A Novel About a Naughty Girl #Thursday Book Feature

City of Girls

by Elizabeth Gilbert

Copyright 2019.

 

From the bestselling author of Eat, Pray, Love comes a novel that spans seventy years. In 1940, nineteen-year-old Vivian is expelled from college. Her parents send her from their home in Clinton, New York, to live with her aunt, who runs a crumbling theater in New York City. Vivian’s sewing skills, which she acquired from her grandmother, make her popular among the showgirls and dancers, and she becomes the theater’s volunteer costume designer. Within two weeks of her arrival, she loses her virginity and becomes active in New York City’s night life.

In 1941, a scandal that occurs as a result of her sexual promiscuity nearly ruins her life, but she bounces back. In the 1950’s, after the city demolishes her aunt’s theater, Vivian opens a bridal shop with a friend, who becomes pregnant, and helps raise her child while continuing with her own sexual activities. In the 1960’s, she becomes involved in an unusual relationship with an unlikely character from her past.

If I don’t like the main character, I usually don’t finish the book. But I was intrigued by the way the author tells this story in the form of a letter from Vivian to someone named Angela. My curiosity about the connection between Vivian and Angela kept me hanging on. But I would like to have seen Vivian grow as a character, perhaps give up her worldliness after the 1941 scandal.

Otherwise, I was fascinated by events that went on in the theater, my parents having been want-to-be stars in New York City before I came along in 1961. I found myself chuckling at some of the characters’ antics. Blair Brown, who narrates the audio book, does an excellent job. City of Girls would make a great holiday gift for someone who finds theater intriguing or likes stories about naughty girls.

 

New! The Red Dress

Copyright July 2019 by DLD Books

Front cover contains: young, dark-haired woman in red dress holding flowers

When Eve went to her high school senior prom, she wore a red dress that her mother had made for her. That night, after dancing with the boy of her dreams, she caught him in the act with her best friend. Months later, Eve, a freshman in college, is bullied into giving the dress to her roommate. After her mother finds out, their relationship is never the same again.

Twenty-five years later, Eve, a bestselling author, is happily married with three children. Although her mother suffers from dementia, she still remembers, and Eve still harbors the guilt for giving the dress away. When she receives a Facebook friend request from her old college roommate and an invitation to her twenty-five-year high school class reunion, then meets her former best friend by chance, she must confront the past in order to face the future.

***

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Silent Night (Fiction)

The day before Christmas, my seven-year-old daughter Hannah was rushed to the hospital for an emergency appendectomy. I opted to spend CHRISTMAS Day with her. My parents, as they’d done every year since the divorce, had invited Hannah and me to their house for Christmas dinner, but I couldn’t leave my little girl alone in the hospital.

Hannah wasn’t on solid food yet, but a nurse offered to bring me a tray, perhaps realizing it would be difficult for me to navigate to the cafeteria with my limited vision. While Hannah slept, I sat by her bed and enjoyed a delicious turkey dinner complete with stuffing, mashed potatoes, green beans, and pumpkin pie. The food was surprisingly good for a hospital.

I said as much to the nurse when she came to collect my tray. “We have a chef now,” she said.  “Of course many of our patients are too sick to appreciate it, but it’s certainly better than the fare we used to serve.”

The little girl in the other bed moaned and then started crying in earnest. I looked over and couldn’t see anyone sitting with her. “Oh, that’s Jessica,” said the nurse in a conspiratorial tone. “Poor kid, she fell out of her neighbor’s treehouse yesterday and broke her leg in three places. She’s in a body cast from her chest to her right foot.”

Hannah must have awakened for she said, “Ou, I guess I won’t complain about my tummy anymore. I’m glad I don’t have a treehouse, and I hope Santa didn’t leave me one.”

I marveled at how sensitive my daughter was. As the nurse went to Jessica and tried to comfort her, I said, “How are you feeling, sweetie?”

“I’m okay, but my tummy still hurts.”

“I thought you weren’t gonna complain about your tummy anymore,” I said, as I ruffled her hair.

Hannah giggled, then winced. “Ouch, Mommy, it hurts more when I laugh.”

“It sounds like you could use some pain medication too,” said the nurse, as she started to leave the room.

“No, it only really hurts when I laugh,” said Hannah.

