WINNERS!! Congrats to Anat & Lúthien on being the winners of the DOUBLE DIPPING drawing! You two will get PDF copies of the novel. Please just email me (MarilynBrant AT Gmail DOT Com) with the best address to send it to, and I’ll email it to you right away. Or, if you’d rather, you can post your email address in the comments of this blog post. I’ll see it either way!! Hope you’ll enjoy the story 🙂 .
Well, when I first released The Road to You, my coming-of-age romantic mystery published last October, the novel was chosen by a few book clubs (some in-person groups and some online). And I *love* book clubs! I love the clever people I’ve met through them, and I love the thoughtful and intriguing questions the members ask… During a visit with a wonderful Chicago-area club, the readers asked me some excellent questions about the heroine of the story, Aurora Gray (a lover of libraries and of Austen, of course!), who’d been in her teens during the time of the book — the late 1970s. They asked me if I knew what she would be like NOW, and if I could tell them what had happened to her in the decades since her road-trip adventure down Route 66 with Donovan McCafferty, as the two of them searched for their missing siblings. Did I know, they wondered, what became of all the characters in the original story?
I said, “Yes! In fact, I even wrote about it…” My characters are not so quick to leave me after I finish a novel, LOL, and I’d spent a fair bit of time pondering what Aurora would have been like as an adult, given the experiences she’d had at age eighteen. So, just to satisfy my own curiosity, I’d penned a parallel story (about 50 pages long) that took place in 2014 and, in my opinion, gave a certain resonance to the tale of her youth. I asked the club members if they wanted to read it. They said, “Ohhhh, yeah!” So they did, and their feedback was truly heartening and exciting 🙂 . As a direct result of their enthusiastic response to this addition to the story, I promised them I’d release it this year for book clubs and for anyone who might enjoy having the expanded edition.
This new book has the *entire* original story included but, in between each of the 1978-set chapters, there are also shorter present-day chapters set in 2014 with the modern thread of Aurora’s adult life woven throughout. And, because I’d always had a future-Aurora in mind, even while writing the first draft of the novel, I’ve also included two extra scenes (one at the beginning and one at the end) that take place in the year 2020, when Aurora is sixty. I’m so fascinated by the way the experiences of our childhood and adolescence influence our perceptions and decisions as adults, and this expanded story is my way of giving that kind of longer-range tale to readers who enjoy that perspective, too!
Here is the blurb from the novel and an excerpt from the new portion of the story:
The Road and Beyond is the expanded book-club edition of The Road to You. This novel contains not only the completed original story set in the late 1970s, but it also includes the brand-new present-day tale of Aurora, now a mature and married woman with two adult sons, who must confront her worst parental nightmare.
One Disappearance Had Been Enough To Last Her A Lifetime…
Aurora Gray is no stranger to tragedy. In the summer of 1976, when she was just sixteen, her world turned upside down when her big brother Gideon and his best friend Jeremy disappeared. For two years, there’s no word from either of them. No trace of their whereabouts. But then, shortly after her high-school graduation, she unexpectedly finds her brother’s journal and sees that it’s been written in again. Recently. By him.
There are secret messages coded within the journal’s pages and Aurora, who is unusually perceptive and a natural puzzle solver, is determined to follow where they lead, no matter what the cost. She confides in the only person she feels might help her interpret the clues: Donovan McCafferty, Jeremy’s older brother and a guy she’s always been drawn to…even against her better judgment.
The two of them set out on a road trip of discovery and danger, heading westward along America’s historic Route 66 in search of their siblings and the answers to questions they haven’t dared to ask aloud. The mystery they uncover will forever change the course of their lives.
…But Now It Was Happening Again
Decades later, in the summer of 2014, fifty-four-year-old Aurora receives a terrifying phone call—her adult son Charlie is missing—and this news inevitably brings the memories of her adolescent years rushing back. Haunting recollections she’d hoped to keep buried.
Were the choices she’d made in her youth responsible for her son’s disappearance now? And how on earth can she find him—quickly—so that she might be able to prevent the trauma of the past from repeating itself?
No one else was home, of course, when I got the call that my twenty-eight-year-old son was missing.
