Saturday Excerpt: The McAvoy Sisters Book of Secrets by Molly Fader
Fans of women’s fiction and family dynamics will be drawn to the story of the McAvoy sisters—complete with drama, twist and turns and the special affection that comes from stories about siblings, this is one book you won’t be able to put down.
It’s been seventeen years since the tragic summer the McAvoy sisters fell apart. Lindy, the wild one, left home, carved out a new life in the city and never looked back. Delia, the sister who stayed, became a mother herself, raising her daughters and running the family shop in their small Ohio hometown on the shores of Lake Erie.
But now, with their mother’s ailing health and a rebellious teenager to rein in, Delia has no choice but to welcome Lindy home. As the two sisters try to put their family back in order, they finally have the chance to reclaim what’s been lost over the years: for Delia, professional dreams and a happy marriage, and for Lindy, a sense of home and an old flame—and best of all, each other. But when one turbulent night leads to a shocking revelation, the women must face the past they’ve avoided for a decade. And there’s nothing like an old secret to bring the McAvoy women back together and stronger than ever.
With warm affection and wry wit, Molly Fader’s The McAvoy Sisters Book of Secrets is about the ties that bind family and the power of secrets to hold us back or set us free.
Delia Collins was not proud of her glee. It was unbecoming, she got that. And truthfully, she couldn’t even say where it came from. What awful spring of motherhood created this kind of joy in catching her teenage daughter sneaking back into the house past curfew?
If she was a different kind of mother she’d be worried. Or angry. Even guilty.
And she was angry, worried and guilty (this had to be partly her fault—hers and Dan’s—they were too lenient, too forgiving, let her sleep too long in their bed when she was a baby—something). But somewhere between her gut and her head the anger, worry and guilt morphed into this…giddiness. Delia and Dan had told her they were trusting her. That this was—for real this time—her last chance. Brin had promised she wouldn’t be late.
And Brin had blown it.
Dan shuffled into the room, bleary-eyed, up way past his bedtime, and she felt a sudden rush of affection for him in his worn-thin Cleveland Browns pajama pants.
“Go on to bed,” she told him as she dragged her old blue rocking chair across the carpet.
“What are you doing?”
“Nothing. Actually, can you…?” The chair got stuck on the edge of the coffee table and she couldn’t twist it away.
Dan reached down and pulled it loose, the momentum nearly knocking her sideways. “Careful,” he said and reached out to steady her.
“I’m going to be the first thing Brin sees when she walks in the door.” She glanced down at her watch. “A half hour late.”
“Did you call her cell?” he asked.
“Yep. She didn’t answer. But she texted to say she’d be home soon.”
She texted because she’d been drinking and she knew Delia would be able to tell.
Delia ran into Jenny’s mom the other day outside Giant Eagle and she’d clearly thrown up her hands trying to control Jenny.
She’s mad at me all the time anyway, she’d said. Why make it worse?
Pick your battles, she’d said.
But what if Delia picked the wrong one? “When was that?”
“Ten minutes ago.”
“Are you…supposed to be enjoying this so much?” Dan asked.
Probably not. But Delia was the breastfeeding perimenopausal mother of a teenager and an infant. Enjoyment was wired wrong these days.
“What’s your plan?” “Plan?”
“She walks in the door and what?” “Dan, I’ll handle it. Just go to bed.” “You’re gonna scream?”
“I’m worried about you,” he said.
“Me?” Dan was stressed. Clearly. His appearance after 10:00 p.m. in the living room on a weekday was proof that something was cooking in that head of his.
“Between the baby, Brin, the store and your mom—” She sat down in her rocking chair, now conveniently positioned in front of the door. “I’m fine.”
His silence seemed to imply that he thought otherwise.
The front door swung open and Brin walked in, curtailing the conversation. Brin, her beautiful daughter, looked from Delia to Dan and then back again.
And then her lip curled in a totally new and devastating way.
“What? You’re like waiting up to yell at me?”
Delia’s bright-eyed baby who had once slept curled like a question mark in the curve of Delia’s body had turned into this teenager. Surly and sleepy-eyed, wearing cutoffs that were way too short.
Time folded like a fan and Delia was struck—anew—by how much Brin now looked like Lindy. It was shocking. They were carbon copies in different clothing. It was like having a ghost in the house.
Lindy. Delia still hadn’t called to tell her sister about their mom. She just didn’t know how to tell her.
The number of times over the last few months she’d sat at the kitchen table, her cell phone in front of her, was too many to count.
One touch of her finger and Lindy would come back. She knew that.
But then what?
Lindy had been the wild McAvoy sister, playing chicken with her reputation and her future, and in the end she left and broke Delia’s heart.
All Delia wanted in this world was to stop Brin from doing the same thing.
The lake got inside Meredith McAvoy’s head on a Sunday.
