From the author of The Gin & Chowder Club
comes an exquisitely heartfelt and uplifting novel that explores the infinite reach of a mother’s love—and the gift of second chances…
The modest ranch house where Callie Wyeth grew up looks just as she remembers it—right down to the well-worn sheets in the linen closet. But in the years since Callie lived here, almost everything else has changed. Her father, once indomitable, is in poor health. And Callie is a single mother with a beautiful little boy, Henry, who has just been diagnosed with autism.
Returning to this quiet New Hampshire community seems the best thing to do, for both her father and her son’s sake. Even if it means facing Linden Finch, the one she loved and left for reasons she’s sure he’ll never forgive. Linden is stunned that Callie is back—and that she has a son. Yet in the warm, funny relationship that develops between Henry and Linden’s menagerie of rescued farm animals, Callie begins to find hope. Not just that her son might break through the wall of silence separating him from the world, but that she too can make a new start amid the places and people that have never left her heart…
Praise for The Gin and Chowder Club
"Eloquent and surprising... I love this story of faith, love, and the lasting bonds of family." --Ann Leary, author of Outtakes from a Marriage
“Nostalgic and tender…summons the passion of first love, the pain of first loss, and the unbreakable bonds of family that help us survive both.”
—Marie Bostwick, New York Times bestselling author
Callie knelt beside Henry’s bed. He looked so peaceful, so different
from the frustrated little boy she lived with all day. She
reached over and lightly brushed the wisps of blond hair from
his forehead. She watched him breathe, his lips slightly parted;
she marveled at the smallness of his perfect hands and stroked
his smooth cheek. Henry murmured and pulled his beloved
Travelin’ Bear closer until the worn stuffed animal was tucked
tightly under his chest. She whispered his prayer for him, as she
always did, leaned forward, kissed him gently, and breathed in
his sweet little boy scent. Finally, the tears she’d been fighting
all day spilled hotly down her cheeks. She slumped against his
bed, buried her face in her arms, and cried into the soft cotton
sheets. She listened to the thunderstorm rumbling into the valley
and, for the hundredth time that day, silently pleaded,
Please don’t let this be true. Please make Henry better. Just
make it go away. Don’t punish Henry for the things I’ve done.
Callie stayed beside Henry’s bed for a long time before finally
pulling herself up and collapsing on the bed in the next
room. She was exhausted, but sleep eluded her as she stared
into the darkness and replayed the foolish encounter that had
changed her life. At the time it had seemed so innocent. Afterward,
though, she knew there had been nothing innocent in the
events that led to that night.
It was a sunny Tuesday when they’d first met for coffee to
discuss her thesis. The following Friday, it had been a beer at an
outdoor pub on Church Street to celebrate the arrival of spring.
And on Saturday, he had appeared handsome and smiling to
take her to dinner at a quiet inn on Lake Champlain. They’d sat
on the porch and watched the lights around the lake begin to
flicker and sparkle as the sun streaked radiant flames of color
across the sky. They’d shared a bottle of Merlot and talked
about her plans for graduate school and his hope for tenure.
Then he’d ordered a second bottle, and Callie had begun to
wonder what he was thinking. She had watched him toy with
the gold band on his finger and thought of Linden. What would
he think if he saw me now? She had pushed the thought away.
He had paid for dinner, carefully eased the cork back into
the second bottle, and discreetly smuggled it out under his
tweed jacket, and then he’d jovially draped his arm over her
shoulder as they’d made their way back to his car. Driving a
short distance, he had pulled into the parking lot of a secluded
beach. When he’d opened the back of his Volvo wagon and
produced a wool stadium blanket, it had suddenly seemed too
convenient. Callie had felt an unsettling wave of apprehension.
This has already gone too far. At the same time, she hadn’t tried
to stop it.
They’d sat on the blanket and he’d laughed as he struggled
with the bottle between his legs and she’d laughed too as she
tried to help by holding it while he pulled on the cork. Finally
it had eased out, splashing a spot of red wine on his khaki pants.
He had run his finger around the top to wipe off any stray
droplets and, with a smile, passed the bottle to her. She’d hesitated, smiling too, but finally she’d taken a sip, her heart
As they watched the lights dance on the water, he’d slipped
his jacket off and dropped it over her shoulders. Passing the
wine back and forth had reminded Callie of high school. And
then he’d brushed his hand along her thigh and teased her
about having only one dimple and, feeling light-headed, she’d
grinned mischievously, slowly running the tip of her tongue
around the lip of the bottle.