“Well, in that case, laughter’s the best medicine,” said the nurse. “I’ll be back soon.”

“How old is Jessica?” asked Hannah.

“Oh, I think she’s about your age,” answered the nurse. “I’ll be back in a bit with some medicine for her, and that’ll make her feel better.” With that, she was gone.

Jessica was still sniffling, but it wasn’t as loud as before. “Mommy, you should go sing her a song,” said Hannah. “like you did for me last night when I was really hurting. I’m not hurting as much now, and I think she’s hurting more.”

Years earlier, I’d worked as a registered music therapist. That was before Hannah was born, before I’d started losing my vision, before my world changed. My husband hadn’t wanted a child but was resigned to the idea once he learned I was pregnant. The vision loss after Hannah’s birth was the straw that broke the camel’s back. Fortunately, he paid plenty of child support. That, along with my disability payments, allowed me to be a stay-at-home mom, and once I learned to use a computer with screen reading and magnification software, I brought in a little income from freelance writing.

Now, I looked over at the little girl in the other bed. My specialty as a music therapist had been with elderly nursing home residents, not hospitalized children. I hadn’t even done a clinical practicum with that population. I remembered bed-ridden residents who smiled and relaxed when I sat by their beds, held their hands, and sang. I even performed at some of their funerals. The fact that my singing in the emergency room the night before had calmed Hannah made me think that perhaps I hadn’t lost my touch. I rose and pulled my chair next to the other bed, where I sat and took the child’s hand that lay on top of the white sheet covering her.

“Hi Jessica,” I said. “I’m Joan. My little girl Hannah is in the other bed. What’s wrong?”

“My leg really hurts,” she answered. “I’ll never play in that stupid treehouse again.”

“That’s too bad,” I said, stroking her hair. “Would you  like to sing a song with me?”

“Will that make the pain go away?” she asked.

“It’ll take your mind off of it. What’s your favorite Christmas song?”

She was quiet for a minute, then said, “I like Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer.”

“All right, let’s sing it together, shall we?”

I started, and soon, she joined in, followed by Hannah. When we finished that song, Jessica suggested “Jingle Bells,” then “Santa Claus is Coming to Town.” The nurse appeared and said, “What lovely singing. Jessica, I have some medicine that will make you feel better. I’m going to put it in your IV now.”

As she started to do this, I said, “Why don’t we sing one more song?”

“I want to hear you sing something by yourself,” said Jessica. “You have a pretty voice, and so did my mommy. She used to sing to me at night before I went to sleep.” A wistful look crossed her face.

“Why doesn’t she sing to you anymore?” I asked.

“She was killed in a car accident a few months ago,” she answered. A tear rolled down her cheek.

“Oh honey, I’m sorry,” I said, as I stroked her hair. Tears welled in my own eyes.

Holding them back, I said, “What song did your mom like to sing to you this time of year?”

“‘Silent Night,'” she answered.

“Yeah, sing that one, Mom,” said Hannah.

I took a deep breath and began. To my surprise, the nurse joined in, singing alto. Our two voices blending together in harmony was almost too much, but I managed to continue.

As we started the second verse, I sensed a presence at my side and turned to see a man standing there. “Daddy!” Jessica said, her eyes wide with delight.

“Hey princess,” he said, reaching over me and ruffling her hair. Then he said, “oh, don’t stop singing on my account. It’s beautiful.”

His voice broke, and it was all I could do to keep from losing it. We started the song where we’d left off and finished the second verse. To break the spell, I turned to the nurse and said, “You and I need to talk. I sing in a women’s group that could use an extra voice.”

“Wow, that sounds interesting,” she said. “You also have a nice voice. I need to see to other patients, but I’ll come back later after my shift, and you can tell me more about it.” She turned and started to leave the room.

Jessica’s father put a hand on my shoulder and said, “You and I also need to talk. It’s only been two months since I lost my wife, and I never dreamed I’d say this to another woman, but could I buy you a cup of coffee, maybe in the cafeteria?”

From the doorway, the nurse said, “Our coffee here isn’t as good as the food. Why don’t you two go across the street to Starbuck’s?”

