الرئيسية Summer of '69

Summer of '69

Four siblings experience the drama, intrigue, and upheaval of the '60s summer when everything changed in Elin Hilderbrand's #1 New York Times bestselling historical novel.Welcome to the most tumultuous summer of the twentieth century. It's 1969, and for the Levin family, the times they are a-changing. Every year the children have looked forward to spending the summer at their grandmother's historic home in downtown Nantucket. But like so much else in America, nothing is the same: Blair, the oldest sister, is marooned in Boston, pregnant with twins and unable to travel. Middle sister Kirby, caught up in the thrilling vortex of civil rights protests and determined to be independent, takes a summer job on Martha's Vineyard. Only-son Tiger is an infantry soldier, recently deployed to Vietnam. And thirteen-year-old Jessie suddenly feels like an only child, marooned in the house with her out-of-touch grandmother and her worried mother, while each of them hides a troubling secret.As the summer heats up, Ted Kennedy sinks a car in Chappaquiddick, man flies to the moon, and Jessie and her family experience their own dramatic upheavals along with the rest of the country. In her first historical novel, rich with the details of an era that shaped both a nation and an island thirty miles out to sea, Elin Hilderbrand once again earns her title as queen of the summer novel.
السنة:
2019
الناشر:
Little, Brown
اللغة:
english
ISBN 13:
9780316419994
File:
PDF, 4.08 MB
تحميل (pdf, 4.08 MB)

You may be interested in

 

Summer of ’69

السنة:
2019
اللغة:
english
File:
EPUB, 29.31 MB

Summer of ’69

السنة:
2019
اللغة:
english
File:
EPUB, 3.58 MB

American Dirt

السنة:
2019
اللغة:
english
File:
EPUB, 601 KB

The Numbers Game

السنة:
2020
اللغة:
english
File:
EPUB, 223 KB

Most frequently terms

 
 
You can write a book review and share your experiences. Other readers will always be interested in your opinion of the books you've read. Whether you've loved the book or not, if you give your honest and detailed thoughts then people will find new books that are right for them.
1

Summer of '69

السنة:
2019
اللغة:
english
File:
MOBI , 1.93 MB
The characters and events in this book are fictitious. Any similarity to real
persons, living or dead, is coincidental and not intended by the author.
Copyright © 2019 by Elin Hilderbrand
Cover design by Lauren Harms
Cover photograph by Tom Kelley Archive / Getty Images
Author photograph by Nina Subin
Cover © 2019 Hachette Book Group, Inc.
Hachette Book Group supports the right to free expression and the value
of copyright. The purpose of copyright is to encourage writers and artists
to produce the creative works that enrich our culture.
The scanning, uploading, and distribution of this book without permission
is a theft of the author’s intellectual property. If you would like permission
to use material from the book (other than for review purposes), please
contact permissions@hbgusa.com. Thank you for your support of the
author’s rights.
Little, Brown and Company
Hachette Book Group
1290 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10104
littlebrown.com
facebook.com/littlebrownandcompany
twitter.com/littlebrown
First ebook edition: June 2019
Little, Brown and Company is a division of Hachette Book Group, Inc. The
Little, Brown name and logo are trademarks of Hachette Book Group, Inc.
The publisher is not responsible for websites (or their content) that are
not owned by the publisher.
The Hachette Speakers Bureau provides a wide range of authors for
speaking events. To find out more, go to hachettespeakersbureau.com or
call (866) 376-6591.
ISBN 978-0-316-41999-4
E3-20190418-DA-PC-ORI
E3-20190417-DA-PC-ORI
E3-20190412-DA-NF-ORI

Contents
Cover
Title Page
Copyright
Dedication
Prologue
Part One: June 1969
Both Sides Now
Born to Be Wild
Fly Me to the Moon
Time of the Season
Magic Carpet Ride
Those Were the Days
Suspicious Minds
Young Girl
Everyday People
More Today Than Yesterday
Piece of My Heart
Everybody’s Talkin’
Mother’s Little Helper
Magic Carpet Ride (Reprise)
Help!
White Rabbit
Part Two: July 1969
Summertime Blues
I Heard It Through the Grapevine
Summertime Blues (Reprise)
Nineteenth Nervous Breakdown
A W; hiter Shade of Pale
Whatever Lola Wants
Sunshine of Your Love
Can’t Find My Way Home
Fly Me to the Moon (Reprise)
Ring of Fire

All Along the Watchtower
A Whiter Shade of Pale (Reprise)
Midnight Confessions
For What It’s Worth
Get Back
Both Sides Now (Reprise)
Part Three: November 1969
Someday We’ll Be Together
Fortunate Son (Reprise)
Author’s Note
Acknowledgments
Discover More
About the Author
Also by Elin Hilderbrand

This book is for the three people who were
with me in the early-morning hours of
July 17, 1969:
My mother, Sally Hilderbrand, who went into
labor four weeks before her due date;
My maternal grandmother, Ruth Huling, who
“ran every red light” to get my mother to the
Boston Hospital for Women;
My twin brother, Eric Hilderbrand, who I
imagine turned to me and said,
“Are you ready for this?”

Explore book giveaways, sneak peeks, deals, and more.
Tap here to learn more.

Prologue
Fortunate Son

When the Selective Service notice comes for Tiger, Kate’s first
instinct is to throw it away. Surely this is every American mother’s
first instinct? Pretend it got lost in the mail, buy Tiger a few more
weeks of freedom before the U.S. Army sends another letter—by
which time, this god-awful war in Vietnam might be over. Nixon has
promised to end it. There are peace talks going on right now in Paris.
Le Duan will succumb to the allure of capitalism or Thieu will be
assassinated and someone with better sense will take over. Frankly,
Kate doesn’t care if Vietnam succumbs to the Communists. She just
wants to keep her son safe.
When Tiger gets home from his job at the driving school, Kate
says, “There’s a letter for you on the kitchen table.” Tiger seems
unconcerned about what it might be. He’s whistling, wearing the
polyester uniform shirt issued by Walden Pond Driving Academy with
his name stitched on the pocket: Richard. The letter uses that first
name too—it’s addressed to Richard Foley—though no one ever
calls him anything but Tiger.
Tiger says, “I taught a real cutie today, Ma. Name was Magee,
that was her first name, which I thought was far out. She’s nineteen,
like me, studying to be a dental hygienist. I flashed her my pearly
whites and then I asked her out to dinner for tonight and she said
yes. You’ll like her, I bet.”
Kate busies herself at the sink arranging daffodils in a vase. She
closes her eyes and thinks, These are the last easy thoughts he’ll
ever have.

And sure enough, a second later, he says, “Oh jeez, oh wow…”
He clears his throat. “Ma?”
Kate spins around, clutching a handful of daffodils in front of her
like a cross to ward off a vampire. The expression on Tiger’s face is
part shock, part excitement, part terror.
“I got called up,” he says. “I’m to report to the army recruitment
office in South Boston on April twenty-first.”
April 21 is Kate’s birthday. She’ll be forty-eight years old. In fortyeight years, she has been married twice and had four children, three
daughters and a son. She would never say she loves the son the
most; she will say only that she loves him differently. It’s the fierce,
all-consuming love that any mother feels for her child, but with a
dash of extra indulgence. Her handsome son—so much like his
father, but kind. And good.
Kate opens her wallet and sets twenty dollars on the table in front
of Tiger. “For your date tonight,” she says. “Go someplace nice.”

On April 21, it’s Kate who takes Tiger from Brookline to South
Boston. David offered to drive, but Kate wanted to do it alone. “He’s
my son,” she said, and a flicker of astonished pain crossed David’s
face—they never speak in those terms, her children, meaning not his
—and Kate berated herself while at the same time thinking that if
David wanted to know what real pain was, he should try being her.
Tiger said goodbye to David and his three sisters in the driveway.
Kate had instructed the girls not to cry. “We don’t want him to think
he’s never coming back,” she said.
And yet it’s this exact fear that’s holding Kate hostage: That Tiger
will die on foreign soil. He will be shot in the stomach or the head; he
will be killed by a grenade. He will drown in a rice paddy; he will burn
in a helicopter crash. Kate has seen it night after night on the news.
American boys are dying, and what have Kennedy and Johnson and,
now, Nixon done? Sent more boys.
At the recruitment office, Kate pulls into a line of cars. Ahead of
them, kids just like Tiger are hugging their parents, some of them for

the last time. Right? It’s indisputable that a percentage of the boys
right here in South Boston are headed to their deaths.
Kate puts the car in park. It’s obvious from watching everyone
else that this is going to be quick. Tiger grabs his rucksack from the
back seat and Kate gets out of the car and hurries around. She takes
a moment to fix Tiger in her eyes. He’s nineteen years old, six foot
two, a hundred and eighty pounds, and he has let his blond hair
grow over the collar of his shirt, much to the dismay of Kate’s
mother, Exalta, but the U.S. Army will take care of that pronto. He
has clear green eyes, one of them with an elongated pupil like honey
dripping off a spoon; someone said it looked like a tiger eye, which
was how he got his nickname.
Tiger has a high-school diploma and one semester of college at
Framingham State. He listens to Led Zeppelin and the Who; he
loves fast cars. He dreams of someday racing in the Indy 500.
And then, without warning, Kate is sucked back in time. Tiger was
born a week past his due date and weighed nine pounds, twelve
ounces. He took his first steps at ten months old, which is very early,
but he was intent on chasing after Blair and Kirby. At age seven, he
could name every player on the Red Sox lineup; Ted Williams was
his favorite. At age twelve, Tiger hit three consecutive home runs in
his final game of Little League. He was voted class president in
eighth grade and then quickly and wisely lost interest in politics. He
took up bowling as a rainy-day pastime in Nantucket and won his
first tournament soon after. Then, in high school, there was football.
Tiger Foley holds every receiving record at Brookline High School,
including total receiving yards, a record Coach Bevilacqua predicts
will never be broken. He was recruited to play at Penn State, but
Tiger didn’t want to travel that far from home, and UMass’s team
wasn’t exciting enough—or at least that’s what Tiger claimed. Kate
suspects that Tiger just ran out of enthusiasm for the game or
preferred to go out on top or just really, really disliked the idea of four
more years of school. Kate would have liked to point out that if Tiger
had gone to college, any college, or if he had stayed at Framingham
State part-time, he would not be in this position right now.
“Don’t forget, you promised to check in on Magee,” Tiger says.

Magee; he’s worried about Magee. Tiger and Magee went on their
first date the day Tiger got the letter and they’ve been inseparable
ever since. Privately, Kate thought it was unwise to jump into a
relationship only two weeks before going to war, but it might have
been the distraction he needed. Kate has agreed to check in on
Magee, who Tiger says will be very upset that he’s gone, but there is
no way a girlfriend of two weeks will be as upset as the soldier’s own
mother.
A tour of duty is thirteen months, not a lifetime, but some of the
mothers here outside the recruitment office are unknowingly saying a
permanent goodbye, and Kate feels certain she’s one of them. The
other mothers didn’t do the terrible thing that she did. She deserves
to be punished; she has enjoyed every happy day of the past sixteen
years like it was something she borrowed, and now, finally, the time
for payback has arrived. Kate had thought it would be a cancer
diagnosis or a car accident or a house fire. She never considered
that she would lose her son. But here she is. This is her fault.
“I love you, Ma,” Tiger says.
The obvious response to Tiger is I love you too, but instead Kate
says, “I’m sorry.” She hugs Tiger so tightly that she feels his ribs
beneath his spring jacket. “I’m so sorry, baby.”
Tiger kisses her forehead and doesn’t let go of her hand until the
last possible second. When he finally goes in, Kate hurriedly gets
back into the car. Out the window, she sees Tiger heading for the
open door. A gentleman in a brown uniform barks something at him
and Tiger stands up straighter and squares his shoulders. Kate
stares at her fingers gripping the steering wheel. She can’t bear to
watch him disappear.

