I am delighted to be on the blog tour for Faith Hogan’s new novel today. Unfortunately I couldn’t do my review due to a technical difficulty in getting the book, but I am able to share an extract from the book instead. Do watch this space as I intend to read it ASAP though!!
Carrie Nolan is devastated when she is dumped by Kevin Mulvey after more than a decade without even a backwards glance! On reflection, she has sacrificed her own long term happiness establishing their critically acclaimed Dublin restaurant and pandering to his excessive ego.
Meanwhile Kevin can’t believe his luck. Valentina, their new waitress is a stunner, the kind of girl that turns heads when she walks in a room and surprise, surprise she has chosen him! He is living the dream!
Carrie seeks solace from a circle of mismatched friends who need her as much as she needs them. Jane, who struggles to run the pub on the opposite side of the street, Luke, who has stopped drifting while his father settles in a nearby nursing home and Teddy, a dog who asks for nothing more than the chance to stay by Carrie’s side.
With Christmas just around the corner, all is not quite as it seems and a catastrophic sequence of events leads to the unthinkable…
How far do you need to fall before you learn the true value of family and friends? And is it ever too late to start again…
Carrie eyed her stocky frame critically in the mirror. She had washed her hair and attempted to brush it out straight, but of course, as always, it disobediently fell back into a mass of curls. In the end, she pinned it up in a messy bun and pulled a few tendrils free, in case she needed to hide behind them. She had just spent an hour crying about the way things had turned out, so she hoped there were no more tears left. Her shift in the restaurant started in less than forty-five minutes. The last thing she wanted was a replay of the previous evening. She may be an emotional wreck; it didn’t mean that all sense of herself had to be obviously lost.
She pulled out an emerald wrap dress she’d bought in New York a few years earlier. It was made of the softest wool and always garnered a compliment when she wore it. It worked quite well with patent heels and her black lacy bolero. She needed a splash of Manhattan in her life now. The wrap top managed to hold in her ample boobs. The skirt though narrow didn’t make as much of her peasant thighs as some clinging skirts did. It was the best she could do, and she wasn’t sure who she was trying to impress anyway, she could never match Valentina for looks.
‘Right, Teddy, how do I look?’ she quizzed the little dog when she went back into the kitchen. He looked at her curiously, she was not sure if she passed the appearance test, but she had a feeling he saw something in her that went deeper than her figure. She bent down and scratched his head gently. He seemed content to slumber in the same spot in her kitchen, so she left him there.
She was dreading going into The Sea Pear. There, she’d said it. How long had she felt like that? She shook her head, not long, probably only since Kevin made his announcement. God, it was almost a full fifteen minutes since she gave him a thought. Now the dread filled her again. There was no point going through the thoughts that were cramming her mind: What was she supposed to do now? What was Kevin going to do? Was he going to shack up permanently with Valentina? Carrie couldn’t allow her mind to go there, not yet. For now, she had to get through working in the same building as the pair of them. For now, that would be as much as she would demand of herself.
The restaurant felt warm and fresh when she arrived. It wasn’t four hours since she walked through here with Teddy and Luke. Yet, knowing that Kevin was going to be here now, the place felt different. As though its familiarity was jarring with what it should be. She hadn’t been at work since yesterday evening, when she’d run out of here distraught. No one had checked up on her and the business had not come crashing down without her. Actually, the place looked fine. Everything was exactly as it should be.
The smell, familiar, trailing before her was Kevin – a mixture of Calvin Klein and hair products to make his wiry hair appear sleek. They had not spoken, not really, since he had trotted out of her office with Valentina at his side. Oh, they’d exchanged orders from the kitchen to the front of house. They’d worked around each other in careful silence for almost two days, until finally the hollowness inside her had given way last night. He, she knew, was much more cowardly than she. Had she always known that? Was he actually spineless? She thought about it for a moment, then she threw her shoulders back, her ample chest out and marched into the kitchen. She was not afraid. Broken, but not afraid.
