First Look Book Club
Mon  Tue      Subscribe

Suzanne Beecher


Dear Reader,

"A Christmas Deliverance: A Novel" is "New York Times" bestselling author Anne Perry's twentieth heart-warming Christmas mystery: The festive season is fast approaching, and Dr Crowe and his young apprentice Scuff are busy, as always, tending London's sick and wounded. This year, however, Crowe is increasingly distracted by memories of a former patient, Eliza Hollister, for whom he cared deeply.

I'm pleased to welcome Anne Perry as today's guest author. She is the bestselling author of nineteen previous holiday novels, as well as the William Monk series, the Charlotte and Thomas Pitt series, the Daniel Pitt series, and the Elena Standish series. She has also written five World War I novels and a work of historical fiction, "The Sheen on the Silk." Anne Perry lives in Los Angeles.

For more from Anne Perry, follow her on Facebook at @AnnePerryAuthor. Or say "Hello," contact her at askanneperry@aol.com

Like almost everyone else, I stayed home during most of COVID. It was little hardship for me because I work at home. Groceries and everything important were delivered to my door. I kept in touch with friends and family by email and telephone.

What I did not realize was what a hermit I had become. Last year, I had made a commitment to travel to a 2022 writers' conference when I thought this would all be over. And as I had given my word, I had no honorable choice but to go. When the departure day finally arrived, I realized that I had become afraid of being in public. Crowds, Airports. Queues a mile long. Delays. Missing connecting flights. I've been in that situation before. I also knew what it meant to be the last one standing in an airport in the middle of the night. As they say: been there, done that. Aching with tension, pulling my one small case, I set out. I was quickly reminded that I have a sore back. Probably from sitting in one position too long. And not enough walking. Envisioning long queues of people waiting to check in, I had asked for a wheelchair, which was provided at every stop. I was treated with care and courtesy. No waiting, no getting lost.

Everything went well, nothing was more than a few minutes late. There was a connection where the second gate was a quarter of a mile away from the first, but I whizzed along in the chair. When I arrived at the other end of my journey, I found a taxi immediately. A most interesting driver, and we had a terrific conversation about all sorts of things.

There were roughly four hundred people at the writers' conference, mostly from the United States and Canada, and a few from scattered places. I met old friends, and made new ones. We were given very smart black masks in our welcome kit, and wore them everywhere except the dining room, or if we were the lecturer or on a panel. And all the time I was there, I never heard a single complaint or unkind word about the masks, or anything else.

After the years alone, most of us were happy to meet again.

Some familiar faces were deeply missed, but that is inevitable.

What I particularly enjoyed was breaking the imaginary bars that had been imprisoning me.

What else have I missed because it involved stepping into the unknown? I promised myself not to let that happen again. It is up to me!

-- Anne Perry

Follow her on Anne on Facebook at @AnnePerryAuthor. Or contact her at askanneperry@aol.com

Thanks for reading with me. It's so good to read with friends.

Suzanne Beecher
Suzanne@firstlookbookclub.com

P. S. This week we're giving away 10 copies of the book They're Going To Love You: A Novel by Meg Howrey. Click here to enter for your chance to win.

 



(continued from Monday)

Perhaps a bar of light penetrates the speckled grime of a nearby window and goldens Alex's cheek, his clavicle, a sinew of his raised arm. The features of his face are too harsh for conventional beauty, but everyone looks noble in chiaroscuro.

"Yes," says James, nodding at the young man and raising a finger. "That's exactly what I mean. Beautiful."

Alex looks at James. Confirmation. He's not crazy. What he feels is real and someone sees it. James.

James finds himself shaping the class around the young man, testing strengths and probing weaknesses. He watches his words take shape in the boy's body. It's one kind of power to understand, and another to bestow understanding. James feels something in his chest and notices that he's happy. When class ends, he sits on a little chair in the corner for a few minutes, approachable. He accepts gratitude and exchanges gossip. Alex hangs back, wanting a little privacy. Later, he will tell James he was afraid he might embarrass himself, say something stupid. Words aren't his thing. But when it's just the two of them and James is looking at him with kindness and interest, he does his best.

"I learned more in the past ninety minutes than I've learned in my whole fucking life," Alex says. "I'm going to be in New York for the summer. I want to, I mean, is there a way I can study with you? Is there a way, even, I don't know if you coach privately or, maybe we could, I don't know."