Part One

June 1969

Both Sides Now

They are leaving for Nantucket on the third Monday in June, just as
they always do. Jessie’s maternal grandmother, Exalta Nichols, is a
stickler for tradition, and this is especially true when it comes to the
routines and rituals of summer.
The third Monday in June is Jessie’s thirteenth birthday, which will
now be overlooked. That’s fine with Jessie. Nothing can be properly
celebrated without Tiger anyway.

Jessica Levin (“Rhymes with ‘heaven,’” she tells people) is the
youngest of her mother’s four children. Jessie’s sister Blair is twentyfour years old and lives on Commonwealth Avenue. Blair is married
to an MIT professor named Angus Whalen. They’re expecting their
first baby in August, which means that Jessie’s mother, Kate, will be
returning to Boston to help, leaving Jessie alone with her
grandmother on Nantucket. Exalta isn’t a warm and fuzzy
grandmother who bakes cookies and pinches cheeks. For Jessie,
every interaction with Exalta is like falling headlong into a pricker
bush; it’s not a question of whether she will be stuck, only where and
how badly. Jessie has floated the possibility of returning to Boston
with Kate, but her mother’s response was “You shouldn’t have to
interrupt your summer.”
“It wouldn’t be interrupting,” Jessie insisted. The truth is, coming
back early would mean saving her summer. Jessie’s friends Leslie
and Doris stay in Brookline and swim at the country club using
Leslie’s family’s membership. Last summer, Leslie and Doris grew
closer in Jessie’s absence. Their bond made up the sturdiest side of
the triangle, leaving Jessie on shaky ground. Leslie is the queen bee

among them because she’s blond and pretty and her parents are
occasionally dinner guests of Teddy and Joan Kennedy. Leslie
sometimes gives Jessie and Doris the impression that she thinks
she’s doing them a favor by remaining their friend. She has enough
social currency to hang with Pammy Pope and the really popular
girls if she wants. With Jessie gone all summer, Leslie might
disappear from her life for good.
Jessie’s next older sister, Kirby, is a junior at Simmons College.
Kirby’s arguments with their parents are loud and fascinating. Years
of eavesdropping on her parents’ conversations have led Jessie to
understand the main problem: Kirby is a “free spirit” who “doesn’t
know what’s good for her.” Kirby changed her major twice at
Simmons, then she tried to create her own major, Gender and Racial
Studies, but it was rejected by the dean. And so Kirby decided she
would be the first student ever to graduate from Simmons without a
major. Again, the dean said no.
“He said graduating without a major would be like attending the
commencement ceremony in the nude,” Kirby told Jessie. “And I said
he shouldn’t tempt me.”
Jessie can easily imagine her sister striding across the stage to
accept her diploma in just her birthday suit. Kirby started
participating in political protests while she was still in high school.
She marched with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. from Roxbury through
the slums and dangerous neighborhoods to Boston Common, where
Jessie’s father picked Kirby up and took her home. This past year,
Kirby marched in two antiwar protests and got arrested both times.
Arrested!
Jessie’s parents are running out of patience with Kirby—Jessie
overheard her mother saying, “We aren’t giving that girl another dime
until she learns to color inside the lines!”—but Kirby is no longer their
biggest concern.
Their biggest concern is Jessie’s brother, Richard, known to one
and all as Tiger, who was drafted into the U.S. Army in April. After
basic training, Tiger was deployed to the Central Highlands of
Vietnam with Charlie Company of the Twelfth Regiment of the Third
Brigade of the Fourth Infantry. This situation has rocked the

foundation of the family. They’d all believed that only working-class
boys went to war, not star receivers from Brookline High School.
Everyone at school treated Jessie differently after Tiger was
deployed. Pammy Pope invited Jessie to her family’s annual
Memorial Day picnic—Jessie declined out of loyalty to Leslie and
Doris, who hadn’t been included—and the guidance counselor Miss
Flowers pulled Jessie out of class one Monday in early June to see
how she was doing. The class was home economics, and Jessie’s
leaving inspired enormous envy in all the other girls, who were
battling with their sewing machines in an attempt to finish their navy
corduroy vests before the end of the term. Miss Flowers brought
Jessie to her office, closed the door, and made Jessie a cup of hot
tea using an electric kettle. Jessie didn’t drink hot tea, although she
liked coffee—Exalta permitted Jessie one cup of milky coffee at
Sunday brunch, despite Kate’s protests that it would stunt Jessie’s
growth—but Jessie enjoyed the escape to the cozy confines of Miss
Flowers’s office. Miss Flowers had a wooden box filled with exotic
teas—chamomile, chicory, jasmine—and Jessie chose a flavor as if
her life depended on picking the right one. She decided on hibiscus.
The tea was a pale orange color even after the tea bag had steeped
for several minutes. Jessie added three cubes of sugar, fearing the
tea would have no taste otherwise. And she was right; it tasted like
orange sugar water.
“So,” Miss Flowers said. “I understand your brother is overseas.
Have you heard from him yet?”
“Two letters,” Jessie said. One of the letters had been addressed
to the entire family and included details of basic training, which Tiger
said was “not at all as hard as you read about; for me it was a piece
of cake.” The other letter had been for Jessie alone. She wasn’t sure
if Blair and Kirby had gotten their own letters, but Jessie kind of
doubted it. Blair, Kirby, and Tiger were all full biological siblings—
they were the children of Kate and her first husband, Lieutenant
Wilder Foley, who had served along the thirty-eighth parallel in Korea
and then come home and accidentally shot himself in the head with
his Beretta—but Tiger was closest to his half sister, Jessie. Actually,
they weren’t allowed to use the terms half sister, half brother, and

stepfather—Kate flat-out forbade it—but whether or not anyone
chose to acknowledge it, the family had a fault line. They were two
families stitched together. But the relationship between Tiger and
Jessie felt real and whole and good, and what he had said in the
letter proved that. The first line, Dear Messie, made tears stand in
Jessie’s eyes.
“Letters are the only thing that make it easier,” Miss Flowers said,
and at that point, her eyes had been brimming as well. Miss
Flowers’s fiancé, Rex Rothman, had been killed in the Tet Offensive
the year before. Miss Flowers had taken a full week off from school
and Jessie saw a photograph of her in the Boston Globe standing
next to a casket draped with the American flag. But when the new
school year started in September, a romance seemed to blossom
between Miss Flowers and Eric Barstow, the gym teacher. Mr.
Barstow was as muscle-bound as Jack LaLanne. The boys both
hated and respected Mr. Barstow, and Jessie and the other girls at
school had been wary of him—until he started dating Miss Flowers,
when he suddenly became a romantic hero. That spring, they
spotted him bringing Miss Flowers a delicate bouquet of lilies of the
valley wrapped in a wet paper towel, and after school each day, he
carried her books and files out to the parking lot. Jessie had seen
them together by Miss Flowers’s Volkswagen Bug, which was
painted the color of a Florida orange, Mr. Barstow leaning an elbow
on the roof while they talked. She once saw them kissing as the
school bus drove away.
Some people—Leslie, for example—are unhappy that Miss
Flowers saw fit to replace her dead fiancé within a year. But Jessie
understands how losing someone tragically leaves a vacuum, and as
they learned in science class, nature abhors a vacuum. Jessie
knows that after Wilder died, her mother had hired a lawyer to fight
the insurance company’s claim that his death was a suicide; the
lawyer argued that Wilder had been cleaning the Beretta in his
garage workshop and it had discharged accidentally. This distinction
was important not only for life insurance purposes but also for the
peace of mind of Kate’s three young children—Blair had been eight,
Kirby five, and Tiger only three.

The lawyer Kate hired—who was successful in convincing the
court that the death was accidental—was none other than David
Levin. Six months after the case was settled, Kate and David started
dating. They got married, despite Exalta’s vehement objections, and
a few short months after the courthouse wedding, Kate became
pregnant with Jessie.
Jessie hadn’t wanted to talk to Miss Flowers about Tiger and
Vietnam, so to change the subject, she said, “This tea is delicious.”
Miss Flowers nodded vaguely and dabbed her eyes with the
handkerchief she kept tucked into the belt of her dress to offer her
students (she was, after all, a guidance counselor for adolescents,
and their hormones and feelings ran amok on an hourly basis). She
said, “I just want you to know that if you have any dark thoughts
during the school day, you can come to talk to me here.”
Jessie had glanced down into her cup. She knew she would never
be able to take Miss Flowers up on this offer. How could Jessie talk
about her dark thoughts regarding her brother—who was, as far as
she knew, still alive—when Miss Flowers had actually lost Rex
Rothman, her fiancé?
Jessie was tormented each night by thoughts of Tiger getting
killed by mortar shells or grenades or being captured and marched a
hundred miles through the jungle without any food or water, but she
stayed away from Miss Flowers’s office. She managed to avoid
seeing the guidance counselor alone until the last day of school,
when Miss Flowers stopped Jessie on her way out the door and said
in her ear, “When I see you in September, your brother will be home
safe, and I’ll be engaged to Mr. Barstow.”
Jessie had nodded her head against the rough linen of Miss
Flowers’s jumper and when she looked into Miss Flowers’s eyes, she
saw that she truly believed those words—and for one sterling
moment, Jessie believed them too.
June 7, 1969
Dear Messie,

I’m writing a letter now to make sure it reaches you in time for
your birthday. They say it only takes a week for mail to reach the
States but when I think about the distance it has to travel, I figured
better safe than sorry.
Happy birthday, Messie!
Thirteen years old, I can’t believe it. I remember when you were
born. Actually, all I remember is Gramps taking us for ice cream at
Brigham’s. I got a double scoop of butter brickle in a sugar cone
and the damn thing fell over and Gramps said, Aw, hell, then got
me another one. I don’t know how much you remember about
Gramps, you were pretty young when he croaked, but he was a
hell of a guy. Before I shipped over, Nonny gave me his class ring
from Harvard, but we aren’t allowed to wear rings, so I keep it in
the front pocket of my flak jacket, which isn’t that smart because if
I get blown to bits, the ring will be lost forever, but I like to have it
next to my heart. It makes me feel safe somehow, which may
sound corny but Messie, you would not believe what counts for a
good-luck charm around here—some guys wear crosses or Stars
of David, some carry rabbit feet, one dude has the key to his
girlfriend’s bicycle lock, another guy has an ace of spades that
won him a big hand of poker the night before he shipped out. And
I have Gramps’s class ring from Harvard, which I don’t advertise
because the guys might think I’m trying to boast about my
pedigree. But what I guess I’m trying to tell you is that the guys
carry things they think have magic powers or things that remind
them why they might like to stay alive.
There are a few of us who have proven to be natural-born
survivors, which is good because our company has been dropped
right into the action. I’ve made two real friends here in Charlie
Company—Frog and Puppy (properly Francis and John). The
other guys call us the Zoo because we all have animal nicknames
but they’re jealous of how tough we are. The three of us have
stupid contests, like who can do the most pull-ups on a tree
branch and who can learn the most curse words in Vietnamese
and who can smoke an entire cigarette without taking the damn
thing out of his mouth the fastest. Frog is a Negro (gasp—what

