Like Dandelion Dust


By Karen Kingsbury

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Karen Kingsbury delivers a powerful new novel about two parents’ love for their child and the surprising lengths they will go to keep their family together when a judge rules that their adopted son must be returned to his biological father.


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Table of Contents

Reading Group Guide


Copyright Page

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Dear Friends,

I remember where I was when it first hit me—a story I wrote was actually going to appear on the big screen! I traveled with Kelsey and Tyler to Jacksonville, Florida, for a week on the set of Like Dandelion Dust the movie, and on the first day we were standing outside the Porter house, huddled around a monitor, which was showing us exactly what the cameras were catching inside.

"Mom, it's amazing," Ty whispered to me.

And so it was. The acting—from Barry Pepper's amazing performance as Rip Porter to Mira Sorvino's tender-hearted portrayal of Rip's wife, Wendy; to the unbelievable performance of Maxwell Perry Cotton as he played little Joey—all left me speechless. It was as if I'd walked straight into the pages of my novel.

There simply wasn't a weak link, not a single role where I would've cast it differently or asked for it to be played in some other way. I was also amazed while on set at how much work goes into making a movie. The producers, Bobby Downes and Kevin Downes, took on a huge risk in making this film—the way all producers take a risk when they set out to do an independently made movie. But this risk was rooted in a true love for people, and a desire to see hearts changed as they might fill the seats of a theater.

I hope you are one of those people.

Like Dandelion Dust raises interesting questions, questions of what makes someone a mother, and what it means to truly love a child. You'll find more of these questions in the Reading Group Guide at the end of this book.

I realize that there are many true-life stories that start out like the Campbells' story. But sadly, many do not have miracle endings—at least not the endings adoptive parents are praying for. In these cases, my heart and prayers are with you. I can only believe that we—like children—are in the back seat for however long the journey lasts.

God is driving, and if we stay with Him, we must trust that in the end He'll get us safely home.

As always, I'd love to hear your feedback about this amazing movie. You can contact me by visiting my website at The site has a new look and many more reader features, including an ongoing contest section and a place where you can connect with other readers. In addition, you can check out my touring schedule, and come see me at one of the Extraordinary Women events, where I am a regular speaker.

And guess what? Now you can follow me on—just look for @karenkingsbury. We'll be great friends in no time. You can also look me up on Facebook and on my Facebook Fan Page. Of course, my dad always told me that no one really has fans, and there'll be no autograph lines in heaven. So that means I consider you my friends, and I look forward to meeting up with you in one of these ways.

I pray this finds you filled with joy and peace. May God always be at the center of your families, and may you learn from the children He has placed in your lives. Remember—we have much to gain by watching the faith of our children.

In His light and love. Until next time,

Karen Kingsbury

Forever in Fiction™

A special thanks to my Forever in Fiction™ winners whose character names appear in this book. I created Forever in Fiction™ as a live-auction item for charities. Every penny of the winning bid for Forever in Fiction™ goes to the charity that holds the auction. So far, more than $100,000 has been raised for charities across the country from people winning Forever in Fiction™. If you or your group is interested in the donation of a Forever in Fiction™ package, visit my Web site at I donate approximately six of these packages per year.

As much as possible, I try to give my characters identifying features that correlate with the person for whom that character is named. Still, the Forever in Fiction™ characters in this novel are entirely fictional.

And so thanks go to the two Forever in Fiction™ winners whose names appear in Like Dandelion Dust. The first package was won by a group of friends at the Summit View Church auction. Anne Fraser, Jaymi Sutton, Vicky Dillon, Joan Smith, Barbara Seifert, and Michael Petty combined for the winning bid and presented Forever in Fiction™ to Beth Petty for her fortieth birthday. Beth is a wonderful wife, mother, and friend. She and her husband, Michael, have four children: Cammie, 14; Blain, 10; Braden, 7; and Jonah, 5. They have a female golden retriever named George Brett and a life that is full of love, laughter, and devotion to the Lord. Beth, your friends and family love you very much. They pray that this gift will remain as living proof of their feelings for you.

Also thanks to Kym Merrill, who won Forever in Fiction™ at the Discovery Church Women's Christmas Brunch auction. Kym chose to honor her sister, Allyson Page Bower, by having a character named after her. Allyson, 45, is mother to Tavia, 21; Travis, 15; and Taylor, 7. She is also grandmother to Harley, 4. A hard worker whose sole focus is caring for and loving her children, Allyson loves digging in the garden and sitting on the beach, and is known for baking the best banana pudding in the state. Allyson, your sister loves you very much. She prays that you will catch a glimpse of that love in the honor of finding your name Forever in Fiction™.