We hesitated. “Your kids will be fine,” she said. “They’re both out of the woods. I have your cell numbers in their charts. If anything drastic happens, I’ll call you. Joan, you’ve been here all day. You need a break. Go!” With that, she was gone.

I looked at this stranger, not knowing what to think. Finally, I said, “I’ve been divorced for about six years. I’m losing my vision, and I never imagined another man would ask me out for coffee.”

I expected him to back away, but instead, he said, “Any man not interested in you is a fool. You’re a beautiful woman. You’re good with kids, and you have a lovely voice.”

Flabbergasted, I said, “You just got here. Don’t you want to spend some time with Jessica?”

Jessica said, “I’m okay.  My leg doesn’t hurt so much now that the nurse gave me some medicine in my IV. Daddy, Joan could make you happy like Mommy did.”

“Yeah,” said Hannah. “Mom, I think this guy could make you happy like Daddy did.”

Jessica’s father laughed and said, “I think these two, along with that nurse, are trying to play matchmaker.” He extended his hand. “By the way, I’m Don Gray.”

“Joan Clark,” I said, taking his hand and shaking it.

Still uncertain, I turned to Hannah and said, “Honey, don’t you remember what I’ve told you about not going off with a stranger?”

“Yeah, but he’s not a stranger. He’s Jessica’s dad.”

“She’s got a point,” said Don.

“My dad told me not to go off with a stranger too,” said Jessica. “but he’s okay. He’s been really sad since Mom died.”

I could feel my heart melting as more tears threatened. “Jessica and I could sing another song,” said Hannah. “How about 99 Bottles of Beer on the Wall?”

“Yeah,” said Jessica. She started the song, and Hannah joined in. Laughing, we both made our way out the door.

“Do you need to take my arm?” Don asked.

“Yes, please,” I answered, realizing I’d left my cane in the room. As I grasped his muscular arm and walked with him down the hall, I had a good feeling about this.

 

THE END

 

Note: the above story was published in the fall/winter 2018-2019 issue of Magnets and Ladders and is my contribution to blogger Stevie Turner’s Share Your Short Story Contest for this month. It will be published later this month in The Writer’s Grapevine. Please click below to hear me sing the song referenced in the story.

 

Silent Night

 

New! The Red Dress

Copyright July 2019 by DLD Books

Front cover contains: young, dark-haired woman in red dress holding flowers

When Eve went to her high school senior prom, she wore a red dress that her mother had made for her. That night, after dancing with the boy of her dreams, she caught him in the act with her best friend. Months later, Eve, a freshman in college, is bullied into giving the dress to her roommate. After her mother finds out, their relationship is never the same again.

Twenty-five years later, Eve, a bestselling author, is happily married with three children. Although her mother suffers from dementia, she still remembers, and Eve still harbors the guilt for giving the dress away. When she receives a Facebook friend request from her old college roommate and an invitation to her twenty-five-year high school class reunion, then meets her former best friend by chance, she must confront the past in order to face the future.

***

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Novella Weaves Curious Holiday Yarn #Thursday Book Feature

The Happening: A Carol for All Seasons

by John Wahtera

Copyright 1974

 

In a poor, mixed-class neighborhood, Digby, a white, starving artist, lives with a small group of other unfortunate people in a run-down house slated for demolition. Across the street is a church where no one goes anymore. Digby gets an idea and works with the church’s white pastor on a community holiday celebration he calls a “happening.” This event includes fancy lighting, music, a black Santa and more. Digby and the pastor receive unexpected support from an unlikely source in the black community.

Since this book was published in 1974, we have an idea that the story is set sometime before then in an urban environment, but we don’t know exactly when or where. It might have been more helpful for the author to orient readers to time and place in some way.

The ending left a bit to be desired. I would like to have known what happened to at least one of the characters.

The sub-title doesn’t fit the story, implying that it could be enjoyed year-round. Although some Christmas stories could be read anytime, this one definitely is better suited for this time of year. Otherwise, I liked this short but interesting holiday tale.

 

New! The Red Dress

Copyright July 2019 by DLD Books

Front cover contains: young, dark-haired woman in red dress holding flowers

When Eve went to her high school senior prom, she wore a red dress that her mother had made for her. That night, after dancing with the boy of her dreams, she caught him in the act with her best friend. Months later, Eve, a freshman in college, is bullied into giving the dress to her roommate. After her mother finds out, their relationship is never the same again.