“The Benson Plastics people are already here for the eleven o’clock presentation, but Charlie isn’t,” Gloria, the company’s secretary, informed me, her piercing voice tinged with an edge of hysteria. I’d only spoken with the woman on the phone twice before, but I got the distinct impression that her circuits were forever at risk of being overloaded.
“He’s not answering his cell?” I asked, surprised more than anything, actually, because both of my boys had their iPhones all but super-glued to their palms.
“Aurora, I’ve tried to reach him for an hour and a half,” Gloria insisted, the shrillness in her tone rising like high notes in a chorus and dancing for dear life on the other end of the line. “There’s no answer at home. His cell goes straight to voicemail. And I even called his girlfriend because she’s his first contact. She has no idea where Charlie is either. You’re his second contact, so I hope you’ll know where we can reach him.”
For a long, uncomfortable moment I was distracted by something ridiculous. The fact that I was only my son’s second contact. Well, he was practically living with Cassandra, so I supposed it made sense that she was his first. But still…
Then the deeper meaning of the secretary’s comments seeped in. No one knows where Charlie is. I tried to be calm, reasonable, rational and not like some TV sitcom mother who’d overreact to everything. But, naturally, given my family’s history, that was impossible.
“Yes,” Gloria said. “He was here when I left at four-twenty, and one of the department heads said he saw Charlie still working at his desk when he left at five. Martin, the team leader, was going to give the presentation to the plastics people this morning, but his wife called in saying he was sick with bronchitis. So, Charlie is the one who should be leading the meeting, but he didn’t come in or call in an absence, and none of the managers here were told about any changes in his plans.”
I understood instinctively that Gloria’s first priority and much of her loyalty was to the company—Cornman, Grabher & Pressly—a financial firm my youngest son had worked at for these past three years. But it irked me that her focus remained on not disappointing “the plastics people,” rather than on my son’s safety.
“He never said anything to me about being gone from work today,” I admitted, my mind reeling with that ever-present parental worry, which spun a dangerous path from my head to my gut. It settled there and began its slow, painful twisting.
Where is he? Is he okay? Why didn’t he tell anyone where he was going? Unless, of course, he wasn’t able to tell because he was hurt or in danger…or worse.
The questions started, and it was like 1976 all over again.
“I’ll call his father and his brother,” I told the secretary. “If either of them know anything, I’ll contact you immediately.”
“Thanks,” the secretary said, but I could tell her attention was still fixed entirely on the wrong things, at least in my opinion. Then, finally, she added, “This just doesn’t seem like him.”
“No,” I said. “No, it doesn’t.”
I hung up. I knew my son. He was a risk taker, an adventurous type, the kind of guy who loved thrill rides and fast cars and extreme sports. Different from his computer-obsessed older brother, who played Xbox when he was in the mood for serious activity and read ebooks when he was tired of programming things on his PC.
But Charlie wasn’t irresponsible. If he was going to be gone from work, he would have told somebody. Maybe not me, but someone.
I thought back to when I’d spoken with him last—on Wednesday night. I’d asked him about his girlfriend Cassandra. She’s okay, he’d said. And about work. Yeah, it’s fine. And if he had any special plans coming up. Nope.
The ticking clock on the wall marked the passing minutes as my worry flooded the rest of my body. Ripples of dread meted out in sixty-second increments. Everything had seemed all right with him just two days ago but, then, kids often lied to their parents or, at the very least, withheld crucial information.
I should know.
In celebration of the release, I’m giving away 2 PDF copies of one of my romantic comedies — DOUBLE DIPPING — which has a light mystery thread and, also, takes place during the fall. Just leave a comment below any time between now and noon (Central) on September 23rd — the first day of autumn up here in Chicago — and you’ll be automatically entered to win. Open internationally!
This love story between a dedicated 2nd grade teacher and the new financial director for the school district was a finalist for “Best Contemporary Novel” in the 2012 International Digital Awards, and it’s also part of my USA Today bestselling SWEET TEMPTATIONS COLLECTION. What are some of your favorite fall activities? (Or spring, for those of you in the Southern Hemisphere!) Anything you’re particularly looking forward to doing this September/October?