would Nonny think?) from Mississippi, and Puppy is so blond and
pale he’s nearly albino. We should have called him Casper or
Ghost, but those nicknames were already taken by other guys in
our regiment, and since he’s the youngest in the platoon, he’s
Puppy. Puppy is from Lynden, Washington, all the way up by the
Canadian border—raspberry country, he says, bushes as far as
you can see, all of them growing fat, juicy raspberries. Puppy
misses those raspberries and Frog misses his mama’s vinegar
coleslaw and I miss Brigham’s butter brickle. So we are a mixed
bag, a cross-section of our great country, if you will. I love these
guys with all my heart, even though I’ve known them only a few
weeks. The three of us feel invincible, we feel strong—and
Messie, I hate to say it, but I know I’m the strongest of the three of
us. At first, I thought that was because of Coach Bevilacqua
making the team do so many wind sprints and climb all the stairs
in the stadium, but that only makes you tough on the outside, and
to survive here, you also have to be tough on the inside. When it’s
your turn to take point when you’re charging a position, you have
to be brave, and I mean brave, because chances are good you’re
going to be the first one to encounter Charlie. If you meet up with
enemy fire, you’re taking the bullet. The first time I led my
company, we were headed down this jungle path, the mosquitoes
were roaring like lions, it was the dead of night, and a group of VC
sneaked up behind us and slit the throat of Ricci, who was
bringing up the rear. We engaged in a firefight and a couple
others were shot, Acosta and Keltz. I made it out with nothing but
two dozen mosquito bites.
I hear other units have gotten shrinks to come in and help them
deal with the way this stuff messes up your head. When we go out
on a mission, it’s almost certain that at least one of us is going to
die. Which one of us is only a question of luck, like which ducks
are you going to hit with your water pistol in a carnival game.
When I was teaching kids to drive in Brookline, I knew the war
was going on, I watched it on TV with you and Mom and Dad, I
heard the body counts, but that didn’t feel real. Now I’m here, and
it’s too real. Every day requires fortitude, which wasn’t a word I

knew the definition of until I got here.
At night when I’m on watch or I’m trying to fall asleep while also
staying alert, I wonder who in the family I’m most like. Whose
DNA is going to keep me alive? At first I thought it must be
Gramps’s, because he was a successful banker, or my father’s,
because he was a lieutenant in Korea. But then you know what I
realized? The toughest person in our family is Nonny. She’s
probably the toughest person in the entire world. I’d put our
grandmother up against any Vietcong or any one of my
commanding officers. You know that way she looks at you when
you’ve disappointed her, like you’re not good enough to lick her
shoe? Or when she uses that voice and says, “What am I to think
of you now, Richard?” Yes, I know you know, and that’s why
you’re dreading going to Nantucket, so if it helps you be less
miserable, remember that the qualities of Nonny that are making
you unhappy are also the qualities that are keeping your favorite
brother alive.
I love you, Messie. Happy birthday.
Tiger
The night before they leave for Nantucket, Jessie and her parents
are sitting at the kitchen table sharing pizza out of a delivery box—
Kate has been too busy packing to cook—when there’s a knock on
the front door. Jessie, Kate, and David all freeze like they’re in a
game of statues. An unexpected knock on the door at seven thirty in
the evening means…all Jessie can picture is two officers standing
outside on the step, holding their hats, about to deliver the news that
will shatter the family. Kate will never recover; Blair might well go into
preterm labor; Kirby will be the most histrionic, and she will loudly
blame Robert McNamara, Lyndon Johnson, and her particular
nemesis, Richard Milhous Nixon. And Jessie—what will Jessie do?
She can only imagine dissolving like the Alka-Seltzer tablet her
father drops in water at night when he’s working on a stressful case.
She will turn into a fine dust and then she will blow away.
David stands up from the table, his face grim. He isn’t Tiger’s

biological father, but he has filled the role since Tiger was a small
boy and, in Jessie’s opinion, has done a good job. David is slender
(tennis is his game, which is his only saving grace as far as Exalta is
concerned), whereas Tiger is tall with broad shoulders, the image of
Lieutenant Wilder Foley. David is a lawyer, though not the kind who
shouts in courtrooms. He’s calm and measured; he always
encourages Jessie to think before she speaks. David and Tiger have
a close, nearly tender, relationship, so Jessie bets David feels sick
as he goes to answer the door.
Kate reaches for Jessie’s hand and squeezes. Jessie stares at the
half a pizza remaining in the box and thinks that if Tiger is dead,
none of them will ever be able to eat pizza again, which is too bad
because it’s Jessie’s favorite food. Then she has an even more
inappropriate thought: If Tiger is dead, she won’t have to go to
Nantucket with her mother and Exalta. Her life will be ruined, but her
summer will, in one sense, be saved.
“Jessie!” her father calls. He sounds irritated. She stands up from
the table and scurries to the front door.
David is holding the screen open. Outside, illuminated by the
porch light, are Leslie and Doris.
“I told your friends we were eating,” David says. “But since you’re
leaving tomorrow, I’ll give you five minutes. They came to say
goodbye.”
Jessie nods. “Thank you,” she whispers. She sees the relief on
her father’s face. Being disrupted during the dinner hour is not good,
but the reason for it is far, far better than what they had all privately
feared.
Jessie steps out onto the porch. “Five minutes,” David says, and
he shuts the screen door behind her.
Jessie waits for her heart rate to return to normal. “You guys
walked?” she asks. Leslie lives six blocks away, Doris nearly ten.
Doris nods. She looks glum, as usual. Her Coke-bottle glasses
slide to the end of her nose. She’s wearing her bell-bottom jeans
with the embroidered flowers on the front pockets, of course. Doris
lives in those jeans. But as a concession to the heat, she’s paired
them with a white-eyelet halter top that would be pretty if it weren’t

for the ketchup stain on the front. Doris’s father owns two
McDonald’s franchises; she eats a lot of hamburgers.
The air is balmy, and among the trees bordering the road, Jessie
sees the flash of fireflies. Oh, how she longs to stay in Brookline
through the summer! She can ride her bike to the country club with
Leslie and Doris, and in the late afternoons they can buy bomb pops
from the Good Humor man. They can hang out at the shops in
Coolidge Corner and pretend they’re just bumping into boys from
school. Kirby told Jessie that this is the summer boys her age will
finally start getting taller.
“We came to say bon voyage,” Leslie says. She peers behind
Jessie to make sure no one is lingering on the other side of the
screen door and then lowers her voice. “Also, I have news.”
“Two pieces of news,” Doris says.
“First of all,” Leslie says, “it came.”
“It,” Jessie repeats, though she knows Leslie means her period.
Doris wraps an arm across her own midsection. “I’ve been feeling
crampy,” she says. “So I suppose I’ll be next.”
Jessie isn’t sure what to say. How should she greet the news that
one of her best friends has taken the first step into womanhood while
she, Jessie, remains resolutely a child? Jessie is envious, fiendishly
so, because ever since “the talk” led by the school nurse last month,
the topic of menstruation has consumed their private conversations.
Jessie assumed Leslie would be first among them to get her period
because Leslie is the most developed. She already has small, firm
breasts and wears a training bra, whereas Jessie and Doris are as
flat as ironing boards. Jessie’s envy and longing and, on some days,
anxiety—she heard a story about a girl who never got her period at
all—is foolish, she knows. Both of Jessie’s older sisters moan about
their periods; Kirby calls it “the curse,” which is a fairly apt term in
Kirby’s case, as the monthly onset gives her migraine headaches
and debilitating cramps and puts her in a foul temper. Blair is slightly
more delicate when referring to her own cycle, although it’s not an
issue at the moment because she’s pregnant.
Leslie can get pregnant now, Jessie thinks, a notion that is almost
laughable. She’s ready to stop talking about all of this; she wants to

go back inside and finish her pizza.
“What’s the second piece of news?” Jessie asks.
“This,” Leslie says, and she produces a flat, square, wrapped
present from behind her back. “Happy birthday.”
“Oh,” Jessie says, stunned. Like everyone else with a summer
birthday, she has given up hoping that it will ever be properly
celebrated by her classmates. She accepts the gift; it is, quite
obviously, a record album. “Thank you.” She beams at Leslie, then at
Doris, who is still clutching her abdomen against imaginary cramps,
and then she rips the wrapping paper off. It’s Clouds, by Joni
Mitchell, as Jessie hoped it would be. She is obsessed with the song
“Both Sides Now.” It’s the most beautiful song in the world. Jessie
could listen to it every single second of every day between now and
the time she died and she still wouldn’t be sick of it.
She hugs Leslie, then Doris, who says, “We split the cost.” This
statement seems meant to elicit a second thank-you, which Jessie
delivers more specifically to Doris. Jessie is happy to hear they
actually bought the album because, in the two weeks since school let
out, the three of them have engaged in a spate of shoplifting. Leslie
stole two pink pencil erasers and one package of crayons from
Irving’s, Doris stole a day-old egg bagel from the kosher bakery, and
Jessie, under extreme pressure from the other two, stole a
Maybelline mascara from the Woolworths in Coolidge Corner, which
was a far riskier crime because Woolworths was said to be wired
with hidden cameras. Jessie knows that stealing is wrong, but Leslie
turned it into a challenge, and Jessie felt her honor was at stake.
When Jessie walked into Woolworths on the day of her turn, she had
been afraid, indeed terrified, and was already framing the apology to
her parents, already deciding to blame her bad decision-making on
the stress of her brother’s deployment, but when she walked out of
Woolworths with the mascara tucked safely in the pocket of her
orange windbreaker, she felt a rush of adrenaline that she thought
must be similar to getting high. She felt great! She felt powerful! She
had been so intoxicated that she stopped at the gas station near the
corner of Beacon and Harvard, went into the ladies’ room, and
applied the mascara right then and there in the dingy mirror.

The less thrilling part of the story was that Kate detected the
mascara the second Jessie walked into the house, and the Spanish
Inquisition had followed. What was on Jessie’s eyes? Was it
mascara? Where did she get mascara? Jessie had given Kate the
only believable answer: it was Leslie’s. Jessie hoped and prayed that
Kate wouldn’t call Leslie’s mother, because if Leslie’s mother asked
Leslie about it, it was fifty-fifty whether Leslie would cover for Jessie
or not.
All in all, Jessie is relieved not to be receiving a stolen record
album. If her mother ever found out about the shoplifting, she would
pluck Jessie from Leslie’s sphere of influence permanently.
“When are you coming back?” Leslie asks.
“Labor Day,” Jessie says. It seems like an eternity from now.
“Write me. You still have the address, right?”
“Yup,” Doris says. “I already sent you a postcard.”
“You did?” Jessie says. She’s touched by this unexpected act of
kindness from grouchy old Doris.
“We’re gonna miss you,” Leslie says.
Jessie hugs the record album to her chest as she waves goodbye
and then goes back into the house. She wasn’t the first to get her
period, she might not even be the second, but that doesn’t matter.
Her friends love her—they bought her something they knew she
wanted—and, more important, her brother is still alive. For one brief
moment at the tail end of her twelfth year, Jessie Levin is happy.