Twenty-five years later, Eve, a bestselling author, is happily married with three children. Although her mother suffers from dementia, she still remembers, and Eve still harbors the guilt for giving the dress away. When she receives a Facebook friend request from her old college roommate and an invitation to her twenty-five-year high school class reunion, then meets her former best friend by chance, she must confront the past in order to face the future.

***

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Novella Tells Compelling Family Story #Thursday Book Feature

You Can Thank Me Later

by Kelly Harms

Copyright 2019

 

Every year, Sophie, a chef, hosts her family’s Thanksgiving dinner at her restaurant. This novella is divided into three parts: Thanksgiving 2016, Thanksgiving 2018, and Thanksgiving 2020. With the help of an interesting cast of characters and a series of events, some hilarious, she comes to realize she has a lot for which to be thankful.

I like how each of the three parts begins with messages from family members who call Sophie on Thanksgiving Day when she’s apparently too busy preparing the meal to answer the phone. In the version I downloaded from Audible, beeps are inserted to make it sound like you’re listening to them on an answering machine. Actually, I think Sophie is using a cell phone, and voicemail doesn’t sound like that, but I’m not sure how it could have been rectified.

At first, I didn’t like Sophie. But then I was amazed at how she grew and changed in the course of the book. I was a bit disconcerted when I got to the last part, Thanksgiving 2020, and here we are only in 2019. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with this. I doubt much will have changed by next year, so it’s still realistic. But I don’t see why the author couldn’t have started with 2014, then moved on to 2016, then 2018.

Although this book is considered chic lit, it’s a wholesome, feel-good, holiday story. The Audible original isn’t very long, only a little over three hours. So, whether you’re a chic or not, after the Thanksgiving leftovers and dirty dishes are cleared away and the guests have gone, you could enjoy it with a glass of wine or a turkey sandwich.

 

New! The Red Dress

Copyright July 2019 by DLD Books

Front cover contains: young, dark-haired woman in red dress holding flowers

When Eve went to her high school senior prom, she wore a red dress that her mother had made for her. That night, after dancing with the boy of her dreams, she caught him in the act with her best friend. Months later, Eve, a freshman in college, is bullied into giving the dress to her roommate. After her mother finds out, their relationship is never the same again.

Twenty-five years later, Eve, a bestselling author, is happily married with three children. Although her mother suffers from dementia, she still remembers, and Eve still harbors the guilt for giving the dress away. When she receives a Facebook friend request from her old college roommate and an invitation to her twenty-five-year high school class reunion, then meets her former best friend by chance, she must confront the past in order to face the future.

***

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Her First Turkey (Fiction)

The dining room table was covered with a white cloth. Linen napkins adorned the eight place settings that each contained a plate, silverware, and a glass. Two of the glasses were plastic and had milk in them. The other six wine glasses were empty. A bottle of wine and corkscrew were placed in the center of the table.

Pat admired her handiwork with her limited vision and hoped her mother-in-law would approve. This was her first Thanksgiving with her in-laws, and she willed everything to go smoothly. With a sigh, she sauntered to the dorrway and called, “Okay, dinner’s ready.”

They all trooped in: her husband Steve, his parents Harry and Lee Ann, his brother and sister-in-law Rob and Linda, and their two children; Jayson, eight, and Ella, five. As Pat hurried to the kitchen to bring out the platters of food, she heard her mother-in-law say, “All right everyone, this is Pat’s first turkey. I don’t want anyone to say a word if it’s dry.”

“Do I have to eat the turkey if it’s dry?” asked Jayson.

Linda appeared in the kitchen doorway. “Can I help?” she asked.

“Sure,” answered Pat with a sigh of relief. “Take the turkey to Steve so he can start carving it.” She carefully removed the electric knife from a nearby drawer and placed it on the platter next to the bird. “Then you can come back and get the potatoes and gravy. I’ll get the stuffing, salad, and cranberry sauce. Oh, I still need to take the rolls out of the oven.”

“Take your time,” said Linda, placing a reassuring hand on Pat’s shoulder. “This all looks wonderful.”