What he wants to say is "I feel as if I've only now been born."

"Yes," says James, in just the right way. With gravity, with depth. "Let's work together. All right."

"I need—" Alex says, and then stops. He needs a lot. "I need someone to—" He can't finish the sentence. It's not that he needs help, although he does need that. But help has been given to him. He's a man who wants to dance ballet, he's had no trouble being seen. What he needs is for someone to help him see himself. He needs love. He needs a friend. He needs beauty. He needs someone to talk to him about art. He needs—

"I understand," says James. This is what I remember.

James is telling me about meeting Alex. We're in our usual positions at Bank Street, where my father and James live. (I don't live there, I visit.) Bank Street is what everyone calls the apartment, as if it were the only one on the block. It's the parlor floor of a four- story brownstone, the apartment purchased in 1975 by my father with money from an inheritance. James sits at the piano in the large front room, and I'm perched nearby, on the rolling library steps that serve the tall bookcases by the windows. The steps don't roll very well and have been much clawed by the cats. I don't live at Bank Street, have never done so, but in my heart, this is my home.

James and I are family and not. Teacher-student, and not. Confidants, and not.

I could be his daughter, but I'm not.

My father and James have recently started using the word partner for each other. James used to say companion. I've never heard either one use boyfriend or lover. They've been together for twenty-three years.

I love James very much. I love my father too.

Or: my father, I love, and James I sort of want to be. Maybe I mean: have? I'm twenty-four.

I haven't met Alex yet. I will soon.

"I'm not a young person anymore," James says. He folds his arms and frowns at the keyboard. "At a certain point—and I've reached it— you realize your moment has passed. You won't achieve those dreams of youth. You have to make new dreams. But I don't have any new dreams."

He plays a single note on the piano.

"It's not about me," he says. "It's wanting the things I care about to continue. To give that to someone else. Otherwise, everything I care about dies with me."

He plays a few chords. The piano needs tuning.

"That's not quite true," he says. "One wants another chance at things."

I think I understand about wanting another chance at things, and I'm only twenty-four.

"Oh, Carlisle." He almost smiles. "You know what's more terrible than giving up a dream? To discover you haven't."

He might be crying.

"It's not about this boy," he says. "You do see that?" And then—

"Is it worth it? All this—" He shuts his eyes. "All this wreckage." I'm not sure what he means by wreckage. Himself ? His career?

His relationship with my father? Perhaps he only means life.

Summons

It's a shocking phone call. Not because it's a surprise but because it's so close to what I expected. Things never happen exactly the way you envision, but this really is James, saying that Robert's health has been increasingly bad and now they're nearing the end. It's mostly a matter of making Robert as comfortable as possible. They are thinking in terms of weeks, not months.

Robert. My father.

Nearing the end. As comfortable as possible. Even the sound of James's voice saying Oh, Carlisle. I had them all right. Perhaps not so remarkable. These are the things one says.

James apologizes for calling so early. It's nine in the morning in New York, only six here in Los Angeles. I hadn't imagined that part. Time. The body understands whether it's morning or evening, but it doesn't always recognize the past from the present. I've had feelings about this phone call, for years. My body has already had this conversation.

I ask if Robert wants to see me.

"He's always wanted that," says James, on a sigh. "Only he painted himself into a corner. But what does that matter now?"

When did it ever matter? Still, I think I understand. Robert wants me to forgive him, but also to have it understood our estrangement is all my fault. He wishes none of it had happened but wants to keep all the emotions he got to have. He wants—

"You know Robert," James says.

It's hard to tell if I understand my father's nature or am projecting my own. I might know Robert because I've essentially become him. What's bred in the bone.

James continues, thinking out plans. Robert's still in the hospital. It will be better if I wait until he's home and settled at Bank Street. Of course it will. Hospitals are infantilizing—the gowns, the pans. Robert would be at a disadvantage. Bank Street is the seat of their power. Which leaves me as a petitioner. One hopes to get into an enchanted kingdom, or to get out of it, if things go badly. You don't visit an enchanted kingdom to forgive the sorcerers.

(continued on Wednesday)

Love this book? Share your review with the Publisher.

Facebook iconTwitter iconPinterest iconGoogle+ icon
Mon  Tue