Chapter One

Once in a while Molly Campbell wondered if other people saw it. When strangers passed by her and Jack and little Joey, maybe they could actually see a golden hue, pixie dust on the tops of their heads or a light emanating from the air around them, telling all the world what the three of them inherently knew.

That life couldn't possibly be more perfect.

Sometimes when Molly walked through the Palm Beach Mall, hand-in-hand with four-year-old Joey, her purse holding a couple hundred dollars cash, two debit cards and a Visa with five figures open to buy, she'd see a tired-looking, disheveled man or an aging woman with worn-out shoes—hollow-eyed and slack-jawed—and she'd wonder what had happened. How had life placed these people in their separate worlds, and how had she and Jack and Joey found their way to the right side?

The good side.

Molly felt that way now, sitting at the Cricket Preschool parents' conference, listening to Joey's teacher rave about his progress in math and spelling. She held the hand of her quick-witted, rugged husband and smiled at Joey. "That's what we like to hear, buddy."

"Thanks." Joey grinned. His first loose tooth—the one in the middle, upper left—hung at a crazy angle. He swung his feet beneath the table as his eyes wandered around the room to the dinosaur poster and the T. rex. Joey loved the T. rex.

The teacher continued, "Your son is charming, a delight to everyone." Mrs. Erickson was in her sixties, silver-haired with a gentle hand, a teacher who preferred to use colored marbles or M&Ms rather than a stern voice and repetition to teach the alphabet. "He's reading at a first-grade level, and he won't be five until fall. Amazing." She raised her brow. "He's computing beyond his years, as well. And he's extremely social."

Then the teacher shared an anecdote.

One day the week before, Joey came to class a few minutes early, and there sat Mark Allen, a child with learning disabilities. Mark Allen was staring at his empty lunch box, tears streaming down his face. Somehow his mother had sent him to school without any food for snack time.

"I was in the supply closet," the teacher explained. "I didn't see what was happening until I returned."

By then, Joey had taken the seat next to Mark Allen, pulled his Batman lunchbox from his backpack and spread the contents out on the desk. As the teacher walked in, Joey was handing the boy his peanut butter crackers and banana, saying, "Don't cry. You can have my snack."

"I can only tell you," the teacher concluded, her eyes shining at the memory, "Joey is the kindest, most well-adjusted four-year-old I've taught in a long time."

Molly basked in the glow of the teacher's praise. She let the story play over in her mind, and when the conference was over and they left the classroom, she grinned at her husband. "He gets it from me, you know." She lifted her chin, all silliness and mock pride. "Sharing his snack with that little boy."

"Right." Jack's eyes danced. "And the social part." He gave her a look. "He gets that from you, no doubt."


"But the smarts"—he tapped his temple, his voice full of laughter—"that's my doing."

"Wait a minute…" She gave him a shove, even if she couldn't keep the smile from her face. "I'm definitely the brains in this—"

"Let's go, sport!" Jack took hold of Joey's hand and the two of them skipped ahead as they reached the parking lot. It was a beautiful South Florida May afternoon, cooler than usual, all sunshine and endless blue skies and swaying palm trees. The kind of day that made a person forget the humidity and unbearable temperatures just a few weeks away. Molly could hear Jack and Joey giggling about recess and playground rules and tetherball. As they reached their blue Acura SUV, Jack gave Joey a few light pokes in his ribs. "So, sport… got a girlfriend?"

"No way." Joey shook his head. "Us boys have a club. The Boys Are Best Club." He put his hands on his waist. "No yucky girls."

"Oh… good. Boys Are Best." Jack gave a few thoughtful nods. He opened the driver's door as he pulled Joey close and gently rubbed his knuckles against Joey's pale blond hair. "You boys are right." He winked at Molly. "Girls are yucky."

Joey looked at her and his expression softened. " 'Cept for Mommy."

"Really?" They climbed into the car. From the driver's seat, Jack looped his arm around Molly's shoulders and kissed her cheek. "Well…" He grinned at her. "I guess Mommy's not so bad. As long as she stays out of the kitchen."

"Hey!" Molly laughed. "It's been a month since I burned anything."

Jack raised his eyebrow at Joey. "Today made up for it. Flaming cinnamon rolls—that'll go down in the family record book."

"They shouldn't put 'broil' and 'bake' so close together on the dial."

Jack chuckled. "We shouldn't put you in the kitchen. Period."

"You might be right." Molly didn't mind her reputation for foul-ups at mealtime. Cooking bored her. As long as they ate healthy food, she had no interest in creating elaborate recipes. Simple meals worked just fine.