She knew it had been a Sunday because she’d been sitting on her back deck, working the crossword, the yellow tabby stretched out beside her, when she heard the screen door slam. Her first thought was that it was William. Which wasn’t right. He got swallowed up by the lake years ago.
But still, she turned, her heart pounding hard. Hope like that never really went away. It was a loyal dog, sitting at her feet every day, waiting for a chance to break its chain.
Next thing she knew she was waking up in the hospital, her daughter Delia looking over her like Meredith had survived a shipwreck.
“You’re okay,” her youngest daughter said as if it were an order. And it was an order Meredith was trying her best to obey. Because Meredith McAvoy was no burden. Not on Delia. Not on anyone.
And some days she was okay; the lake in her head was still and f lat. Calm. The world recognizable. The old blue house, gone gray in the sun, was her home. There was Gwen on the corner, who overwatered her yard, and Mike Porter next door, who shoveled Meredith’s walk all winter long. Her life. Her grief. The imaginary dog of hope at her side. All of it her own, just as it was supposed to be.
But some days the Lake Erie storms roared up and the sand- bars shifted and she didn’t know what was real. She didn’t know where her William was. Or why her Lindy had left. All she had were the secrets she had swallowed, and Meredith was afraid she’d open her mouth and they’d all fly out like bats at dusk.
She had given the babysitter Delia’d hired, that Tiffany woman, the slip after lunch. Meredith was supposed to take a nap like some kinda toddler, but when Tiffany went to sit on the back porch, Meredith had skedaddled out the front door. In her quick escape she’d left without her hat and the sun was hot on the top of her head. It was William’s hat, actually.
The brim white with salt and sweat and sometimes she put her tongue against it just so she could taste him again.
Hold on, now, I am Mrs. McAvoy.
Meredith stopped and there was Garrett Singh walking along beside her.
How long has he been there?
His boot kicked a piece of gravel and it flew off the narrow spit to land with a thunk in the lake. Erie was still shallow at this part. The sand like clay. The water, when calm, a bright blue-green.
“Garrett,” she said and got back to walking. No time for chit- chat. Her palm was sweating so she switched the flare gun to her other hand. “If you’re looking for Lindy, she’s not here.” “I’m not looking for Lindy, Mrs. McAvoy.” He kept along beside her.
“Probably for the best,” she told him. “I love that girl but she’s tough on the nice boys.”
If William was still around maybe that wouldn’t be true. Maybe Lindy would be less wild, but it was just Meredith and she was doing the best she could.
“Can I ask where you’re headed?”
“It’s obvious, ain’t it?” The spit only went out to the Fulbright House.
He smiled. “I suppose that’s true.”
“Oh no, boy.” She wagged the flare gun at him. “You save that smile for someone your own age.”
He vanished that grin real fast. “Can I ask what you’re doing with that gun?”
I’ve got to do something, don’t I? You can’t expect me to sit at home and do nothing. Not while he’s out there.
She was about to tell him all about it, glad actually that he was there in case she needed his help, but then they rounded that last curve and Fulbright House came into view.
And it didn’t look at all like it should. It wasn’t the grand mansion with bright white gingerbread and ruby-red door. The gardens—a Fulbright point of pride—were overgrown and full of them pesky reeds that crept in when you weren’t looking.
And Garrett, he was wearing a uniform. Not the high school lacrosse jersey Meredith remembered, but something new. Something…
He’s Police Chief Garrett Singh. Not that high school puppy following Lindy around.
Just like that the waves receded and the waters were still. “Do you need help, Mrs. McAvoy?” Garrett asked.
Meredith McAvoy never needed help before, and there was already that Tiffany woman in her house these days, a babysitter in nurse’s scrubs.
“Do you want me to call your daughter?”
Meredith wanted Garrett to call her husband. More than she could say, she wanted her William. He would know what to do.
She closed her eyes. This was a new kind of tired. Used to be, she could work for hours out on the boat and then come back and close up the shop and still go home and make dinner for the girls, play a couple hands of gin rummy on the porch. Every day she did that, for years, without even thinking about it much. The days were just days. The work just work. But now her bones wanted a rest. How long have I been walking?
“Lindy will know what to do,” she finally said.
“Mrs. McAvoy, Lindy doesn’t live here anymore,” Garrett said. “I can call Delia.”
Delia’s head would pop right off her shoulders and no one needed that. Meredith had caused that girl enough grief.
She remembered she had a cell phone in the pocket of her soft shorts. Delia’d insisted she have one, which seemed ridiculous.
Meredith and Lindy sometimes talked every week, but it had been a while. Time was a slippery fish these days, but Lindy had promised she’d come home if Meredith needed her. No matter what Delia had to say about it. And she’d wanted her daughter home plenty. Longed for her and missed so much it sat like a stone in her stomach.
But Meredith never needed Lindy before. Meredith pulled out the phone. “Call Lindy.”
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