After the turkey had been cut and the wine opened, and all the food was served, Pat was relieved to hear the satisfying sounds of cutlery scraping against plates. Still too nervous to eat, she stared at her food.

“Ummm, this turkey is nice and juicy,” said Lee Ann.

“I knew it would be,” said Pat with a smile. She picked up her fork and took a bite. It was delicious.

“Have you cooked a turkey before?” asked Lee Ann. “I’d think that would be hard for someone who can’t see.”

“This stuffing is delicious,” said Linda. “I’d love the recipe.”

The room fell silent, and Pat could feel everyone’s eyes on her. She didn’t want her in-laws to know that she hadn’t prepared the meal, but now that someone had asked for a recipe, what could she say? She didn’t know the first thing about making stuffing. Her mother had never shared her recipes with her.

She took a deep breath and said, “To be honest, I’m not much of a cook. The turkey, stuffing, potatoes and gravy, salad, and rolls came from Albertson’s. The cranberry sauce came out of a can. I ordered the pumpkin pie from Schwan.”

“Hurrah for the fun! Is the pudding done? Hurrah for the pumpkin pie!” came Ella’s sing song voice from the opposite end of the table, breaking the tension. “We sang that at school yesterday, and I told everyone we were going over the river and through the woods to Uncle Steve and Aunt Pat’s house, but it doesn’t fit into the song.”

Everyone giggled, and Pat said, “You’re right, sweetie. It doesn’t, and I’m sorry I missed your program yesterday. I had to work.”

“That’s okay,” said Ella. “I really like your turkey.”

“I do too,” said Jayson. “It’s not dry at all.”

“The potatoes are great,” said Steve. “I think they’re just like Mom’s.”

“Oh you,” said Lee Ann with a laugh.

“I like the salad,” said Rob.

“The rolls are wonderful,” said Harry. “Excuse me. I’m going to have another.”

“This was a great idea,” said Linda. “Maybe the next time I host a holiday dinner, I’ll do the same thing. It would save a lot of time.”

Lee Ann cleared her throat. “Linda, surely you realize that nothing compares to a home-cooked meal. However, this is rather nice. Pat, I’m sure it would have been next to impossible to prepare a meal like this from scratch when you can’t see.”

There it was again. Pat’s mother-in-law expected less of her because she was visually impaired. Maybe she should have tried to cook a turkey. She’d seen plenty of articles on cooking in Dialogue and other magazines for the blind written by sightless cooks. In fact, there had been step by step instructions on how to cook a turkey with no sight.

The rest of the family continued eating and chatting as if nothing were wrong. But Pat put down her fork and hung her head, as shame washed over her. Her appetite was gone.

***

“What are you smiling about?” asked Steve a month later, as they were driving to Rob and Linda’s house for Christmas dinner.

“Promise me you won’t say a word,” said Pat. “I told Linda I wouldn’t tell anyone, not even you.”

“You and Linda can trust me. My lips are sealed. Now spill.”

“Okay, Linda ordered the prime rib, twice baked potatoes, green bean casserole, rolls, and apple pie from Warehouse Market.”

Steve burst into loud, uproarious laughter. “Mom’s gonna be pissed.”

“Not if she doesn’t know,” said Pat. “If she or anyone else asks for a recipe, Linda will promise to email it to them and send them a recipe she finds online. I wish I’d thought of that last month.”

“I do too. I didn’t think Linda would ask you for that stuffing recipe. It was pretty good, though. But I think this Jell-O salad you’re bringing is going to be a hit.” He tapped the Tupperware container she held securely in her lap.

“I figured if my friend Jackie could make this recipe with no sight at all, I could make it with some vision.”

“I think you’re right, honey.”

“If anybody asks for the recipe, I have it right here.” She tapped her pants pocket that held the printed recipe. “I saved it on the computer so if more than one person wants a copy, I can email it.”

“Good for you,” said Steve. “That talking computer of yours sure works wonders.”

“I downloaded a book from the National Library Service for the Blind called Cooking without Looking. Maybe next year, I’ll feel more confident about cooking a Thanksgiving turkey.”

“Maybe we could do it together. It’s about time I learned how to cook.”

 

THE END

 

The above story was published several years ago in Magnets and Ladders. It also appears in the November issue of The Writer’s Grapevine.

