
Their bedroom felt like a crisper. David, whose metabolism ran so high his skin always felt slightly fevered, couldn't sleep in summer unless the thermostat was set at 65. Laurel climbed in and got under the blankets, pressing her front against his warm back. She kissed his shoulder, but he didn't stir. He was well and truly out, and his lanky body had solidified into something dense and hard to shift.
David was working fifteen-hour days, adapting simulator code he'd written for the navy into a PC game for a company out in California. He'd probably spoken ten complete sentences to her in the last week. All the pieces of him that she thought of as her husband had moved down to live in his brain stem, while coding took his higher functions.
In another week or two, when the math was done, he'd come up from his office in the basement, rubbing his eyes as if he'd awakened from a long sleep. He'd sit on the floor and lean against her shins, dropping his head back into her lap to look up at her with the same narrow, total focus he'd devoted to his code strings. "What's been happening in the real world?" he'd say, meaning their world.
Laurel would drift her fingers through his hair, holding him rapt with tales of the bride quilt she was working on, her victory at neighborhood bunko, and this new boy at school whom Shelby kept too casually bringing up. David always came back to her, completely, and so she let him be.
She slept soundly until the temperature dropped further, then she shuddered, dreaming that her breath was curling out in smoky plumes like a dragon's breath. She rolled onto her back, rising toward the surface of her sleep. Her eyes opened. She saw the outline of a young girl, twelve or thirteen, standing by the foot of the bed.
"Shelby?" she said, and sat up. But Shelby was built like a blade of grass, her breasts only now budding and the faintest curve to her tum. This girl's puppy fat had shifted into real breasts and small hips, and she was soaked to the skin. She caught the moonlight coming in the window and reflected it, shimmering.
"Honey, aren't you freezing?" Laurel asked her, but the question came out in a strained whisper, as if Laurel had been sleeping so long and heavy that her throat had rusted shut.
The girl didn't answer. Laurel could see her body through the wet fabric, and she realized she could also see the bedroom window. The girl had gone as transparent as her dress. Then Laurel understood what she was, and she checked the corners of the room for Marty; this girl had to be one of his.
He wasn't there. It was unprecedented, but the drowned girl had come alone. Her head was tilted down, and her wet hair was a veil, strands of it clinging like lace to her nose and cheekbones. Her hair was blond or light brown, hard to tell since the water had darkened it.
"You can't be here," Laurel said, swinging her legs out of the bed. David muttered something and rolled over. His long arm moved into the space where she'd been lying.
The drowned girl turned away and walked to the open curtains, as if complying. Dark water dripped from the ends of her hair and the hem of her dress, but the carpet stayed dry. Her bare feet brushed the surface, swaying the thick pile.
"I didn't mean leave," Laurel said, standing up and taking two cautious steps after her. "I meant you can't be here."
The girl had reached the bedroom window, and the sound of Laurel's voice did not pause her. She took another two steps forward, melting through the window and arching herself out, spreading her arms and drifting into the darkness without pushing off. Laurel followed, stretching out a cautious hand, but the glass was solid under her fingertips. She watched gravity catch the girl's dress and her long hair, tugging it downward, but her body drifted down easy. She tilted her head up and her feet down as she sank, landing softly on the tiles by the pool.
The yard was dark, but Shelby had forgotten to turn the underwater pool lights off, so the water glowed. The girl glowed, too, as if she had her own light. She swept her right arm down in a smooth and graceful arc, like a game-show hostess modeling the water. Laurel's gaze followed the gesture, and at first she couldn't make sense of what she saw. The drowned girl was resting facedown in the center of the pool, her skirt opening like wings under the water. Her body was slim, with skinny pony legs, her hair curling toward the surface in tendrils like water weeds. Her ghost faded to a moving shadow in Laurel's peripheral vision, blending into the darkness.
Laurel slammed her hands against the glass.
She heard David saying, "Wha—" behind her. He sounded far away.
A long, loud howling split Laurel's sleep in two. It was familiar yet not, and she struggled to place the sound. The effort roused her, and she realized she was hearing her own voice: She was baying in her sleep. Waking further, she found herself standing at the window. She stopped abruptly, disoriented, staring down into the backyard. It didn't make sense. She was awake now. This was her real hand touching her own cool glass. The dreamed girl should be gone, but Laurel still saw her. She was facedown, floating under water, and the pool lights shone beside her, giving her pale edges and a shadowed back. The water rocked her body as it drifted quietly in the middle of Laurel and David's pool.
Laurel heard David again, closer now, saying, "Baby, what—" But she was already pushing off the window and running to the door, scrabbling to unlatch the chain. She wrenched the door open and ran down the hall toward the stairs. Her head turned toward Shelby's room as she ran past, an involuntary movement.