When they were buckled in, Joey bounced a few times on the seat. "Can we get pizza, huh? Please?"

"Great idea. That'll keep Mom out of the kitchen. Besides"—Jack gave a pronounced tap on the steering wheel—"anyone who gets a perfect report in preschool should be allowed pizza."

"Pineapple pizza?"

"Definitely pineapple pizza."

As they drove to Nemo's Deli a few blocks east of the school, a comfortable silence settled over the car. In the back seat, Joey found his library book, a pictorial on the Great White Shark. He hummed Here We Go 'Round the Mulberry Bush as he turned the pages. Molly reached over and wove her fingers between Jack's. "So… isn't it amazing?" She kept her voice low, the conversation meant for just the two of them.

Jack grinned, keeping his eyes on the road. "Our little genius, you mean?"

"Not that." Sunshine streamed through the windshield, sending warmth and well-being throughout her body. She smiled. "The kindness part. I mean…" There was laughter in her voice. "I know he's a prodigy in the classroom and a natural on the playground. But how great that the teacher would call him 'kind.' "

"The kindest boy she's seen in a long time."

"And well-adjusted." Molly sat a little straighter.

"Very well-adjusted."

They were half-teasing, bragging about Joey the way they could do only when no one else was around. Then the smile faded from Jack's face. "Didn't you think it'd be harder than this?"

"Harder?" Molly angled herself so she could see him better. "Preschool?"

"No." Jack gripped the steering wheel with his left hand, more pensive than he'd been all afternoon. He glanced at the rear-view mirror and the fine lines at the corners of his eyes deepened. "Adopting. Didn't you think it'd be harder? School trouble or social trouble? Something?"

Molly stared out the window. They were passing Fuller Park on their right, a place they'd taken Joey since he came into their lives. Home was only a block away. She squinted against the sunlight. "Maybe. It seems like a lifetime ago."

"When we brought him home?" Jack kept his eyes on the road.

"No." She drew a slow breath through her nose. "When we first talked about adoption, I guess." She shot a quick look at Joey in the backseat, his blond hair and blue eyes, the intent way he sat there looking at shark pictures and humming. She met Jack's gaze again. "As soon as they put him in my arms, every fear I ever had dissolved." A smile started in her heart. "I knew he was special."

Jack nodded slowly. "He is, isn't he?"

"Yes." She gave his hand a gentle squeeze. "As my sister would say, he's a gift from God. Nothing less than a miracle."

"Your sister…" Jack chuckled. "She and Bill are about as dry as they come."

"Hey." Molly felt her defenses come to life. "Give them time. They just moved here a week ago."

"I know." Jack frowned. "But can't they talk about something besides God? 'God's will this' and 'God's will that'?"

"Jack… come on." Molly bristled. Beth was her best friend. The two were eighteen months apart, inseparable as kids: Beth, the younger but somehow more responsible sister, and Molly, the flighty one, always in need of Beth's ability to keep her grounded. For the past three years Molly had worked on Beth, trying to get her and Bill and their four kids to move to West Palm Beach. "Be fair." She was careful with her tone. "Give them a chance."

The lines around Jack's eyes relaxed. "I'm just saying…" He raised his brow at her. "They're uptight, Molly. If that's what church does to you"—he released her hand and brushed at the air—"count me out."

"The move's been hard on them."

"I guess."

"Hey, Daddy, know what?" Joey tapped both their shoulders and bounced in his booster seat. "The Great White is as long as four daddies. That's what the picture shows."

The sparkle instantly returned to Jack's expression. "Four daddies! Wow… how many little boys would that be?"

"Probly a million-jillion."

They turned in to the restaurant parking lot. "Here we are!" Jack took the first space available. "Pineapple pizza coming up."

"Jack…" Molly wasn't finished. She winced a little. "I forgot to mention—" She already knew the answer, but her sister made her promise to ask. "Beth and Bill want us to come to church with them Sunday. They're trying out the one down the street from the school."

Jack leaned over and kissed her cheek. He kept his face a few inches from hers. "When Bill says yes to one of my poker parties, I'll say yes to church."

"Okay." She hid her disappointment. "So that's a no?"

"That's a no." He patted the side of her face. The teasing left his eyes for a moment. "Unless you want me to. If it matters to you, I'll go."

Molly loved that about Jack. He had his opinions, but he was willing to do things her way, always ready to compromise. "No." She gave him a quick kiss. "We're going out on the boat this Sunday. That'll put us closer to God than a church service ever could."

Joey was already out of the car and up on the sidewalk, waiting for them. Jack opened his car door and chuckled. "Well said, my dear. Well said."