 

New! The Red Dress

Copyright July 2019 by DLD Books

Front cover contains: young, dark-haired woman in red dress holding flowers

When Eve went to her high school senior prom, she wore a red dress that her mother had made for her. That night, after dancing with the boy of her dreams, she caught him in the act with her best friend. Months later, Eve, a freshman in college, is bullied into giving the dress to her roommate. After her mother finds out, their relationship is never the same again.

Twenty-five years later, Eve, a bestselling author, is happily married with three children. Although her mother suffers from dementia, she still remembers, and Eve still harbors the guilt for giving the dress away. When she receives a Facebook friend request from her old college roommate and an invitation to her twenty-five-year high school class reunion, then meets her former best friend by chance, she must confront the past in order to face the future.

***

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Announcing BOE Fair #Thursday Book Feature

Today, instead of reviewing one book, I’m going to share an event where you can learn about fifteen books from nine different authors. I’m president of Behind Our Eyes, an organization of disabled writers scattered across the country. We meet at least twice a month for critique sessions, guest presentations, and other activities and publish an online magazine called Magnets and Ladders. We’ve published two anthologies of our work, and we’re working on a third.

We recently held a book fair, showcasing work by nine authors, myself included. This was recorded and is available to the public. Below, you’ll find information about the event plus links to the recording and to more information about Behind Our Eyes. Happy reading!

***

Good Books, Unique Gifts, and New Opportunities at your Fingertips
First Book Fair

Behind Our Eyes, an organization of writers with disabilities, held its first book fair and two-hundred-seventy-third call attended by nine presenters and many Behind Our Eyes member listeners. Bonnie Blose and Marilyn Brandt Smith hosted this two-hour event. A brief introduction to the focus and activities of the organization was followed by a parade of books: novels, memoirs of personal challenge, writings of the holiday season, adventures and essays with agendas, and a sure-to-be-classic disability awareness book written to assist blind and visually impaired consumers in navigating the healthcare system. Fifteen books were presented by their nine authors. Visit http://www.behindoureyes.org/wp/bookfair/ to read more and download this conference recording. Share it with your friends and newsletters, magazines, etc. Visit http://www.behindoureyes.org for a contact or membership form to offer feedback, ask questions, or join this amazing organization.

New! The Red Dress

Copyright July 2019 by DLD Books

Front cover contains: young, dark-haired woman in red dress holding flowers

When Eve went to her high school senior prom, she wore a red dress that her mother had made for her. That night, after dancing with the boy of her dreams, she caught him in the act with her best friend. Months later, Eve, a freshman in college, is bullied into giving the dress to her roommate. After her mother finds out, their relationship is never the same again.

Twenty-five years later, Eve, a bestselling author, is happily married with three children. Although her mother suffers from dementia, she still remembers, and Eve still harbors the guilt for giving the dress away. When she receives a Facebook friend request from her old college roommate and an invitation to her twenty-five-year high school class reunion, then meets her former best friend by chance, she must confront the past in order to face the future.

***

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A Timeless Holiday Crlection #Thursday Book Feature

It may be a little early to think about the holiday season. But since this delightful book contains ideas for a Thanksgiving game and Christmas cards, it wouldn’t hurt to buy it early. Click below for a review of this wonderful collection of Thanksgiving, Christmas, and January poems and stories.

https://abbiescorner.wordpress.com/2016/12/13/review-the-christmas-carriage-and-other-writings-of-the-holiday-season/

New! The Red Dress

Copyright July 2019 by DLD Books

Front cover contains: young, dark-haired woman in red dress holding flowers

When Eve went to her high school senior prom, she wore a red dress that her mother had made for her. That night, after dancing with the boy of her dreams, she caught him in the act with her best friend. Months later, Eve, a freshman in college, is bullied into giving the dress to her roommate. After her mother finds out, their relationship is never the same again.

Twenty-five years later, Eve, a bestselling author, is happily married with three children. Although her mother suffers from dementia, she still remembers, and Eve still harbors the guilt for giving the dress away. When she receives a Facebook friend request from her old college roommate and an invitation to her twenty-five-year high school class reunion, then meets her former best friend by chance, she must confront the past in order to face the future.

***

My Books

My Amazon Author Page

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WebsiteImage contains: Abbie, smiling.