Shelby wasn't there. Shelby's covers were in a heap at the foot, and Laurel had just seen a small blond body in the pool. Pure adrenaline dumped into her blood, driving her forward. She went down the stairs in three great leaping steps, even as her brain struggled to revise the room her eyes had seen. She fought the instinct to go back and look, to look a hundred times until the bed stopped being empty and her eyes saw Shelby, safe and sleeping where she belonged. Her heart was swelling, taking up too much room in her chest, compressing her lungs so that she couldn't get a breath as she ran. Shelby and Bet Clemmens had been playing Clue in the keeping room when Laurel went to bed, but as she dashed through the room, Laurel saw the board abandoned in the middle of the floor.
Laurel flipped the lock on the sliding glass door and shoved it sideways along its track. The alarm began its pre-howl beeping, an electronic drumbeat of sound, heartless and high, that drove her across the patio. All at once she was too close to the low fence encircling the patio. She'd installed that fence back when Shelby was a toddler whose only goal was to walk straight into the pool and sink like a beautiful, stupid lemming. David, whose gaze turned inward most times, had barked his shin on it so often when it was new that Shelby had grown up thinking a fence was called a "dammit."
Now Laurel stumbled on it and went skidding across the damp lawn. She fell to one knee and then was up again, running to the higher fence encircling the pool. She was praying, a wordless call to God. The gate was unlatched, and Laurel shoved it open and ran across the tiles, straight down the steps into the water.
The cold shocked her legs and shot up through her spine. It was as if she had been wearing a second set of eyelids, sheer as membrane. The cold snapped them open, and she saw that the girl wasn't Shelby. She knew Shelby's every molecule, and the delicate set of the shoulder blades and the contours of the head were not the same.
A wash of red joy bubbled and crashed its way through Laurel's every vein, as if her blood were suddenly carbonated. Her whole body sang with a sick gladness that this was any child but hers. It was as immediate and involuntary as her heartbeat, and in her next breath, shame crept in. Not Shelby, thank God, thank God, but this girl was someone's.
The water forced Laurel into that slow, sodden running she was always doing in her dreams. She waded up past her waist and had to bend, holding her face up out of the water, to reach down and grab the girl's ankle. She pulled the girl up and back, and a reasoning piece of her took note of how lifeless the girl's skin felt, gelid and pliable under her fingers.
Bet Clemmens? Laurel hadn't paused to check the guest room on her way down, but this could not be Bet. Bet was a tall girl, and her hair was a single-toned dark red with an inch of brown at the roots.
The house alarm began blaring. Laurel reached the steps and tried to roll the girl, to get her face into the air, but her body folded instead of turning. Then it was as if the girl's body pulled itself up, levitating. For one crazy second Laurel clung to her, not understanding, but then she saw David's hands. He was behind her on the pool steps, bare-chested, the water soaking the legs of his pajama bottoms, lifting the girl out.
Laurel grabbed the silver bar and hauled herself up the pool steps. Her heart still felt swollen, taking up all the room in her chest, banging itself against her rib cage. David laid the girl out on the tile. He'd gone to that burny-eyed place he went to in a crisis, his movements precise and spare. He said, "Start CPR. I'm calling 911."
Laurel dropped to her knees, facing the house. She cupped the back of the girl's neck and pulled up, tilting the head back to open an airway, using her other hand to push the heavy strands of hair away. She saw a heart-shaped face, pug nose, and round blue eyes half open under straight blond brows.
Laurel recognized her. More than that. It was Molly, and Laurel knew her, knew her high giggle and the way she walked in quick, small steps with her toes turned in. Just last October, Laurel had snapped at least ten pictures of Molly and Shelby, both of them in red lipstick and the ragged pirate miniskirts she'd made for them. She had wondered if this was the last Halloween they would want costumes and trick-or-treating. They'd refused to ruin their look with jackets; they'd run off with their skinny bare arms linked at the elbow and prickling with gooseflesh in the mild chill. This was Molly's face. It was Molly Dufresne.
Laurel felt like something huge and heavy was rolling fast over her, flattening her and pressing out her breath. There was a film over Molly's pale, familiar eyes. Laurel wanted to stand up and walk inside her house to find a peaceful room where none of this was true. It couldn't be true, and yet her clever hands kept doing necessary things, sending two fingers into Molly's slack mouth to clear it.
She bent to put her mouth on Molly's and pushed air, hard, meeting resistance. All she could see was the cheerful pebbled tile, and beyond that a small part of the lawn and David's bare feet running for the house.
As she sat up, she yelled after him, "David? Where's Shelby? You have to find Shelby."
The alarm cut out as she called the last two words. The siren had shocked the frogs and crickets into silence, and her voice rang out. Her hands were back on Molly's chest, compressing, but Molly's body felt abandoned. Her heart was dense and still.
