From the Paperback edition.
From the Paperback edition.
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From the bookFrom Chapter One
In the early hours of June 24 a car pulled into a long macadam drive on Rolling Hills Road in the town of Mount Mason. The driver cut the engine, so that as the car rolled down the drive and into the oval turnaround between the back of the big white clapboard house and the garage, it made only a soft swishing sound, like the whisper of summer rain those first few moments after the dirty gray storm clouds open.
There were deer in the fields that surrounded the house, cropping the rye grass with their spotted fawns at their flanks. But the fields stretched so far from the drive on either side, and the deer kept so close to the tree line, that the does did not even raise their divot heads from the ground as the car slid past, although one or two stopped chewing, and the smallest of the babies edged toward their mothers, stepping delicately sideways, en pointe on their small hooves.
"I don't feel that good," said the young woman in the passenger seat, her hair veiling her face.
The moonlight slipping at an oblique angle through the windows and the windshield of the car picked out what there was of her to be seen: a suggestion of the whites of her eyes between the curtains of her hair, the beads of sweat on her arched upper lip, the silver chain around her neck, the chipped maroon polish on her nails--a jigsaw puzzle of a girl, half the pieces not visible. She was turned away from the driver, turned toward the door as though she were a prisoner in the car and, at any moment, might pull the door handle and tumble out. The fingers of one hand played with her full bottom lip as she stared at the black shadows of the trees on the rough silver of the lawns, silhouettes cut from construction paper. At the edge of the drive, halfway down it, was a small sign, black on white. blessings, it said.
Blessings was one of those few places that visitors always found, on their return, even more pleasing than the pleasant memories they had of it. The house sat, big and white, low and sprawling, in a valley of overgrown fields, its terrace gardens spilling white hydrangeas, blue bee balm, and bushy patches of catnip and lavender onto a flagstone patio that ran its length. The land surrounding it was flat and rich for a long ways, to the end of the drive, and then the stony mountains rose around as though to protect it, a great God-sized berm spiky with pine trees.
The house had a squat and stolid quality, as though it had lain down to rest in the valley and grown middle-aged. Ill-advised additions had been made, according to the fashion of the times: a den paneled in rustic pine, a long screened porch, some dormers scattered above the horizontal roof line like eyes peering down the drive. The weeping willows at one end of the pond dipped low, but the cedars at the other were too tall and rangy for grace, and there had been sporadic talk of cutting them down almost from the day they were planted. The gardens were of the most conventional sort, hollyhocks in the back, day lilies in the center, alyssum along the borders. Wild rhododendrons grew in the shade wherever a stream sprang from the ground to spill down the hillside and into the big pond, a lake almost, that lay along one side of the house. None of it amounted to much on its own.
But taken altogether it was something almost perfect, the sort of place that, from the road, which was how these two had first seen it, promised plenty without pretense, ease without arrogance. From the road Blessings looked like a place where people would sit on the terrace at dusk, sip a drink and exult in the night breeze over the mountain, pull a light cardigan around their shoulders, and go to...
- Blessings are the wonderful things life offers, but in this novel it is also the name of an enchanted, haunted, hopeful place that, after only a few chapters, the reader would like to visit. The novel features an older woman, Mrs. Blessing, and a younger man, Skip, whose paths cross and weave around each another as the plot unfolds. The real star of the book, however, is the setting--the country home of the Blessing family, a place whose history and landscape lure the reader in and never truly let go. Joan Allen offers a splendid performance, with gentle transitions between characters and a sweet willingness to let Quindlen's fine language shine as she savors it herself. L.B.F. (c) AudioFile 2003, Portland, Maine
August 26, 2002
Venturing into fictional territory far from the blue-collar neighborhoods of Black and Blue
and other works, Quindlen's immensely appealing new novel is a study in social contrasts and of characters whose differences are redeemed by the transformative power of love. The eponymous Blessings is a stately house now gone to seed, inhabited by Mrs. Blessing, an 80-year-old wealthy semirecluse with an acerbic tongue and a reputation for hanging on to every nickel. Widowed during WWII, Lydia Blessing was banished to her socially prominent family's country estate for reasons that are revealed only gradually. Austere, unbending and joyless, Lydia has no idea, when she hires young Skip Cuddy as her handyman, how her life and his are about to change. Skip had promise once, but bad companions and an absence of parental guidance have led to a stint in the county jail. When Skip stumbles upon a newborn baby girl who's been abandoned at Blessings, he suddenly has a purpose in life. With tender devotion, he cares secretly for the baby for four months, in the process forming a bond with Mrs. Blessing, who discovers and admires his clandestine parenting skills. A double betrayal destroys their idyll. As usual, Quindlen's fine-tuned ear for the class distinctions of speech results in convincing dialogue. Evoking a bygone patrician world, she endows Blessings with an almost magical aura. While it skirts sentimentality by a hairbreadth, the narrative is old-fashioned in a positive way, telling a dramatic story through characters who develop and change, and testifying to the triumph of human decency when love is permitted to grow and flourish. (Sept. 24)Forecast:Count on this feel-good novel, a book that will appeal to the entire family, to ring up bestseller sales as a perfect Christmas gift.
- The Miami Herald "A polished gem of a novel . . . lovingly crafted, beautifully written."
- The Washington Post Book World "A WELL-TOLD STORY OF LOVE AND REDEMPTION."
- St. Louis Post-Dispatch "[A] RICHLY IMAGINED NOVEL OF THE TRANSFORMING POWER OF LOVE."
- Los Angeles Times "EARNEST, DETAILED, AND COMFORTING . . . [Quindlen] delivers . . . on the promise of her title."
- The New York Times "Anna Quindlen is America's Resident Sane Person. She has what Joyce called the common touch, the ability to speak to many people about what's on their minds before they have the vaguest idea what's on their minds."
- The Washington Post Book World "A well--told story of love and redemption, one that is not based on the passion of a man for a woman but on the affection and understanding that develops between people of very different backgrounds who are brought together by a baby named Faith and a house called Blessings."
- The New York Times Book Review "Quindlen . . . is as concerned with the evolution of her characters as she is with the resolution of their story. . . . Quindlen's moving and gently humorous depiction of her characters' transformation is thoroughly persuasive. . . . [Her] immense sympathy for her characters remains intact, but her fidelity to certain truths is paramount."
- Entertainment Weekly "[Quindlen] treats her protagonists and their hardships with such tenderness it's impossible not to grow fond of them."
"IMMENSELY APPEALING . . .
Quindlen's fine-tuned ear for the class distinctions of speech results in convincing dialogue. Evoking a bygone patrician world, she endows Blessings with an almost magical aura. . . . The narrative is old-fashioned in a positive way, telling a dramatic story through characters who develop and change, and testifying to the triumph of human decency when love is permitted to grow and flourish. . . . [A] feel-good novel, a book that will appeal to the entire family."
- Vogue "Quindlen finds a wealth of material in the juxtaposition of two very different lives, moving between lush descriptions of a faille dress in a Park Avenue club library and the incongruous smell of baby wipes in a dive bar. These satisfying details heighten the reader's emotional stake in Skip and Lydia's subtly drawn relationship."
- BookPage "Readers . . . will be rewarded by a story they cannot put down."
PublisherPenguin Random House Audio Publishing Group
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