Early in the morning, there is a light rapping on Jessie’s bedroom
door. Her father pokes his head in.
“You up?” he asks.
“No,” she says. She pulls the covers over her head. The floaty
feeling from last night has disappeared. Jessie doesn’t want to go to
Nantucket. It isn’t even possible to look at both sides now. There is
only one side, which is that without her siblings—and, eventually,
without her mother—Nantucket is going to stink.
David eases down onto the bed next to her. He’s dressed in his

navy summer-weight suit, a white shirt, and a wide orange-and-bluestriped tie. His curly dark hair is tamed, and he smells like work,
meaning Old Spice aftershave.
“Hey,” he says, pulling the covers back. “Happy birthday.”
“Can’t I just stay here with you and go on the weekends?” Jessie
says.
“Honey.”
“Please?”
“You’ll be fine,” David says. “You’ll be better than fine. Big summer
for you. Thirteen years old. You’re finally a teenager, stepping out
from the shadow of your siblings…”
“I like their shadow,” Jessie says. The summer before, Kate had
enlisted each of Jessie’s siblings to entertain her every third day.
Blair always took Jessie to Cliffside Beach. They got hot dogs and
frappes at the Galley and then worked diligently on their Coppertone
tans while Blair turned the pages of John Updike’s wife-swapping
novel Couples, reading the scandalous sections out loud to Jessie.
Updike was fond of the word tumescence, and the first time Blair
read the word, she eyed Jessie over the pages and said, “You know
what that means, right?”
“Right,” Jessie said, though she hadn’t the foggiest.
Blair had lowered the book and said, “There’s no reason to be
grossed out by sex. It’s perfectly natural. Angus and I have sex every
single day, sometimes twice.”
Jessie had been both intrigued and repulsed by this information,
and she hadn’t been able to look at Angus the same way after. He
was ten years older than Blair and had dark hair that he never had
time to comb because he was too busy thinking. He was always
working on math problems and Nonny liked him so much that, while
they were staying at All’s Fair, she let him sit in Gramps’s leather
chair at Gramps’s antique desk. Angus rarely went to the beach
because he hated sand and he burned easily. Jessie didn’t relish the
thought of Angus’s voracious sexual appetite. Blair was beautiful and
smart enough to have any man she wanted, but she’d married
Angus and given up teaching English at Winsor in order to keep
house for him. Now she worshipped Julia Child and wore Lilly

Pulitzer patio dresses—but on the beach, she was more like a
naughty aunt than a matronly older sister. She smoked Kents,
lighting up with a silver lighter from Tiffany that was engraved with a
love note from Angus’s younger brother, Joey, who had been Blair’s
boyfriend before Angus. She reapplied her lipstick every time she
came out of the water, and she shamelessly flirted with the Cliffside
lifeguard Marco, who hailed from Rio de Janeiro. Blair spoke a few
select phrases in Portuguese. She was glamorous.
Kirby also took Jessie to the beach, but she opted for the south
shore, where the surfers and the hippies hung out. Kirby would let
some air out of the tires of the fire-engine-red International Harvester
Scout that their grandmother had bought for island driving, and they
would cruise right onto Madequecham Beach, where every single
sunny day was cause for celebration. People played volleyball and
plucked cans of Schlitz out of galvanized tubs of ice, and the air
smelled like marijuana smoke. Someone always brought a transistor
radio, so they listened to the Beatles and Creedence and Kirby’s
favorite band, Steppenwolf.
In Jessie’s opinion, Kirby was even prettier than Blair. Kirby’s hair
was long and straight, and while Blair was voluptuous, Kirby was thin
as a rail. Surfers with wet suits hanging off their torsos like shed skin
would throw Kirby over their shoulders and toss her into the waves.
She would scream in protest, but secretly, Jessie knew, she loved it,
and unlike Blair, Kirby didn’t care what she looked like when she
climbed out of the water. She wore no makeup and she let her blond
hair dry in the sun, uncombed. She smoked weed instead of
cigarettes, but two tokes only when she was watching Jessie; that
was her rule. Two tokes mellowed her out, she said, and the effects
had always worn off by the time they stepped back into All’s Fair.
Jessie’s days with Tiger were adventures. They rode their bikes to
Miacomet Pond to fish; they hiked to Altar Rock, the highest point on
Nantucket, and shot off Tiger’s potato gun. But their favorite activity
was bowling. Tiger was a legend at Mid-Island Bowl and had been
since he was twelve years old. All of the locals knew him and spotted
him games and bought birch beers for Jessie, which she savored
because Exalta didn’t tolerate any soda except for ginger ale mixed

with grenadine at the club, and even then, Jessie was allowed only
one.
Tiger’s prowess at bowling was surprising because they played
the game only on Nantucket and only when it rained. Exalta didn’t
believe in children staying indoors on beautiful summer days. Once
Tiger was old enough to drive, of course, he could bowl whenever he
wanted. On days when he minded Jessie, he took her with him, but
they kept it from Exalta, which made it an even bigger thrill. When
Tiger lined the ball up with the pins and then let the ball sail from his
fingers as his back leg lifted behind him, it was like he was dancing.
He was graceful, he was strong, and he was accurate. Most of the
time he swept away the pins in their entirety like he was clearing a
table. Jessie had hoped and prayed that his God-given talent would
prove to be a genetic trait she shared, but no such luck; Jessie’s
balls veered to the right or the left, and at least half the time, they
dropped into the gutter.
Jessie tries to imagine a Nantucket summer without her siblings.
She will rattle around All’s Fair with her summer-reading book, Anne
Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl—that is, when she’s not at tennis
lessons, which her grandmother is insisting on even though Jessie
has less than no interest. Jessie isn’t spoiled enough to call the
prospect of a summer on Nantucket dreary, but why, oh why, can’t
she just stay home?

Her father, sitting on her bed, pulls a small box out of his jacket
pocket. “Turning thirteen is a very big deal in the Jewish tradition,” he
says. “I had a bar mitzvah, but since we haven’t raised you Jewish,
we won’t be having that kind of ceremony for you.” He pauses, looks
away for a moment. “But I want to acknowledge how important this
age is.”
Jessie sits up in bed and opens the box. It’s a silver chain with a
round pendant the size of a quarter. Engraved on the pendant is a
tree.
“Tree of Life,” David says. “In the kabbalah, the Tree of Life is a

symbol of responsibility and maturity.”
The necklace is pretty. And Jessie loves her father more than she
loves anyone, even Tiger, though she knows love can’t be quantified.
She feels protective of her father because, while Jessie is related to
everyone in the family, David is related by blood to no one but her.
She wonders if he ever thinks about this and feels like an outsider.
She loves that her father has chosen to acknowledge this bond
between them. She has heard that to be considered a “real” Jew,
one’s mother must be Jewish, and if that was true, Jessie wouldn’t
qualify, but she feels a connection to her father—something spiritual,
something bigger than just regular love—when she secures the
clasp and lets the cool weight of the charm rest against her
breastbone. She wonders if Anne Frank owned a Tree of Life
necklace, then decides that if she did, she probably hid it with the
rest of her family’s valuables so the Nazis wouldn’t take it.
“Thank you, Daddy,” she says.
He smiles. “I’m going to miss you, kiddo. But I’ll see you on
weekends.”
“I guess since I’m supposed to be responsible and mature now, I
have to stop complaining about going away,” Jessie says.
“Yes, please,” David says. “And I’ll tell you what. When I come to
the island, we’ll walk to the Sweet Shoppe, get you a double scoop
of malachite chip, and you can complain about your grandmother for
as long as you want. Deal?”
“Deal,” Jessie says, and for one brief moment at the beginning of
her thirteenth year, Jessie Levin is happy.

Born to Be Wild

The conversation isn’t going well, but that’s hardly unusual for a
twenty-year-old woman talking to her parents in the summer of 1969.
“I need some space to breathe,” Kirby says. “I need some air
under my wings. I’m an adult. I should be able to make my own
choices.”
“You can call yourself an adult and make your own choices when
you’re paying to support yourself,” David says.
“I told you,” Kirby says. “I found a job. And I won’t be far. One
island away.”
“Absolutely not,” Kate says. “You’ve been arrested twice.
Arrested, Katharine.”
Kirby cringes. Her mother only breaks out Kirby’s first name when
she wants to sound stern. “But not thrown in jail.”
“But fined,” David says.
“For no reason!” Kirby says. “It’s like the Boston police never
heard of freedom of assembly.”
“You must have done something to provoke the officer,” David
says. “Something you’re not telling us.”
Well, yes, Kirby thinks. Obviously.
“And we’ve had to lie to your grandmother,” Kate says. “If she
finds out you’ve been arrested—twice—she’ll…”
“Take away my trust fund?” Kirby says. “I think we all know she
can’t do that.” Kirby will be given control of her trust fund when she
graduates from college or when she turns twenty-five, whichever
comes first. This has been her sole motivation for staying enrolled at
Simmons.
David sighs. “What’s the job?”
Kirby gives them a victorious smile. “I’ll be working as a

chambermaid at the Shiretown Inn in Edgartown.”
“A chambermaid?” Kate says.
“You can’t even clean your own room,” David says.
“Now you’re exaggerating,” Kirby says. She decides to stick with
eagerness and enthusiasm because she knows this will be more
persuasive than anger and indignation. “Listen, I realize I’ve never
held a job before. But that’s because I’ve spent all my spare time on
my causes.”
“We’ve spent all our spare time on your causes,” Kate says with a
barely concealed eye roll.
“Dad has,” Kirby says. “Remember when I was in high school?
You didn’t even want me to march with Dr. King. You told me I was
too young!”
“You were too young!” Kate says.
“What you meant was that I was too white,” Kirby says.
“Don’t put words in my mouth, young lady.”
“No one will ever march with Dr. King again,” Kirby says. “So that
memory is officially priceless and you nearly kept me from having it. I
was with Miss Carpenter the entire time, nothing bad was going to
happen; it was a peaceful protest, that was the point! The antiwar
protests this spring were different because the country is different
now. Students like me are the enemy of the establishment—but you
should both be happy I’m thinking for myself and not just falling in
line!” Kirby pauses. She sees David softening a bit, but her mother
remains rigid. “I want to get a job this summer, and after I graduate,
I’m going to pursue a career. I want to be more than just a wife and
mother. I don’t want to end up like…Blair.”
“Watch it,” Kate says. “Being a mother is a blessing.”
“But you have to admit—” Kirby stops herself before she shares
an ungenerous opinion about her older sister. Blair and Kirby have
long been described as the overachiever and the underachiever,
respectively. (Okay, no one has ever said that out loud, but Kirby
knows people think it.) Blair scored straight As all through high
school and went to Wellesley College, where she made the dean’s
list every single term. She won the English department’s award for
outstanding student, and her thesis about Edith Wharton received

some sort of special distinction from a panel made up of professors
from all Seven Sister schools. Blair had gotten a job teaching the
top-tier senior girls at the Winsor School, a position that opened up
approximately once every fifty years. From there it would have been
a short hop to a graduate degree and becoming a professor. But
what had Blair done? Married Angus, quit the job, and gotten
pregnant.
“Admit what?” Kate asks.
That Blair’s a disappointment, Kirby thinks. But that’s not true. The
person who’s a disappointment is Kirby herself.
Kirby is tempted to come clean with her parents, to tell them she
has just endured the worst three months of her life, both physically
and emotionally. She needs to wipe away the memory of the
protests, the arrests, her love affair with Officer Scott Turbo, the trip
to Lake Winnipesaukee. She had been dealt a losing hand of fear,
anxiety, heartbreak, and shame.
She needs a fresh start.
She appeals to David, who has always been more compassionate
than her mother. “I’m bombing in my classes at Simmons because
they’re boring. I don’t want to study library science and I don’t want
to teach nursery school.”
“You want to clean hotel rooms?” he asks.
“I want to work,” Kirby says. “And that was the job I happened to
nail down.” Here, she casts her eyes to the floor because she’s not
being 100 percent truthful.
“You don’t know anyone on Martha’s Vineyard,” Kate says. “We’re
Nantucket people. You, me, Nonny, Nonny’s mother, Nonny’s
grandmother. You’re a fifth-generation Nantucketer, Katharine.”
“It’s that kind of us-and-them attitude that’s destroying our
country,” Kirby says. When David laughs, Kirby realizes she’s going
to get her way. “Spending the summer somewhere else will be
educational. Do you remember my friend Rajani from school? Her
parents have a house in Oak Bluffs and they said I can stay with
them.”
“Stay with Rajani’s family all summer?” David says. “That sounds
excessive.” He turns to Kate. “Doesn’t it? Rajani’s family shouldn’t

have to shelter and feed our daughter.”
“Correct,” Kate says. “She should come to Nantucket, where she
belongs.”
“There’s also a house a few blocks from Rajani’s that I found in
the classifieds. Six bedrooms to let, college girls preferred. A
hundred and fifty dollars for the summer.”
“That makes more sense,” David says. “We can pay the rent, but
your day-to-day living expenses will be up to you.”
“Oh, thank you!” Kirby says.
Kate throws up her hands.

Kirby and her best friend from Simmons, Rajani Patel, drive to
Woods Hole in Rajani’s maroon MG with the top down. Kirby
secured a room in the house on Narragansett Avenue for the
summer. She gave her parents the phone number and the name of
the proprietress, Miss Alice O’Rourke.
I suppose she’s Irish Catholic, David had remarked. Let’s hope
she runs a tight ship.