She looked back toward the house and saw Shelby walking through the glass doors. Her bangs stuck up in tufts, and she was dry and sleepy-eyed and breathing. She was still in her ratty jean shorts and a T-shirt and pink Pumas. She stopped on the patio, her mouth opening in a shocked O. Laurel wanted to run to her, grab her up, but she had to bend and push air for Molly again.
When she sat up, Shelby was taking a hesitant step forward, and Laurel called, "Stay there, baby."
Bet Clemmens came out of the back door, David right behind her. Bet had the black Hefty bag she'd brought as a suitcase pressed against her chest like a pillow. After her first visit, last year, Laurel had gotten her a wheeled suitcase with a pull-out handle, but she'd come back with a trash bag again this year. "It broke," she'd said in a flat, defensive voice before Laurel had even asked. It had been stupid, sending a nice suitcase like that back to DeLop, expecting Bet would get to keep it.
"Stay," David said to both girls. He stepped over the patio fence and strode fast across the lawn. He was holding the cordless phone from the kitchen by his side.
Laurel could hear the tinny voice of the 911 operator telling him to remain on the line, but as he reached Laurel, he let the handset clatter to the tile and said, "They're coming."
David knelt on the other side of Molly's still form. His stronger hands folded themselves over her chest, and he thrust down, short, hard pushes, demanding a response and not getting one while Laurel breathed uselessly for her.
It went on for a long time like that. By the time Laurel heard the sirens, the pebbled tiles were tiny scissors clipping at her knees each time she shifted.
David heard the sirens, too. He called, "Shelby, go unlock the front door."
The first two firemen hurried through the glass door. Laurel had always thought of it as a glad thing when the firemen came, a promising thing. It had been the firemen who said it was common, it was fine, let's take her to the hospital anyway to be sure, when Shelby was three and had a febrile seizure. They'd arrived first again when David, who tripped over dust motes and should have known better, had gone up on the roof to clean the gutters himself and fallen off and broken his ankle. But when Laurel's daddy shot her uncle Marty, it had been the sheriff's men, dressed in light blue, and look how that turned out. They'd come from the direction of the cabin, ambling slow because Marty's blood had already cooled, setting like gelatin.
It heartened Laurel to see the busy rush of firemen now. There was a beat when the pinkest part of her fool heart thought seeing them meant Molly was fixable and could be woken and handed back to her mother, whole and safe.
Laurel bent and pushed a last breath into Molly's slack mouth, and then she knew it wasn't any good. Strong hands came down and lifted her away, like David had lifted Molly out of the pool, and she was passed backward to David as the firemen took over.
David walked with her to the patio, one hand on the small of her back as if Laurel were a touchstone holding him present, even as the fluid economy of his movements disintegrated.
Shelby stood hugging herself in front of the glass doors. As soon as she was close enough, Laurel's hands reached out for Shelby as if they had their own brains in the thumbs. She pulled Shelby tight against her chest.
Over Shelby's head, Laurel watched the firemen milling around and unpacking their vinyl bags, pulling out what she supposed was medical equipment, a jumble of tubes and long cords and boxes.
There didn't seem to be anything for them to do for the moment. They stood in a huddle on the patio, Laurel holding Shelby and David looming over them. Bet was off to the side, clutching her Hefty bag, so that for a single heartbeat there was no Bet, no firemen, no little girl gone too still in the yard. They were frozen, the three of them like a snapshot of Laurel's life for over thirteen years, since the day she'd gone to David's grungy student apartment with her eyes puffy and rimmed in pink. She'd balled both hands into fists before she'd knocked, ready to punch his guts out if he shrugged and said he'd pay for an abortion.
Now the child who had become Shelby was in her arms, and Laurel held her daughter for that single beat, felt the pulse of Shelby's mighty heart doing its good work. She thought the word "safe," and she thought the word "finished." David watched over them, her sentinel, and she thought, "Our part is over now."
Immediately, she heard her sister, Thalia, say, "You're wrong."
"What?" she said.
She looked around, but Thalia wasn't there. Thalia was in Mobile, or Timbuktu, or hell, for all the good it did Laurel.
"I said you're wet."
Shelby's voice was muffled, her face pressed into Laurel's chest, but Laurel could hear a thin edge of hysteria in the normal words. Shelby tried to pull back, and Laurel felt her whole body contract, grasping Shelby too hard, keeping her.
"Ow," Shelby said, jerking away, and Laurel had to bite down an urge to yell, to demand that Shelby would forever be in the first place Laurel looked, safe and expected and perfectly unharmed. She forced her clamped arms to loosen and let Shelby turn sideways. Shelby bent at the waist, her shoulders hunching up and in, her head down, gulping in air.
Laurel put one hand in the center of Shelby's back. "I'm sorry," she said. Her voice came out too high. "I was so scared. You weren't in your bed."
Shelby, still hunched over, said, "I fell asleep in the rec room. Me and Bet were watching TV."