‘I can’t believe you left my mother high and dry.’ Kevin’s voice reached a pitch she hadn’t heard in years.
‘How are you Carrie? How are you doing? I was worried about you?’ Carrie said the words sarcastically; after all, they were what she imagined she would say to him if things were reversed.
‘Of course, I was worried about you, we both were, but…’ He ran his long fingers through his thick hair and she noticed it seemed greyer now than it was before. Could he have aged overnight or was it really so long since she’d actually properly looked at him? ‘But still, what was I supposed to do, drag you back to work. Valentina said you probably needed some time to get your head around things. We managed fine, by the way,’ he nodded towards the restaurant.
‘Really,’ Carrie said and she let the hurt of him talking to Valentina about her slide sideward on her consciousness. She couldn’t think about all the times they’d probably spoken about her these last few weeks or maybe months. ‘Well, good news for both of you. But I’m back now, so…’
‘Well, of course,’ Kevin bit his lip, a nervous habit he had worked hard to kick in college. ‘And…’
‘Yes?’ she said. Had he thought about the restaurant, had he thought about the house? She’d bet Valentina had thought of it.
‘Well, it’s just…’ He was too weak to move things forward and for that, perhaps, she was glad; she had enough to cope with for now.
‘You’ll need to tell your mother, Kevin. From now on you’re going to be bringing her to mass every Sunday.’ She grabbed an apple from the top of a newly delivered box and took a satisfying bite. God, but she’d love to be a fly on the wall when he told Maureen Mulvey about Valentina.
Working in the restaurant that evening was hard. There was no point lying to herself. Carrie sidestepped Valentina when she could, but they couldn’t avoid each other. Perhaps she could ask some of their friends to give Valentina work in their restaurant. Jim McGrath ran a little bistro on the north side; she’d make a bomb there in tips. She could suggest it to Kevin, maybe, in a few weeks, when they had time to cool down, all of them.
That was the funny thing though; they were all very cool about this. She hadn’t lost her temper, she hadn’t screamed or shouted, or thrown plates. Today, at least, she didn’t want to hit him or hurt him in any way and, maybe, that meant something. Maybe it meant something more than she’d have realised if this hadn’t happened. Oh, she was hurt. She was hurt beyond description, the kind of pain that goes deep into the core of you. Even when she thought she’d cried herself out, she felt a new current of grief rise within her, bringing waves of tears to her eyes that there was no stopping. Poor Teddy had leant against her leg, lapped up the tears and occasionally rested his head on her lap, as if to offer her his own brand of sympathy. It was a funny thing; there was something in the dog that made her feel he actually got her pain, he, by his very wish to console her, somehow made things better. She was so glad to have him in the house with her.
She looked up at the clock, almost ten p.m. She walked to the door. Across the road, The Marchant Inn was in darkness and its emptiness thrashed like a wave of lonesomeness through Carrie. She thought of Jane, so fragile and alone in the hospital. Through all those tears, Carrie had made a promise of sorts, even if she hadn’t put it into words – she was going to look out for Jane from now on. Somehow, she was going to help that lonely woman get back to a life that meant something. She sighed, perhaps it would do her good to think about someone else for a while and take her mind off Kevin and Valentina.
Sunday night was always quiet, very few bookings this evening and generally, everyone was seated by nine or half past and they managed to clear out by twelve. She was looking forward to getting out of here now. Funny, but she’d never felt like that before.
Carrie slipped upstairs to her office and turned on the computer. She logged into her Facebook account to catch up with what was happening with people she knew who were flung all over the world these days. For one more time, she could pretend that everything was normal. Then she’d call Anna and tomorrow she’d go and see her mother.
About the author.
Faith was born in Ireland and currently lives there with her husband, four children and two fussy cats. She gained an HonorsDegree in English Literature and Psychology from Dublin City University and a Postgraduate from University College, Galway. She was a winner in the 2014 Irish Writers Centre Novel Fair- an international competition for emerging writers. When she’s not writing, she’s an enthusiastic dog walker and reluctant jogger.