Not until they were inside the restaurant ordering their pizza did a strange ribbon of fear wrap itself around Molly's throat. Their attitude toward church was okay, wasn't it? They'd never been church people, even though Beth talked to her about it often.

"You need to take Joey," Beth would say. "All children need to be in church."

Molly looked at Joey now, golden-haired, his eyes adoringly on Jack as they considered the options at the pop machine. What they had was fine, wasn't it? They believed in God, in a distant sort of way. What harm was there in finding Him at a lake instead of in a pew? Besides, they already had everything they needed.

Jack's recent promotion had placed him in a dream job as vice president of sales for Reylco, one of the top three pharmaceutical companies in the world. He was making a healthy six-figure salary, overseeing top international accounts, and traveling half as often as before. They lived on a corner lot in Ashley Heights, one of West Palm Beach's finer upscale neighborhoods. The three of them took trips to Disneyworld and Sanibel Island and the Bahamas, and they fished at Lake Okeechobee once a month.

Every now and then they spent a Saturday afternoon serving lunch at a homeless mission in Miami, and then they'd take in a play in the city's art district. On weekdays, after dinner, they walked to Fuller Park with Joey and Gus, their friendly lab. There Jack and Molly stole kisses and laughter, watching sunsets while Gus ran circles around the playground and Joey raced to the top of the slide over and over and over again.

They kept an Air Nautique ski boat at Westmont Pier, and on most Sundays they drove to the white sandy seashore and cruised to the bay, where water was smooth and deep blue and warm. They'd take turns skiing, and Joey would sit in the back, watching, pumping his fists in the air when one of them cleared the wake. This spring, for the first time, they'd bought a pair of training skis for Joey. More sunshine and laughter, day after day, year after year.

These thoughts chased away Molly's strange fear, and she found a window table where she could wait for her men. The uneasy feeling lifted. Why worry? The golden hue, the shining light, the pixie dust—all of it must be real. They were happy and healthy and they had everything they'd ever wanted. Most of all, they had Joey.

What more could God possibly give them?

Chapter Two

Wendy Porter stared out the windshield and tried to slow her breathing. A cigarette. That's what she needed—a strong, no-filter cigarette. She reached over and rummaged through her purse, past the Wal-Mart receipts and old tubes of lipstick and the pink cracked mirror. Beneath her wallet and the smashed breakfast bar she'd kept there for the past month. Through the crumbs and loose change that had gathered at the bottom. Where were they? She took her eyes off the road and gave a quick look into the purse. She still had a few Camels, right? The good kind?

Then she remembered, and she put her hand back on the wheel.

The smoke would cling to her pretty pink blouse and black dress slacks. It would linger in her freshly washed hair and ruin her minty breath. Five years had passed since her husband, Rip, had been a free man. She didn't want to put him in a bad mood.

The news she had to tell him would take care of that.

Wendy tapped one slim fingernail on the steering wheel. So maybe it didn't matter if she had a cigarette. She tapped some more. No, better not.

"Dirty habit," Rip used to tell her before his arrest. Sometimes he'd snatch a cigarette from her lips and break it in half. "I hate when you smoke. It isn't sexy."

Not that Rip had ever been the picture of sex appeal. Last time they were together, he'd slugged her in the jaw while the two of them yelled at each other in the Kroger parking lot. The reason he was angry? She'd forgotten to clip the fifty-cent coupon for ground round. A police officer a dozen yards away saw everything and hauled Rip in for battery. With a list of priors, Rip was lucky to get six to eight in the Ohio State Penitentiary, out in just five for good behavior.

Wendy turned onto the interstate and pressed her high-heeled shoe hard against the gas pedal. It was four o'clock—almost rush hour. She had to make time while she could. A quick check in her rear view mirror and she switched to the fast lane. With any luck she'd reach the prison in half an hour. She and Rip had a lot to talk about. The last thing she wanted was to get things off to a bad start by being late.

She cracked her window and a burst of fresh air filled the car. Her mama had told her to leave Rip years ago. Way before the Kroger incident. And truth was, there'd been other guys in the past five years. A girl couldn't sit home year after year waiting for her man to get out of jail. Even a man she was crazy about. She hadn't been sure he'd even want to see her when he was released. Not until last week. The phone call came as she walked through the back door after church.

"Baby…" His voice was more gravelly than before. "It's me."

The call made her breath catch in her throat. She set down her Bible and the church bulletin and pressed the receiver hard against her ear. "Rip?"

"Yeah, baby." There was a tenderness in his voice, the tenderness that had attracted her so long ago. "Did you miss me?"

"It's… been a long time, Rip."