Bet's head jerked at the sound of her name, as if she'd been asleep on her feet, like a horse. "Do what?" she said.
Shelby looked up at Laurel and said, "Mommy, is that Molly?"
Laurel couldn't answer. She felt the irrational anger draining out of her. It flowed through her arm and into Shelby like a current.
Shelby's brows came down, and her mouth crumpled up into an angry wad. "Now you say it isn't," Shelby demanded. "You say."
Laurel pulled her close again, and Shelby suffered it, stiff in Laurel's arms.
"I'm so sorry," Laurel said, and Shelby clamped her hands over her own mouth, her eyes wide and furious and too bright above her laced fingers.
A young fireman with apple cheeks and a clipboard stepped over the patio fence to join them in the spill of light coming through the glass doors. He asked how long Molly had been in the pool, what they had done to revive her, and how long they'd been doing it. His questions required short, factual responses, and David turned to him with something like relief, answering methodically.
Bet Clemmens stood by the glass doors, wearing a pair of the soft pajamas Laurel had given her. Her feet were stuffed into rubber flip-flops she'd brought from home, and she still clutched the trash bag as if it were her childhood lovey.
"You packed your things?" Laurel said.
Of course Bet would have to go home now, but it seemed strange that she had already packed. It was both too fast and too intuitive.
Bet said, "I heardat sarn goff. I thodda wazza far."
It took Laurel a few seconds to process through the thick DeLop accent. Bet's vowels stretched, taking up so much space that the consonants got jammed together, and her lips hardly moved when she spoke. Her words sounded swallowed, as if they came from her stomach instead of her lungs and throat. In DeLop, where everyone talked like that, Laurel's ears adjusted to hear those sounds as words, but here, Bet Clemmens's accent was an interloper. It took a moment to translate: "I heard that siren go off. I thought it was a fire."
"It was the burglar alarm," Laurel said.
Bet shrugged. Laurel's relatives in DeLop did not have burglar alarms. They were, for the most part, the people burglar alarms were meant to deter.
Bet squeezed the Hefty bag and said, "I didn't want them clothes you got me to get burned up."
Laurel dropped it. It didn't seem appropriate to talk about alarms or packing at the moment. No topic seemed appropriate. It simply couldn't be that Shelby's friend was dead in the backyard while Laurel talked about useless things with Bet Clemmens. In a few hours, she realized, she'd have to make her family breakfast. In two days, the pansy bed would need weeding. It wasn't right.
She heard Mindy Coe calling from the backyard next door. "Laurel? Are you guys okay?"
Laurel's mouth called out, "Yes."
It was a reflex, like the way her knee jumped when her doctor tapped it with his rubber mallet. She didn't want pretty Mindy Coe, her good friend next door, to see what was happening in her yard. If Mindy came over and saw, then it might be real. And they were okay, weren't they? There they all three were, alive and whole, and what else mattered?
Shelby pulled herself out of Laurel's arms altogether and said, "God, Mom," from behind her hands. "We're so, so not."
Mindy's head popped up over the tall privacy fence, her hands folded over the rounded boards like prairie-dog paws, her pointy chin hooked over the top between them. Mindy was barely five feet tall, so she had to be standing on a piece of her patio furniture, and still no part of her neck was visible. She was probably on tiptoe.
Jeffrey Coe's head and shoulders appeared beside those of his mother. He was a tall, good-looking boy, older than Shelby, already in high school.
The Coes looked like cheery puppets peering down over the slats, their disembodied heads concerned and friendly. Laurel thought that on their side of the fence, she'd find daylight, a garden party, a recipe exchange. She had an absurd urge to run for it, break straight through, leaving a perfect Laurel-shaped hole in the wooden boards. Her own backyard had become a foreign country.
"Ma'am, you need to get down from there," a fireman said, heading for the fence. But Mindy had already seen Molly.
"Oh, my dear God," she said. Her hand snaked up to push Jeffrey's head down. "I'll call Simon." Mindy's husband was a doctor. Then she got down.
"...a great tale [that] builds to an exciting and violent ending, one that surprises and yet seems to fit."
"... buoyant and moving ....beautifully balanced between magical and realist fiction... closer in tone and voice to Alice Sebold's 'The Lovely Bones' or Richard Ford's Frank Bascombe trilogy."
-Atlanta Journal Constitution
"A ghost story, family psychodrama, and murder mystery all in one. Jackson's latest is a wild, smartly calibrated achievement. A-."
"Jackson matches effortless Southern storytelling with a keen eye for character and heart-stopping circumstances."
"Joshilyn Jackson has done it again... her skillful unraveling of family secrets and betrayal left me breathless. You must read this book!"
-Sara Gruen, New York Times bestselling author of WATER FOR ELEPHANTS
- On Sale
- May 26, 2009
- Page Count
- 336 pages
- Grand Central Publishing