There are writers whose prose is so vivid and so emotionally resonant, that you might briefly forget you’re reading a work of fiction, and while Alice Archer has already proven that her hand is as elegant as it is masterful, her newest novel continues to show real insight into the human soul. An eye-opening exploration of the profoundly visceral relationship between a person’s past and present, this is the tale of two men whose chance encounter ends up being the lifeline they both so desperately needed to make a change. Archer builds their story slowly, with beautiful language and setting, lovingly weaving her sentences into a powerful tapestry of emotion that holds the reader captive through and through. She’s a poet at heart, a born storyteller, and I can’t shout this book’s praises loud enough. And I am so honoured to share a sneak peek with you.
When I heard a car splash along the driveway and stop, then voices, I crossed the room to crouch behind Matilde, matriarch of the ficus trees, and watch the show outside. Maybe Grant would display more of his entertaining defensiveness. He’d wanted me to see tough and badass, but I only saw hurt and desperate. Defeat percolated through the man’s every word and gesture.
Kai’s dad left the fancy car’s motor running and didn’t get out. I shifted my focus to Grant and Kai on the porch. Neither of them made a move to go down the steps.
Kai looked up at Grant and took his hand, as if to offer reassurance.
After another minute of stasis, the car went quiet. My first reaction to the man who emerged was that I didn’t like him. He opened the rear door of the car and pulled out a green-and-white golf umbrella. It was obvious he was Kai’s dad, because Kai was dressed like a carbon copy of him. Maybe a child’s set of golf clubs lay in the trunk alongside Dad’s. Though I’d only talked with Kai a few minutes, I suspected a disconnect between Dad’s view of Kai and Kai’s view of Kai.
Through the inch of open window at my nose, I heard Dad say, “Let’s go.” He waved a hand at the car and frowned to let us all know how serious he was. “Come on. We missed one ferry. If we hustle, we can make the next one. I need to stop at the office before dinner.”
No movement from the porch.
Dad didn’t seem angry. More like concerned, with a side helping of impatience. A man with a plan, and no fan of deviations. He finally got the message that compliance would not be automatic.
“What’s going on?” Dad’s gaze lowered, perhaps to Grant and Kai’s joined hands.
I wished I could see Kai and Grant’s faces.
Dad gestured at the car. “I packed up your stuff, Grant. We can drive straight to the ferry.”
Grant shook his head.
“Let’s discuss it in the car,” Dad said. “I’ll help you with a job plan.”
Fuck. Grant’s life sucked. No wife, no home, no job. I sprang up and made my way to the door, unwilling to let them go before I got some answers.
With a bright, “Hey there,” I stepped onto the porch and put my hands on my hips. “You must be Kai’s dad. I’m Oliver Rossi.” Instead of going down the porch steps to offer my hand to shake, I stayed put. I wanted to maintain the high ground as the drama played out.
Dad nodded but didn’t offer his own name. Quick thinker. I needed a name so I could find out where his property was on Vashon. I hoped it wasn’t far. I liked Kai. I knew some kids his age he might enjoy being friends with—kids interested in things like art and theater. Kids who dressed like kids.
“Do you live on Vashon?” I asked Dad.
He gave me a look of disapproval, like I’d asked him for access to his trust fund.
I smiled and held his gaze.
For the first time, Dad seemed to really see me. His scrutiny paused on my arms, moved up to my long hair and beard with palpable dismissal. It made me feel perversely happy.
Perceptive Kai spoke into the cold void, in a rush of words, maybe because he knew his Dad would shut him down. “My dad’s name is Mitch Martensen. Our Vashon property is on Southwest Huckleberry Lane. Mom’s building us a house there this sum—”
“Kai,” Dad interrupted. “We do not share our personal business with strangers.”
I folded my arms to put my drawings front and center for Dad and waggled my eyebrows at Kai. “And I’m more strange than the average stranger, right?”