He rarely called, hated having a long-distance relationship. At Wendy's last visit, fourteen months earlier, he'd told her not to come again until he was released. Seeing her made the time pass too slowly, he said. So how was she supposed to take that? She was not for a minute expecting a call from Rip.

Of course, she'd drop everything if he was interested again. She'd given her heart to Rip a long time ago. He would own it until the day she died. She gathered herself. "You mean… you wanna see me?"

"See you? I'm crazy about you, baby. And get this… I'm out in a week. The thing I want more than anything in life is to walk out these doors and see you there. Waiting for me." He hesitated, and she could hear the voices of other prisoners in the background. "Be there, baby… please?"

"Oh, Rip." When she could breathe normally, she grabbed a piece of junk mail and a pen. "When are you getting out?"

He gave her the details, and then he exhaled, slow and tired. "I'm sorry, Wendy." His tone was broken. Maybe that's why his voice sounded strange at first. He sniffed hard. "What I did… it was wrong. You don't have to worry. It ain't gonna happen again."

Wendy felt a bubble of anxiety rise within her. He'd been sorry before, right? Why would this be different? Every time Rip Porter walked back into her life, breathing apologies and lies, he left her with a broken heart and a few broken bones. Her mama said she'd be crazy if she took him back again, but that was just it. She was crazy. Crazy for Rip, in a way that didn't make sense. She loved him, that's all she knew. No matter his history, no matter the times when she was the target of what felt like a lifetime of rage, she loved him. There would never be anyone for her but Rip.

"I missed you, baby." His voice grew huskier as he breathed across the line. "I hope you kept my side of the bed open."

Fear poured into Wendy's veins. What if Rip found out about the other men? There hadn't been many, really. Four or five, maybe, and not for the past six months. That's why she was back at church. Trying to make a new go of things. Still, Rip hated other men. Hated when they looked at her, and hated it more when she looked back. If anyone from the pool hall ever told him about the other men, he'd… well… Wendy was sure whatever happened would make the incident at the Kroger look like horseplay.

But before she could think it all through, trying to imagine what life would be like with Rip back at home, she gave him the answer he wanted. "I'll be there."

"Okay, baby." His relief was tangible over the phone line. "I'll be counting the days."

Wendy settled back against the driver's seat and stared at the road ahead.

Since that phone call, her emotions had been all over the map. Excitement and the thrill of imagining herself in his arms gave way to a very real, very consuming fear. She hadn't told him about the boy. Now that he was getting out, she had no choice. He'd find out one way or another, and the longer she waited, the angrier he'd be. Rip couldn't really blame her for not telling him sooner. The two of them barely saw each other over the past five years, and as for her little boy—she tried not to think about him. Only on his birthday in September and a few other times each month when her heart raced ahead of her.

She reached over and rifled through her purse again. A piece of gum, that's what she needed. When she knew Rip was coming home, she'd hidden her smokes in a box in the garage. But now she was going crazy without them. Her fingers brushed against a sticky ballpoint pen and a wad of tissue paper, and then finally what she was looking for. A broken stick of peppermint Eclipse. She brushed off a layer of lint and popped the gum between her lips.

She hadn't planned to ever tell Rip about the boy. It wasn't any of his business. She'd had the baby at the beginning of his prison sentence, after all—a sentence that kept Rip in the slammer for five years. There were reasons why she gave the boy up, why she found a nice family and turned him over. But part of it was a matter of being practical. She had to work two jobs to pay the bills, right? How would she do all that and raise a baby by herself?

She found out about the baby the week after Rip was locked up. Rotten luck, nothing but rotten luck. She didn't visit Rip after her fifth month of pregnancy, not until she had her shape back and the baby was safe in his new home. Rip never suspected a thing. But the baby was his, that much she was sure about. The other men didn't come into the picture until the second year of his term.

The traffic grew heavier. She switched lanes again. The truth was, she'd almost done it, almost kept the boy. She didn't sign the paperwork until after she had him and held him and—


  • [Kingsbury] delivers . . . genuine emotional punch.—Publishers Weekly
  • "Karen is a gifted writer who confronts the hard issues with truth and sensitivity."—Francine Rivers, bestselling author of Redeeming Love

On Sale
Aug 12, 2010
Page Count
384 pages
Center Street

Karen Kingsbury

About the Author

Karen Kingsbury is a #1 New York Times bestselling author of over sixty works of fiction and nonfiction with nearly twenty-five million copies in print. Widely considered America’s favorite inspirational novelist, she is best known for drawing unforgettable characters and stories which evoke a range of emotions. Karen reaches over 100,000 women annually through national speaking appearances. She and her husband, Don, currently reside in Nashville, TN.

Learn more about this author