When Rajani and Kirby drive the MG off the ferry into Oak Bluffs,
Kirby brings her palms together in front of her heart in a gesture of
gratitude. She is starting over on her own somewhere completely
new.
Well, okay, maybe not completely new. She’s still on an island off
the coast of Cape Cod; as the crow flies, she’s only eleven miles
away from Nantucket. She could have gone to inner-city Philadelphia
to work with disadvantaged youth. She could be driving around rural
Alabama, registering people to vote. So this is just a first step, but it
will be good for her.
Rajani is excited to play tour guide. “There’s Ocean Park,” she
says about a large expanse of green lawn with a white gazebo at its
navel. “And to the left are the Flying Horses Carousel and the Strand
movie theater.”

Kirby swivels her head, trying to take it all in. The town has a
carnival feel; it’s a bit more honky-tonk than Kirby expected. She
eyes the carousel—which Rajani has informed Kirby is the nation’s
oldest operating platform carousel—and then turns her attention to
the people on the sidewalks eating fried clams out of red-and-whitecheckered cardboard boats and swirling their tongues around softserve ice cream cones. The town does offer the diversity Rajani
promised, which is refreshing. A black teenager glides by on a
unicycle. Somewhere, there’s a radio playing the Fifth Dimension:
This is the dawning of the age of Aquarius. Kirby bobs her head
along to the music. This is the dawning of something for Kirby as
well. But what?
“We live in the Methodist Campground,” Rajani says, and Kirby
tries not to grimace. The only thing she can think of that’s less
appealing than living in a campground is living in a religious
campground. But the “campground” turns out to be a neighborhood
of homes painted the colors of Easter eggs, each house decorated
with elaborate gingerbread trim. “That one’s mine.” Rajani points to a
lavender home with a sharp triangular gable over the front door; the
white fretwork drips from the eaves like icing on a fancy cake. The
house is straight out of a fairy tale, especially when compared with
the architecture of downtown Nantucket, where every house
resembles a Quaker widow.
“Look at that blue one,” Kirby says. The blue house down the
street is a showstopper. It’s nearly twice as big as Rajani’s with two
gables over a gracious front porch that has a bench swing and a row
of ferns in hanging baskets. There are blue hydrangea bushes on
either side of the front walk, and the gingerbread trim all around is
fashioned to look like icicles—or at least that’s how it seems to Kirby.
“That’s my friend Darren’s house,” Rajani says. “He’s going to be
a senior at Harvard. Do you want to go see if he’s home?”
“We don’t have to,” Kirby says.
“Come on,” Rajani says. “You want to meet people, right? I don’t
see his car but it might be in the garage. His parents are really nice.
His mother is a doctor and his father’s a judge.”
A doctor and a judge. Harvard. All Kirby can think is how happy

both Nonny and her mother would be. She’s meeting the right kind of
people, just like on Nantucket, where everyone is a judge or a doctor
or holds an Endowed Chair of Effortless Superiority at Well-Bred
University.
“Okay,” Kirby says. She’ll write her mother a postcard later, she
decides, and mention all the esteemed people she’s met on Martha’s
Vineyard. “Let’s go say hi.”
Rajani strides up the walk and jabs the doorbell. Kirby wonders
about Darren from Harvard. It would be nice to have a summer
romance, a romance where she, Kirby, calls the shots instead of
being an emotional wreck. It would be nice to stop thinking about
Officer Scottie Turbo, with his devastating green eyes and his
geisha-girl tattoo and his powerful hands that could pin both her
wrists over her head as he kissed the spot just below her left ear.
A black woman in a white tennis dress opens the door. Her arms
have sculpted muscles and there’s a sheen of perspiration on her
forehead. Her hair is in a ponytail and she’s wearing diamond
earrings. She looks at both girls—women!—but her gaze settles on
Rajani and she smiles.
“Rajani!” she says. “Now the summer can officially begin!”
Kirby is initially confused. She thinks, Maid? Housekeeper? In a
tennis dress and diamond earrings? And then, one instant later,
she’s mortified by her own obtuseness and—let’s just say it—bigotry.
This woman must be Darren’s mother, the doctor.
Darren’s mother holds open the screen door. Rajani steps inside
and Kirby follows. The house is bright, summery, and modern. A
peek in the living room to the right reveals a navy-and-white-striped
divan with bright yellow throw pillows and a white coffee table
shaped like a kidney bean. Kirby loves it. There isn’t a piece of
furniture in Nonny’s house that’s less than a hundred years old.
“Dr. Frazier,” Rajani says. “Meet my friend Kirby Foley.”
Dr. Frazier offers her hand. “Nice to meet you, Kirby.” She studies
Kirby for a second longer than she might have—or is Kirby just being
paranoid? Kirby looks respectable, she thinks, in a strawberry-print
wrap skirt, a white scoop-neck tee, and a pair of Dr. Scholl’s. She
abandoned her usual minidresses, peasant blouses, and cutoff jeans

in favor of this outfit because she wanted to make a good impression
with her landlady, Miss O’Rourke. She senses hesitation on Dr.
Frazier’s face. Is it because Kirby is white? Should Kirby inform Dr.
Frazier that she’s a civil rights activist and a feminist, that she
marched with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. next to her beloved highschool civics teacher, Miss Carpenter, and that she personally
defended Miss Carpenter against the racial slurs of the ignorant boys
in her class? Should she show Dr. Frazier her National Organization
for Women membership card? Should she mention that she’s read
Simone de Beauvoir, Aimé Césaire, and Eldridge Cleaver?
All of that would sound like bragging, she fears, or, worse, like
she’s trying to appropriate African-Americans’ struggle for rights and
respect when anyone can see that she’s as white as Wonder Bread.
Besides, it’s exaggerating a bit—she has read Aimé Césaire, but she
barely understood a single word. She decides the best defense is
genuine human warmth. She smiles at Dr. Frazier, and as she does,
she realizes she has seen this woman before. But where? Dr.
Frazier doesn’t work at Simmons, and yet somewhere…Kirby has
met her somewhere.
“Are you here visiting for a few days?” Dr. Frazier asks. “Or for the
summer?”
“The summer,” Kirby says, hoping this will be a point in her favor.
“I’m renting a room from Alice O’Rourke. I’ll be working as a
chambermaid at the Shiretown Inn in Edgartown.”
“Chambermaid?” Dr. Frazier asks. She gives Kirby the once-over
with what appears to be an incredulous eye. “Where are you from,
Kirby?”
Kirby clears her throat. “My parents live in Brookline?” She’s so
nervous she sounds like she’s asking the question instead of
answering it.
“Kirby normally spends her summers on Nantucket,” Rajani
announces. “But she’s decided to give the Vineyard a whirl.”
“Brookline and Nantucket,” Dr. Frazier says. “And you’re cleaning
rooms at the Shiretown Inn? And you’ve signed on to live in Alice
O’Rourke’s house? Do your parents know about this?” She sounds
either disapproving or amused; Kirby can’t tell which. It feels like

Darren’s mother has the whole situation figured out: Rich white girl
trying on a working-class hat for kicks. Kirby doesn’t need the
chambermaid job; in fact, she’s taking it away from someone who
does need it. Or maybe Dr. Frazier thinks Kirby has been cast out by
her family for one transgression or another.
And then Kirby realizes where she knows Dr. Frazier from. Her
face grows hot and stiff like she’s gotten a bad sunburn, and the
back of her throat starts to close. She needs to get out of there
pronto. But before Kirby can think of a way to excuse herself, Rajani
speaks up. “We came to say hello to Darren. Is he around?”
“He went to Larsen’s with his father to pick up lobsters for dinner,”
Dr. Frazier says. “With all the traffic up-island, I can’t say how long
they’ll be.”
“No problem,” Rajani says. “We’ll come back another time.”
“Well,” Dr. Frazier says. She hesitates, and Kirby is pretty sure
she’s debating whether or not to invite them to stay and wait for
Darren. If so, she decides against it. “It was good to see you, Rajani.
And nice to meet you, Kirby. Enjoy our island.” She holds the front
screen door open almost as if she’s eager for Kirby to get out.
She knows who I am, Kirby thinks, and her dream of a fresh start
with a clean slate here on Martha’s Vineyard vanishes in a snap.

Fly Me to the Moon

People throw around the phrase married with children like loose
change, Blair thinks. No one ever talks about the drama that
matrimony and parenthood entail. So is it any wonder Blair was
taken by surprise?
Blair met Angus Whalen, a professor of astrophysics at MIT,
because she was dating his younger brother, Joey. Blair had just
graduated from Wellesley, and Joey from Boston College. Blair was
teaching honors English and the Art of the Novel to senior girls at the
Winsor School. Joey wanted to move to New York City and “get into
business,” but for the time being, he was captaining one of the swan
boats in Boston’s Public Garden and living in Cambridge with Angus.
“My brother is a crazy genius,” Joey told Blair. “He’s helping NASA
with the moon launch.”
Blair’s ears had perked up. “He’s an astronaut?” Blair was
obsessed with astronauts. She’d covered her dorm-room corkboard
with pictures of Jim Lovell and Pete Conrad and the most handsome
astronaut of all, Gordon Cooper.
“Not an astronaut exactly,” Joey said. “I mean, he’s not going up in
the rocket. He just does the calculations that make the rockets fly.”
Close enough, Blair thought. If she and Joey ended up getting
married, she would have a brother-in-law who was almost an
astronaut!
Although Blair considered herself a modern woman, getting
married was never far from her mind. Nearly all of Blair’s Wellesley
classmates were engaged by the time they graduated. The
exception was Blair’s best friend, Sallie, who, like Blair, wanted a
career.
A truly modern woman, Blair thought, could have both.

Blair liked Joey. He was handsome, fun-loving, and easy to be
with. If Blair had a complaint, it was that he was maybe too easy—
but, she reasoned, she was complicated enough for both of them.
Joey was head over heels for Blair and she got swept up by the
wave of his enthusiasm. He once sent a bouquet of fat red roses to
Blair at the Winsor School, and the administration saw fit to deliver it
right in the middle of Blair’s lecture on Carson McCullers. Blair’s
students all swooned, and Frankie from The Member of the Wedding
was forgotten as the girls buried their noses in the flowers and
inhaled what they naively believed to be the scent of true love.
The weekend after the (distracting) arrival of the roses, Joey
invited Blair for a private ride on his swan boat. It was early October
and the leaves in the Boston Public Garden were at their most
flamboyant. Joey pedaled to the middle of the pond, produced a
bottle of cold duck, and poured it into waxy paper cups. He and Blair
drank and talked and laughed until dusk descended. At some point,
they started kissing, really kissing, and the swan boat tilted first in
one direction, then the other. Joey broke away, out of breath. “Will
you come to my place?” he asked. “Please?”
Blair didn’t want Joey to think she was too easy, but the cold duck
had gone right to her head.
“Okay,” she said. “But no promises.”