He had watched with raised eyebrows. “Where’d you learn
that, Miss Wyeth?”
“Learn what?” Callie had asked, feigning innocence.
“Hmmm, what else do you know?” His eyes had sparkled
as he’d lightly traced his finger around her dimple and along
her lips, and Callie had closed her eyes and let him.
Callie hated the memory, but sometimes it slipped into her
mind, and she couldn’t seem to stop it. Two months later she’d
discovered she was pregnant, but when she tried to reach him at
the college they told her that he had taken a job in California.
Whatever happened to tenure? she’d wondered bitterly.
Callie finally drifted off, but it seemed like it was only moments
before she awakened to the sound of crying. In the early
morning light she found Henry rocking back and forth on the
floor. She scooped him up, felt him shiver in her arms, and
pulled the blanket around him. He continued to whimper, and
she whispered softly into his tousled hair, “It’s okay, Hen-Ben,
everything’s going to be okay.” Her words of reassurance were
as much for herself as they were for him.
She glanced around the room at the pile of boxes and sighed.
She knew the unfamiliar surroundings weren’t helping Henry,
but there was nothing else she could do. Without childcare she
was unable to work, and she had no money left. In the half light
of dawn she stared at a box labeled “Henry / LEGOs” and relived
the last few months.
During that time she’d noticed a change in Henry but she’d
convinced herself it was nothing to worry about. He’s just
quiet, that’s all. Some boys just develop more slowly than others
and, besides, Henry knows how to use words. . . . He already
started to. Callie tried to remember the last time Henry had actually
spoken. That’s okay, she had told herself, he’ll learn
when he’s ready. All of Callie’s self-reassuring, however, had
gone right out the window when Mrs. Cooper had voiced her
Mrs. Cooper was the matriarch of the daycare near the college—the daycare where Callie had been leaving Henry since
he was six months old. After he was born, she’d been unable to
continue her studies and had instead taken a job in the financial
aid office. She’d always felt blessed and thankful to have found
such a wonderful home away from home for Henry, and she
could still see the faded green carpet and the pattern of shadows
from the windows that crisscrossed the floor of the large playroom
every afternoon when she picked him up. On that last afternoon
Callie had been waiting for him by the door when Mrs.
Cooper had taken her aside. She remembered the concern in
her voice as she’d quietly told her that she’d been watching
Henry for several weeks and been praying for a positive sign.
“Henry is so quiet,” she’d said, “and often he just seems
lost. Lately, he shows no interest in playing with other children.
Instead, he just stands at the rice table and pours rice from
one cup to another or lets the rice pour through his hands. If
another child interrupts him or borrows one of his cups, he becomes
very agitated. Just today, another boy took the cup he
was using and gave him a different one. Henry became very
upset and erupted into an inconsolable tantrum. He threw all
the toys that were on the rice table as well as handfuls of Legos.
When he finally calmed down,” Mrs. Cooper continued, “I
asked him to join our reading group, but he refused and just sat
in the corner, rocking back and forth. I’m so sorry, Callie, I
wanted to be sure before I said anything.”
Callie had been staring at the pattern on the carpet when a
passing cloud drifted in front of the sun. She’d nodded slowly,
tears stinging her eyes. “I think you need to have Henry tested,
dear,” Mrs. Cooper had said kindly, giving her a hug. “Please let
us know how you make out. We will be keeping both of you in
our prayers.” Callie realized then that Mrs. Cooper was saying
she would no longer be able to look after Henry.
Callie pressed her cheek into Henry’s wispy hair and realized
he’d fallen asleep. She laid him down and tucked the soft
blanket around him. As tired as she was, there was no point in
going back to bed. Besides, she could get so much done if he
kept sleeping so she slipped quietly from the room that had
once been hers, left the door open a crack, and shuffled barefoot
to the kitchen to see if her dad had any coffee. She opened
the cabinet next to the sink where her parents had always kept
it, and there it was, in the same spot as always, a dark blue can
of Maxwell House. The sight of the familiar can in its proper
place gave Callie an odd feeling of comfort. As she reached for
it, though, she became acutely aware of the emptiness of her
parents’ house. The people she loved most in the world were no
longer there and never would be again, to make coffee, to cradle
warm cups in their hands, to chat over breakfast, to talk about
the day ahead, and then hurry out the door to school, to work,
with a kiss and a promise.... Love you! Keep the faith! See you
tonight! Their lovely voices echoed through her mind. Callie
looked out the kitchen window of her childhood home and
tears filled her eyes. She had never felt more alone.