Careful what You Wish for: A Novel

Front Cover
Simon & Schuster, 1999 - Fiction - 207 pages
There was, of course, talk. In Liberty, gossip breathes with a life of its own, strings itself from house to house by lines -- telephone lines now, but back then it was laundry, and if good fences made good neighbors it was because of the alliances made across them on warm and windy afternoons. Everyone in Liberty knew the story of Eleanor Blackmar Cline -- how her husband had taken up with a colored girl half his age, how he had flaunted her before his wife, and how she had scandalously insisted that the girl be brought to live with them and earn her keep. As the last Blackmar to be born in Liberty, Eleanor Cline was accustomed to scandal. Disgrace and dishonor were Blackmar possessions -- something to be passed down, like the family home and the general store. Eleanor's great-grandmother, Helena, was a carpetbagger who had come to Liberty to ensure that voting rights were upheld. She was a powerful, independent woman with uncanny powers. She spoke with more passion than was seemly, and coaxed a flower garden out of soil choked with weeds. She was rumored to be a witch. Eleanor's mother, Evalie, was the wild one. Her scandal was a fatherless daughter. Eleanor Blackmar grew up amid ugly rumors and sidelong glances, until she found absolution in her marriage to John Cline -- and the picture-perfect pies she cooled on the windowsill every afternoon for fifteen years. Eleanor was a devoted mother and a dutiful wife, and her admittance to the Liberty Ladies' Sewing Circle (run with unquestionable authority by the minister's wife) signaled her respectability. But being respectably married didn't protect Eleanor from scandal; it only raised the stakes of what she had to lose. And when her husband started seeing someone else -- keeping her in a room at the Victoria Hotel -- Eleanor Blackmar Cline made a choice she would never have imagined possible. She insisted that the girl come to live with them. Haunted and catlike, with the desperate look of someone lost, Natalie proves to be a beautiful, uninhibited spirit who changes the lives of those around her. She brings life to the Cline household as to a dormant garden: to Adam, Eleanor's son, a studious and often worried boy, she brings a connection he cannot express and a longing he cannot explain; to Eleanor, encumbered by the restrictions of her husband and her small, fettered life, she brings a laughter that has been silent for years and a strength she has never known. Ultimately finding the courage to leave her small-minded town and abusive husband, Eleanor pursues her own path until, some fifteen years later, she is forced to return to the son she left behind and his enchanting young wife. Having once found the strength to stand alone, Eleanor must now find the courage to reach out to others. Careful What You Wish For heralds the debut of a young writer of exceptional talent. Myrlin A. Hermes has crafted a rich novel of the South where magic hides in the dust of Main Street and the present lies tangled in the past. This is a story of shadow and light, a timeless tale of the struggle we all must face when trying to reconcile the demands of the family with the desires of the self.

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About the author (1999)

Twenty-three-year-old Myrlin A. Hermes was born in California and has lived on a commune in India, and in Hawaii. A graduate of Reed College, she lives in Portland, Oregon.

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