Joey’s “place” was the entire ground floor of one of the gracious turnof-the-century mansions on Mt. Auburn Street. Blair had been
expecting a bachelor pad—posters of Jayne Mansfield and Marilyn
Monroe, piles of dirty laundry, empty beer cans—but when Joey
opened the door and ushered Blair inside, she was pleasantly
surprised. A framed print of Édouard Manet’s A Bar at the FoliesBergère hung in the entryway, and Blair heard Rachmaninoff playing
somewhere in the house.
Art? Blair thought. Classical music?
“Damn,” Joey said. “My brother’s home.”
When they stepped into the great room, Blair took a quick

inventory: Persian rug, leather sofa, mirror-topped cigar table, and,
most impressive, a wall of floor-to-ceiling bookshelves. At the far end
of the room, a man sat at the head of a long harvest table, working
by the light of three pillar candles. This was Joey’s brother, Blair
realized, Angus, the almost astronaut. He was bent over a notebook,
scribbling furiously. He didn’t even seem to notice them come in.
Joey was visibly perturbed. “I thought you were going to the
faculty potluck.”
Angus didn’t respond. He’s working! Blair thought. Leave him be.
It was clear, however, that it would be rude to withdraw to the
bedroom for amorous pursuits.
“Angus!” Joey said. “Get out of here. We’d like some privacy.”
Angus held up an index finger as he scribbled something in his
notes. “Got it!” He slammed the notebook shut and, with this action,
seemed to reenter the present moment. He said, “Who is ‘we’?”—
and then he noticed Blair and leaped to his feet. “Hello?” he said. He
moved toward Blair tentatively, as though she were an exotic bird
that might fly away. “Who are you?”
Behind Angus’s glasses, Blair noticed, were a pair of tender
brown eyes. Her head buzzed with the effects of the cold duck.
“Blair Foley,” she said, offering her hand. “It’s nice to meet you. I
just love your apartment. I noticed the Manet print when I walked in.
That painting is a particular favorite of mine.”
“Did you study art history, then?” Angus asked.
“I thought you were going to the faculty potluck,” Joey said again.
“Literature, actually,” Blair said. “Female novelists, to be specific.
Edith Wharton, to be specifically specific.”
“Edith Wharton,” Angus said.
Blair was about to proffer her standard one-line Wharton
biography—American novelist born into the upper echelons of New
York society who was the first woman to win the Pulitzer Prize for
Literature—because lots of people, especially men, had no idea who
Edith Wharton was. But then Angus said, “I’ve read all her work.”
“Have you?” Blair assumed Angus was making fun of her. “Which
novel was your favorite?”
Joey made a loud snoring noise, which was the kind of dismissive

attitude Blair expected from men when she discussed Wharton. She
ignored him.
“The Age of Innocence,” Angus said. “Countess Olenska is
positioned as the other against the lily-white backdrop of May
Welland.”
“You have read it!” Blair said.
“Yes,” Angus said. “I told you, I’ve read them all.”
“Of course,” Blair said. “It’s just that…Joey told me you were an
astrophysicist.”
Angus offered her a wry smile. “And astrophysicists aren’t allowed
to enjoy Wharton?”
Blair was dazzled. She felt suddenly connected to Angus, as
though they had both visited the same far-off country.
Joey snatched up Angus’s notebook and held it over the candle
flames. “Get out of here, Angus, or this goes up in smoke.”
“Joey!” Blair said.
Angus shook his head. “He does this all the time,” he said. “Acts
like a child to get attention.” He took Blair’s hand. “Please, can I take
you to dinner?” Blair looked into Angus’s soft brown eyes and
thought, This date just got very complicated.

Blair and Angus’s wedding had been a small but lavish affair at the
Union Club, paid for by Exalta, who had taken a particular shine to
Angus. With Exalta, one was considered remarkable or one was
barely noticed; those were the only two options. Blair herself fell into
the latter category, but then, so did most people. Blair had suspected
Exalta would view Angus’s rarefied intellect with disdain, but Exalta
thought Angus was marvelous, and when Blair and Angus got
engaged, Exalta’s opinion of Blair seemed to improve.
Blair loved being a bride. She loved her dress, a trumpet
silhouette with lace overlay, a satin sash under the bustline, and a
low dip in the back. It was from Priscilla’s of Boston, and Blair had
been fitted by Priscilla herself, which made her feel like Grace Kelly.
Blair loved licking stamps for the invitations and then checking the

mail for the reply cards. Fifty guests were invited; forty-two accepted.
Blair asked her sister Kirby to be the maid of honor, her best friend,
Sallie, to be the bridesmaid, and her sister Jessie to be the junior
bridesmaid. Blair chose peonies and lilies for her flowers, a palette of
pink and green, and they were granted a stunning June day. The
lamb and the duck at the reception was a welcome change from beef
and chicken, and Exalta had agreed to French champagne,
Bollinger. Blair and Angus danced to “Fly Me to the Moon,” which
was a joke about Angus’s job; they held hands under the table
through Joey Whalen’s sweet, funny, and very drunken toast (“We all
worried you would never find a wife. And you didn’t. I found her”).
After the reception, Blair changed into a peach silk shift with dyed-tomatch pumps and they ran through a shower of rice to the getaway
car, Angus’s black 1966 Ford Galaxie convertible, which had been
festooned with crepe paper and empty tin cans.
The honeymoon was a week in Bermuda at the Hamilton Princess
—pink sand, men in knee socks, sex. Angus was an accomplished
lover, and Blair figured it must be a natural gift, like his intelligence,
because he told her he had never had a real girlfriend before her.
However, it was on their honeymoon that Blair learned that the
nimble, lightning-quick gymnastics of Angus’s mind came at a cost.
On the third morning of their trip, Angus refused to get out of bed. He
wasn’t sleeping; he just lay there, his eyes open but vacant. Blair
placed a hand on his forehead. His skin was cool.
“Angus,” she said. “You’re scaring me. What is it?”
He shook his head, then his expression crumpled and he
appeared ready to cry.
“What is it, Angus?” Blair asked. But of course, it could be only
one thing. He didn’t love her; he’d made a mistake in marrying her.
“Angus?”
“Please leave,” he said. “Just for a little while. I need to be alone.”
Blair left. What else could she do? She was relieved that at least it
was temporary.

Blair wandered the hotel gardens, filled with June roses and
butterflies, then sat pensively with a cup of coffee on the patio until
an hour had passed. When she returned to the room, she heard
Angus’s voice through the door. He was on the phone, she realized,
which seemed like a good sign. She knocked, then entered. She
heard Angus say, “I have to go now. Goodbye.”
Blair crossed the dim bedroom to kiss Angus’s forehead. Still cool.
“How are you feeling?” she asked.
“A bit better,” he said.
She waited for him to tell her who he had been talking to, but he
didn’t and she decided she wouldn’t ask.
“I’m sorry,” Angus said. “Some days I wake up and I’m just…
paralyzed.”
Blair assured him that he didn’t have to be sorry. She worried he
had gotten too much sun or not enough sleep. She also suspected
he was working too hard; even here in Bermuda, he sat at the little
round table on their balcony and pored over his calculations, and
when he finished, he picked up one of the books he’d brought. He
was reading Hermann Hesse’s Siddhartha in the original German
and, “for fun,” The Death of Ivan Ilyich.
“You’re thinking too much,” Blair said. “Your mind needs a rest,
Angus.”
“No, that’s not it,” he said. “It happens. It’s an affliction.” He then
confessed that he had been visited by these “episodes” since he was
an adolescent. The paralysis—mental and emotional—came and
went capriciously, like a ghost haunting a house; there was no
predicting its cause or its duration. He had been to hospitals, tests
had been run, pills prescribed—but nothing made it better.
“I didn’t tell you because I didn’t want you to think you were
marrying damaged goods,” Angus said.
“I would never think that, darling,” Blair said. She remembered
Joey calling Angus a “crazy genius.” She’d thought Joey had been
jealous.

The rest of that summer passed in a blissful haze. Because the MIT
students were on summer break, Angus had been able to join Blair
on Nantucket. While she sunned herself on Cliffside Beach, he
worked on his research at Blair’s grandfather’s desk. They often met
in the late afternoons in the shaded garden next to the Nantucket
Atheneum, stopping at the Island Dairy Bar for one chocolate-andvanilla soft-serve cone that they shared as they strolled back to All’s
Fair. In the evenings, they ate with the family, then either drove out to
the beach in the Galaxie and made love in the back seat or walked
up Main Street and sat side by side on a bench, sharing a cigarette
and looking out over the twinkling lights of town. Once a week, they
had date night at the Opera House, with its proper European waiters,
all of them old and with heavy accents, or the Skipper, where the
college-age servers sang show tunes. One day Blair and Angus rode
their bikes all the way out to Sankaty Head Lighthouse; another day
they puttered Exalta’s thirteen-foot Boston Whaler over to Coatue,
where they sat on the beach under an umbrella. They were the only
people there that day, so Angus untied Blair’s bikini top and kissed
the length of her spine, then flipped her over and made love to her
right out there in the open where passing boaters might see them.
Blair had to admit, that only made it more thrilling.

When they arrived back in the city after this extended honeymoon,
they had their first argument.
Angus told Blair that he didn’t want her to return to Winsor.
“What are you talking about?” Blair said. She had been working
on lesson plans since the first of August; she had ordered thirty
copies of Flannery O’Connor’s A Good Man Is Hard to Find. Angus
knew this! There were girls who had written to Blair on Nantucket to
tell her how excited they were about taking her class. “Of course I’m
going back.”
“No,” Angus said. “I need you to stay home and handle things
here.”
“Handle what?” Blair said, though she knew he meant the house

—cleaning, cooking, shopping, laundry, errands. “I’m more than
capable of teaching and running the household, Angus.”
He’d kissed her nose and she nearly swatted him away, the
gesture was so patronizing. “You are more than capable. But you
don’t have to work. I make plenty of money and we have your trust
fund.”
The trust fund was fifty thousand dollars that Blair had gotten
when she graduated from Wellesley. It was now in an account at the
Bank of Boston under both her and Angus’s names.
“That money isn’t meant to be squandered on day-to-day
expenses,” Blair said. “You know that.”
“Blair,” Angus said. “I don’t want a wife who works. My job is very
taxing. Please, I need you at home. I realize every marriage requires
compromise, which is why I gave up my place in Cambridge.”
“Wait,” Blair said. It was true that she had lobbied to live in Boston
proper, and now she and Angus were renting a modern two-bedroom
on Commonwealth Avenue. But she hadn’t realized that decision
would put her job at risk!
“Blair,” Angus said. “Please.”
“What am I going to do all day?” she asked.
“Do what other women do,” Angus said. “And if you have any
spare time, you can read.”

Blair opened her remaining wedding presents. Some of them she
returned (toasters, teacups, an angora blanket that shed like a St.
Bernard), and some she placed around the apartment (crystal vases,
candy dishes, a Moroccan tagine pot that they would never use but
that looked stylish on the open shelves of the dining nook). She
wrote thank-you notes on stationery engraved with her new
monogram, BFW. She set up an account at Savenor’s on Charles
Street, at the liquor store, at the hardware store. She placed the
photos from the ceremony and reception in the white album that said
Our Wedding in foil-pressed letters on the front.
When all of that was completed, Blair found herself at a loss for

something to do. Angus had suggested she read, but now that Blair
had hours to read, entire days to read, potentially an entire married
lifetime to read, books lost their luster, and she grew resentful.
Angus said he wanted her home, but for what reason? He worked all
the time. He had classes to teach and graduate students to oversee
but what gobbled up most of his waking hours was the Apollo 11
mission. He was never home, and it didn’t take long for Blair to
wonder if she’d made an error when she’d traded one Whalen
brother for the other. Joey Whalen had given Blair a secret wedding
present, a slender silver lighter engraved with the words I loved you
first. Eternally yours, Joey. Every time Blair smoked a cigarette, she
felt secretly, deliciously desired. Really, was there any better gift?
Blair half wanted Angus to discover the lighter; she started leaving it
out, engraved-side up. But Angus couldn’t be bothered with the
minutiae of Blair’s life, so if there was one small secret between
them, it was his own fault, she thought.

At the end of September, Angus traveled to Houston, then to Cape
Kennedy. Blair stayed home and kept house. She bought Mastering
the Art of French Cooking and decided that she would become a
gourmet cook and host fashionable salons twice a month, evenings
of cocktails and delectable bites where the conversation would focus
on literature, art, music, history, and travel. Blair clung tight to the
vision of these salons for a few feverish days, imagining that they
would be in the same vein as gatherings hosted by the Duke and
Duchess of Windsor. But then Blair tried and failed to make an edible
poulet au porto three times, and she realized that Angus would never
be able to commit to two nights home per month, and they didn’t
have any friends anyway.
The middle of October brought the annual faculty potluck, the very
same one Angus had famously skipped the year before. This time it
was to be held at the home of Dr. Leonard Cushion, professor
emeritus of microbiology; he lived on Brattle Street, a few doors
down from Julia Child herself. Blair was excited for the potluck—

finally, a chance to get out of the house and socialize. She slaved
over a potato galette made with clarified butter, thyme, and rosemary
that, when cut into slender wedges, would be a sophisticated shared
dish. She was eager to meet Angus’s colleagues and enjoy some
adult interaction. Blair wanted to appear serious and intellectual and
so she chose to wear black bell-bottoms with a black turtleneck. She
pulled her normally bouncy blond hair into a sleek ponytail and
secured it with a black, orange, and pink Pucci scarf that had been a
gift from her friend Sallie. Blair considered wearing silver hoop
earrings but feared they would make her seem frivolous. She
decided the same about makeup; she applied only eyebrow pencil
and clear lip gloss.
When she came downstairs, Angus said, “That’s what you’re
wearing?”
Blair picked up the galette with two quilted oven mitts and strode
ahead to the car. Angus knew a lot about astrophysics and a little bit
about Edith Wharton, but he knew nothing of women’s fashion.
Or did he?
Much to Blair’s dismay, the other wives at the potluck were
wearing sheath dresses or dirndl skirts in fall colors—goldenrod,
flame orange, burgundy. They had all had their hair set and were in
full makeup, complete with false eyelashes and bright lipstick. Blair
was greeted by Mrs. Nancy Cushion, who was a good thirty years
younger than the esteemed Professor Cushion. Blair handed Nancy
the galette, and the other wives—Judy, Carol, Marion, Joanne,
Joanne, and Joanne—gave it sideways glances as they arranged
trays of hors d’oeuvres, most of which appeared to be composed of
three ingredients: cream cheese, olives, and toothpicks.
By the time Blair finished introducing herself, Angus had
disappeared.
“Where did my husband go?” Blair asked Nancy Cushion.
“Men in the den,” Nancy said, raising her pencil-line eyebrows.
“They drink bourbon, smoke cigars, and talk science.”
Blair was offered a glass of Chablis, which she gratefully
accepted, and then a celery stick stuffed with salmon cream cheese
and topped with paper-thin slices of olive, which she originally

declined but then changed her mind and accepted.
She turned to the person next to her, a woman who wore
turquoise eye shadow that exactly matched her silk bolero jacket.
“Have you read anything interesting lately?” Blair asked. She hoped
that this woman—Blair thought she was one of the Joannes—
wouldn’t mention Cancer Ward by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn because
Blair had twice tried to read it but found it too bleak.
Maybe-Joanne said, “Oh, please, the only thing I’ve read in the
past twelve months is Pat the Bunny.”

The very next day, Blair applied to the graduate English program at
Harvard. She didn’t say a word to Angus, telling herself it was a lark;
she merely wanted to see if she could get in. She received a letter
three weeks later—she had been accepted. Classes started in
January.
When Angus returned home that night—at quarter to eleven—
Blair was awake, waiting for him with a couple of glasses of good
scotch that she’d bought to celebrate and the acceptance letter.
Angus had been displeased to find Blair still up.
“Whatever it is will have to wait until morning,” Angus said. “I feel
an episode coming on.”
“Just read this quickly, please,” Blair said, and she thrust the letter
into his hands.
Angus read the letter; there was no change in his expression.
“This is lovely news,” he said when he finished it, and Blair clasped
her hands to her heart. “But you’re not going to go.”
“What?” Blair said. “But it’s Harvard. I got into Harvard, Angus.”
“Didn’t you tell me your grandfather went to Harvard?” Angus
said. “That probably helped.”
It was all Blair could do not to slap him. “I didn’t mention my
grandfather,” she said in a tight voice. But the arrow had hit its mark:
Angus didn’t believe Blair could be admitted to Harvard on her own
merits. This pointed to a deeper, more disturbing truth: Angus didn’t
think Blair was as smart as Blair thought Angus was.

“We agreed you wouldn’t work,” Angus said.
“It’s not work,” Blair said. “It’s school. Surely you, of all people—”
“Blair,” he said. “We’ve been over this. Now, good night.”

Blair kept the acceptance letter in her lingerie drawer, where she saw
it every day. She decided she would revisit the topic with Angus in a
few weeks, during the morning hours, on a weekend perhaps, when
it was less pressing for Angus to get to the university early. She
would make sure he was feeling okay. She would cook corned beef
hash with poached eggs, his favorite, and inform him that she was
enrolling at Harvard despite his objections. After all, it was 1968; he
couldn’t tell her what to do.

They spent their first Thanksgiving at Exalta’s house in Beacon Hill.
Blair made Julia Child’s Tarte Normande aux Pommes and
presented it proudly to her grandmother, who handed it off to her
cook. Exalta then linked her arm through Angus’s and escorted him
to the library for cocktails and canapés. At Thanksgiving, Exalta
always served cherrystones on the half shell, a relish tray with
French dressing, and cocktail peanuts. Blair helped herself to a clam
and then a few moments later bolted for the bathroom in the back of
the house, the commode the servants used, because she was going
to vomit.
A week later, it was confirmed: she was pregnant.
Her dream of attending Harvard would be put on hold. Blair wrote
the admissions committee a letter explaining that she found herself
with child and would like to defer enrollment until the following year
or the year after that. She heard nothing back; probably, they felt
they didn’t need to respond because they accepted as a matter of
course what Blair could not: she would never attend Harvard.
Indeed, the pregnancy disrupted even the meager routine Blair
had established for herself on Commonwealth Avenue. She was
absolutely flattened. Entire days slipped past when she didn’t even

leave the apartment. The nausea set in at five in the afternoon, like
clockwork. Blair spent at least an hour on her knees in front of the
toilet, retching. The only things that kept the nausea at bay were
smoking and a small glass of scotch, which was odd because
normally Blair drank gin, but her pregnant body craved brown liquor,
the older and more complex, the better.
On the day Blair chose to put up the Christmas tree, her mother
came over to help. Between the two of them, they managed to
wrangle the tree onto the stand, and then Kate went about stringing
the lights while Blair collapsed on the divan with a cigarette and two
fingers of Glenlivet, willing the nausea to just leave her alone for
once. She had invited her mother and David for dinner and planned
to serve cheese fondue; she’d painstakingly cubed a loaf of
sourdough and sliced some cured sausage, both provisioned that
morning from Savenor’s. Angus had called at lunchtime and said he
would be working late again, and Blair wanted to cancel the dinner
altogether, but Kate insisted that Blair needed company, so now Blair
could look forward to a lopsided fondue dinner with her parents.
She watched her mother wind the lights around the tree, infinitely
patient, careful, thorough, and competent in her task. She wore a
dark green shirtwaist and pumps and had pearls at her throat; her
blond hair was in a smooth chignon, her lipstick perfect. Kate was
always put together, always impeccable. How did she manage it?
Blair knew that her mother had suffered dark times. Blair’s father,
Wilder Foley, had been fighting in Korea for much of their early
marriage, and then when he came home, there were, as Kate put it,
“adjustments” to make. Blair remembered her father’s homecoming:
They picked him up at the airport; he was wearing his dress uniform.
She remembers him at the breakfast table in a white undershirt,
smoking and eating eggs, pulling Kate down into his lap and
growling at Blair to take her sister and brother upstairs to play. Wilder
didn’t drive Blair to school or ballet; her mother did. Her mother
prepared their food, administered their baths, read the stories, and
tucked them in. Blair remembered one night her parents had gone
out for dinner. Her mother wore a red sheath and her father his dress
uniform, and Janie Beckett from down the street had come to

babysit, which had been a matter of great excitement. Kate had
bought Coke to offer Janie, and Blair had sneaked peeks at the three
exotic green bottles in the icebox; the Foley children weren’t allowed
soda. That night, Janie gave Blair one sip of the Coke; it had been
so crisp and spicy and unexpectedly fizzy that Blair’s eyes had
teared up and her nose tingled.
She had retained all of those details but relatively little about her
own father. And then, suddenly, he was dead. Kate had found
Wilder’s body in his garage workshop, a gunshot wound to his head.
On that morning, Blair had been taken to school by her
grandfather, which was unusual indeed. When she got home, there
had been men at the house, so many men—neighbors, Mr. Beckett
(Janie’s father), a swarm of policemen, and, later, bizarrely, Bill
Crimmins, the caretaker for the house in Nantucket.
Blair doesn’t remember being told that her father was dead;
possibly, she overheard something or just intuited it. Nor does Blair
remember her mother screaming or even crying. This struck Blair as
unusual only when she was older. When Blair was sixteen, she and
Kate had an argument about Blair’s public displays of affection with
her boyfriend, Larry Winter, and Blair turned Kate’s composure
during this time against her, saying, You didn’t even cry when Daddy
died. You didn’t shed one tear!
And Kate had spun on her in an uncharacteristic show of anger.
What do you know about it? Tell me please, Blair Baskett Foley.
What. Do. You. Know. About. It.
Blair had had to admit that she knew nothing about it, really, and
that was true to this day. Kate must have been devastated, haunted,
and set adrift by her husband’s unexpected death. Blair was tempted
to ask her mother now what it had been like to find him, how she had
coped afterward. Blair wondered if she could learn something about
her own marriage by asking Kate those questions. But at that
moment, her mother held her hands up to showcase the tree. The
lights were evenly hung at different depths on the branches in a way
that created a glowing, three-dimensional marvel.
“What do you think?” Kate asked.
Blair admired her mother so much, she couldn’t summon words

strong enough to praise her. She nodded her approval.

Everyone promised Blair she would feel better during her second
trimester, and this proved to be true. The month of April delivered the
sweet spot in her pregnancy. The nausea was gone, and the
exhaustion had abated somewhat. Blair’s hair was long and shiny;
her appetite for both food and sex were prodigious. But Angus was
even more distant and remote and he suffered his episodes more
frequently. The only days he took off from work, he spent lying in
bed, despondent.
On Tuesday, April 8, two days after Easter, Blair woke up and
immediately consumed two grilled-cheese sandwiches, a
butterscotch pudding, three chocolate-coconut eggs, and a handful
of black jellybeans from the Easter basket that Exalta still prepared
for all four of her grandchildren even though three of them were
adults. It was a glorious spring day, warm for the first time in months.
Blair, energized by the sudden sugar rush, decided to walk from their
apartment all the way over to the MIT campus and surprise Angus at
work. She wore one of her new maternity dresses, a full-term size
even though she was only five and a half months pregnant. Her girth
was a source of private embarrassment. She was so big. Exalta had
commented on it with disapproval at Easter, and Blair had feared
that Exalta might even withhold her Easter basket. Blair had no
explanation for her size except that everything about her pregnancy
had been extreme—she had been so sick and so tired, and now she
was so enormous. She assumed it meant that the baby would be a
strapping, healthy boy—smart like Angus, handsome like Joey,
athletic like Tiger.
Blair wore low, stacked heels, comfortable for walking, but when
she reached Marlborough Street a tiny, blue-haired woman stopped
her on the sidewalk, told her she had no right to be out in her
condition, and implored her to return home.
Blair stared at the woman, aghast. “But I’m only five months
along,” she said. She immediately regretted giving out this piece of

personal information. One thing she had noticed with dismay was
that being pregnant made her public property. It meant that old
women who had probably given birth at the turn of the century felt
they could stop her on the street and tell her to go home.
Blair had moved on, indignant but self-conscious. Her maternity
dress was buttercup yellow, which suited the spring day but also
made her stand out. She had been looking forward to strolling over
the Longfellow Bridge and watching the rowers below, but after she’d
walked a few more blocks, a taxicab pulled up alongside her; the
driver cranked down the passenger-side window and said, “Lady,
where ya going? I’ll give you a ride for free.”
Blair thought about protesting, but her feet were starting to
complain and the bridge was still a ways off and MIT ten to twelve
blocks beyond that.
“Thank you,” she said and accepted the ride.

When Blair reached the astrophysics department, she was informed
by the receptionist, a graduate student who introduced himself as
Dobbins, that Angus was out.
“Out?” Blair said. “What does that mean?”
Dobbins was wearing a glen plaid suit with a matching bow tie
and pocket square—Jaunty! Blair thought—but his expression was
dour. The department secretary, Mrs. Himstedt, had retired in
January, and Angus and his colleagues had been too busy to find a
replacement, so they assigned graduate students the odious tasks
that Mrs. Himstedt used to handle. Most of the graduate students felt
put-upon, as young Dobbins clearly did. He also seemed to be
offended by Blair’s pregnant state; he watched her warily, as though
he thought she might burst. “Professor Whalen had an appointment
at ten.”
Blair had started out the day with a strong sense of optimism, but
it was rapidly dissolving. “Where is the appointment?”
“I can’t tell you that.”
“I’m his wife.”

“I’m sorry,” Dobbins said.
“Please just tell me where he went. Is he somewhere on
campus?”
“Actually,” Dobbins said, “it was a personal appointment.”
“Personal?”
“That’s what he said. Personal.”
Personal, Blair thought. Where could he be? He had his hair cut
every other Saturday without deviation and he wasn’t scheduled to
see the dentist until the following month.
She said, “I’ll wait for him to return.”
Dobbins pushed his glasses farther up the bridge of his nose and
turned his attention to a textbook on the desk before him. Blair took a
seat in a straight-backed chair and perched her handbag on what
remained of her lap. She eyed Dobbins and caught him glancing up
from his studying to inspect her with obvious distaste. He was
probably made uncomfortable by her fecundity. So many men were.
She sat for more than thirty minutes and was about to get up and
leave—she would take a taxi home, she decided, because the sitting
was causing her lower back to ache—when Angus came rushing
through the door.
“Angus!” Blair cried out, both relieved and joyful. She struggled to
her feet.
The expression on Angus’s face wasn’t one she remembered
seeing before. He looked…caught. He looked…guilty of something.
And then Blair noticed he was in a state of disarray, his tie askew, his
shirt misbuttoned, and his hair mussed. Blair blinked.
“Where were you?” she asked.
“What are you doing here?” he asked. Then an instant later, he
added, “I was at a department meeting.”
Blair looked to Dobbins, who had wisely fixed his gaze on his
textbook again. “This nice young gentleman told me you were at an
appointment. A personal appointment. Who was it with?”
“Would you excuse us, please, Dobbins?” Angus said.
Dobbins didn’t need to be asked twice. If there was anything
worse for Dobbins than being confronted with a pregnant woman,
Blair supposed, it was being plopped in the middle of a marital

squabble. He darted off down the hall.
“What are you doing here?” Angus asked again.
“I came to surprise you!” Blair said and then she dissolved in
tears. She was fat, so fat, filled to bursting with child and fluids. She
was an overripe fruit. She was…oozing, unctuous, moist, pungent.
Blair had to urinate so badly and had lost so much control over her
bladder that she feared she would piss a river right then and there.
“I need the ladies’ room,” she told Angus. “Right now.”
Angus seemed relieved by this distraction; however, finding a
ladies’ room was a problem. The population of the building was so
overwhelmingly male that there was only one ladies’ room, and it
was on the first floor. This involved an elevator ride and a walk down
a hushed hallway past closed doors behind which, Blair assumed,
men were busy calculating. All the while, Blair was praying she didn’t
leak. Also, she was wondering about the identity of Angus’s
mistress. That Angus had a mistress, she had no doubt.
Most professors would have chosen a student, but all of Angus’s
students were male, every single one, and his colleagues in his
department were men. It could be one of the other wives; maybe the
Joanne who wore all the turquoise eye shadow. Or it could be a
stewardess from one of the flights Angus had taken the previous fall.
Blair finally reached the ladies’ room, and she was so relieved to
release her bladder that nothing else mattered. And then when she
emerged, Angus announced that her visit was a lovely surprise but
that he had to get back to work. He would see her at home.
“But…” Blair said.
Angus kissed her and pressed two dollars into her hand for a taxi.
Then he smiled, which was rare these days. She supposed he was
saving his smiles for the other woman. “I love you,” he said, but the
words rang hollow.
Blair moved toward the exit, then stopped. “Angus?” she said.
Angus, about to step into the elevator, held the door and turned
around. “Yes, darling?”
She wanted to say something terrible like I’m sorry I married you
instead of Joey or I’m attending Harvard the instant this baby is born,
no matter what you say. She would not stand idly by while Angus lied

to her!
But she couldn’t start a fight here, in a public building, his place of
employment. She had been raised better than that.
“Fix your shirt,” she said. “You missed a button.”

Time of the Season

Her mother drives the Grand Wagoneer and her grandmother sits
up front. Without Kirby or Tiger along, Jessie has the entire back
seat to herself so she’s able to lie down, resting her head on one of
the duffels. The Wagoneer is jam-packed with trunks and valises,
boxes and bags, piled to within an inch of the roof. There is no way
to see out the back; there never is on this trip, even though every
year David implores Kate to bring less “paraphernalia,” and every
year Kate promises to bring only the bare necessities. Much of the
cargo is clothes, of course—for Exalta, for Kate, for Jessie, for
David, and even for Tiger, just in case the war ends at some point
over the summer and he is sent home. Their summer wardrobes are
completely different from what they wear the rest of the year in
Boston. Kate packs Lilly Pulitzer patio dresses, espadrilles, a
different bathing suit for every day of the week, clam diggers,
Bermuda shorts, boatneck tees, her tennis dresses, and Tretorns.
Jessie brings basically the same thing, although on a younger, less
sophisticated scale. She has terry-cloth playsuits, a pair of white bellbottoms, two sundresses for dinners out at restaurants, a crocheted
vest, and a Fair Isle sweater for the inevitable rainy days. There’s a
small trunk filled with foul-weather gear—raincoats, hats, boots,
umbrellas. There’s a box of cooking implements—Kate’s cast-iron
pan and her chef’s knife and butcher block. There’s a cooler of
steaks and French cheese from Savenor’s because Nantucket is
okay for seafood but everything else is subpar compared to the city,
according to both Kate and Exalta. Jessie brought her summer
reading—Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl—and her new
record album. There are tennis rackets and clam rakes, new life
preservers for the boat, new wicker baskets for the bicycles.

The drive along Route 93 and then Route 3 is dull and Jessie’s
mind wanders. She isn’t sure she’ll be brave enough to ask Exalta if
she can play Joni Mitchell on the Magnavox. Her grandmother
listens to big-band records; Glenn Miller is her favorite. Her mother is
a little better—she likes Ricky Nelson and the Beach Boys. Jessie
wishes her own taste in music were cooler. Kirby likes Steppenwolf
and the Rolling Stones, and Tiger listens to Led Zeppelin and the
Who.
Will Tiger remember to send letters to Nantucket? Jessie kind of
doubts it, so that means she’ll have to wait for David to bring the
letters down on the weekends.
She feels a twinge in her abdomen. Is it maybe a cramp? Might
her period be coming? She suspects it’s simple dread. They will get
takeout tonight from Susie’s Snack Bar at the end of Straight Wharf
like they always do on the first night, and then tomorrow Jessie will
start her tennis lessons at the Field and Oar Club, but what will she
do with her afternoons? Go to the beach with her mother? Her
mother likes to drive all the way out to Ram Pasture because there is
never anyone there. She can plant her chair and read, sleep, and
swim in peace. Ram Pasture is the only beach Exalta will go to as
well; sometimes, she and Kate go together. Exalta wears a widebrimmed straw hat and a bathing suit with a skirt. Jessie envisions
herself next to her mother and grandmother. It’s a happy picture of
three generations enjoying a deserted beach, except nothing could
be farther from the truth.
“Jessie!” Kate says, startling Jessie.
“What?”
“‘Yes, Mother,’” Kate prompts.
“Yes, Mother?” Jessie says, sitting up. Her mother is a stickler for
manners when Exalta is around.
“The bridge,” Kate says.
The Sagamore Bridge is suddenly before them, distinctive and
majestic, an arc of steel girders. Objectively, Jessie supposes, it’s
quite hideous, but even so, Jessie feels a rush of fondness for it.
Seeing the Sagamore means that summer is beginning, and Jessie’s
twelve previous summers here have provided her enough joyful

memories that she feels something like anticipation. The air smells
like salt and pine, and as Kate drives over the crest of the bridge,
Jessie sees boats slicing through the water of the Cape Cod Canal.
This optimism lasts all the way to the ferry dock. Driving the
Wagoneer into the hold of the Nobska is a ritual for the family, and
Jessie suddenly feels privileged to be doing it. Blair is stuck at home
in Boston with heartburn and swollen ankles; Kirby is on Martha’s
Vineyard among strangers. Tiger is in the jungle in Vietnam. Tiger
would likely give anything to be here right now. Before Jessie
complains again, even to herself, she’s going to remember that.
They park the car so its front bumper is right up against the back
bumper of the ragtop VW bug in front of them, and Jessie is
reminded of Miss Flowers’s juicy orange bug—but school seems
very far away. It’s the family’s tradition to climb to the uppermost
deck and “take in the sea air,” as Exalta says, so Jessie follows her
mother and grandmother up the metal staircase, first to the main
deck, where there are the men’s and women’s toilets, which are filled
with a blue chemical instead of water, and a snack bar that sells hot
dogs and chowder, and then to the upper deck, where the sun is the
brightest and the breeze the strongest.
“Oh, look, there’s Bitsy Dunscombe,” Kate says. “I’m going to say
hello. Want to come, Mother?”
“Heavens, no,” Exalta says. “That whole family is tiresome.”
Jessie happens to agree. Bitsy Dunscombe is the mother of twins,
Helen and Heather, who are Jessie’s age. A “friendship” with the
Dunscombe twins has been pressed on Jessie since early childhood.
The twins are absolutely identical, each with white-blond hair in a
pixie cut, freckles across her nose, a slight gap between her two
front teeth, and, recently, pierced ears (which Jessie finds
scandalous, since she has been taught that the proper age for a girl
to get her ears pierced is sixteen). Heather Dunscombe is lovely and
kind, while Helen Dunscombe is mean and stinky. (For example,
Helen routinely asks Jessie when she’s getting a nose job.) Jessie
would be okay hanging out with just Heather, but they come as a
package, so Jessie keeps her distance whenever she’s given a
choice.

Kate saunters off, leaving Exalta and Jessie standing at the
railing, staring at the water. It looks blue in the distance but green
when Jessie gazes down on it directly from above, and she knows
that if she were to collect this water in a glass, it would be clear.
Water has no color, she learned in science class. What people see is
a reflection of light. Jessie thinks about sharing this knowledge with
Exalta in order to break the silence, but Exalta is humming as though
she’s in some kind of meditative state, which makes her seem unlike
her normal self.
Finally, she turns to Jessie, tilts her head, and says, “Where did
you get that necklace?’
Jessie’s hand flies up to touch the pendant. “My father gave it to
me this morning. It’s the Tree of Life.”
Exalta lifts it from Jessie’s neck to better inspect it. “Tree of Life,
you say? What does that mean?”
This feels like a thorny question. “It signals maturity and
responsibility,” Jessie says. “In the Jewish tradition, thirteen is an
important age.”
Exalta is wearing very large, round sunglasses in the style of
Jackie Kennedy Onassis, so Jessie can’t judge her expression.
“Today is my birthday,” Jessie says. “My thirteenth birthday.”
Again, the glasses make it impossible to say whether this
announcement comes as a surprise to her grandmother. It would not
be unlike Exalta to forget Jessie’s birthday. The only grandchild’s
birthday Exalta faithfully remembers is Kirby’s, September 30,
be