We are honored to have New York Times bestselling author Meg Waite Clayton visiting us today, sharing with us a tasty morsel from her new release, The Wednesday Daughters, a long awaited sequel to the book club favorite The Wednesday Sisters, available July 16th. A finalist for Barbara Kingsolver’s Bellwether Prize (now the PEN/Bellwether), her books have been translated into languages from German to Lithuanian to Chinese. She’s written for The Los Angeles Times, Writer’s Digest, Runner’s World, and public radio. A graduate of the University Michigan and its law school, she lives in Palo Alto, California.
Here’s a little set up for you:
It is early evening when Hope Tantry arrives at the small cottage in England’s pastoral Lake District where her mother, Ally, spent the last years of her life. Ally—one of a close-knit group of women who called themselves “The Wednesday Sisters”—had used the cottage as a writer’s retreat while working on her unpublished biography of Beatrix Potter. Yet Hope knows little about her mother’s time there. Traveling with Hope are her friends Julie and Anna Page—first introduced as little girls in The Wednesday Sisters, now grown women grappling with issues of a different era—who offer to help Hope sort through her mother’s personal effects. Tucked away in a hidden drawer, they finds a stack of Ally’s old notebooks, all written in a mysterious code. As she, Julie, and Anna Page try to decipher Ally’s writings—the reason for their encryption, their possible connection to the Potter manuscript—they are forced to confront their own personal struggles: Hope’s doubts about her marriage, Julie’s grief over losing her twin sister, Anna Page’s fear of commitment in relationships. And as the real reason for Ally’s stay in England comes to light, Hope, Julie, and Anna Page reach a new understanding about the enduring bonds of family, the unwavering strength of love, and the inescapable pull of the past.
Now, without further ado, let’s bring on the excerpt and get pulled to the Lake District, the swans, the harbor, the magic…
We Wednesday Daughters weren’t born on Wednesdays, and we aren’t blood relations. We don’t gather to write at picnic tables like our mothers did. We’re just daughters of friends who’ve called themselves “Wednesday Sisters” since before I was born, daughters who became friends ourselves the way girls who grow up together sometimes do, whether they have much in common or not. Perhaps that is a lot to have in common, though: a shared childhood, friends who’ve known you since before you knew yourself.
We’re are all old enough now to understand what Aunt Kath forever tells us—that life and living aren’t the same—and our moms long ago moved on (more or less) from mothering us to other passions: Aunt Linda’s cancer-survivor runs, Mom’s infertility support group, the novels Frankie and Brett still write. But they’ve brought us together for holiday dinners and barbecues so often over the years that at some point we started gathering ourselves, our childhood bonds deepening despite, say, the dozen years that separate Anna Page and me. It’s that combination of our mothers’ friendships and our own that sent three of us together to the English Lakes—the fall of 2011, it was—and allowed us to share the comfort we found there in one exquisite wooden puzzle box. We are, in the Wednesday Circle, our mothers’ daughters: Kath’s Anna Page, Linda’s Julie, and me, Ally’s Hope. And this is our story, which is, I suppose, a love story. Or two. Or, actually, probably four.
“You’ll want to be hearing the quiet of the evening coming up,” the boatman suggested as he led us to a rowboat rather than a motorized launch. “Your head’s a marly if you’ll have an engine spoilin’ this.” Such funny phrases, I thought as he loaded our suitcases and set off across Lake Windermere. Like so many of the expressions Mom brought home from her stays here: “queue” and “toff” and “fancy,” “single-track” instead of “one-lane” to describe the winding roads. But as the daylight softened from blue to salmon to steel with each hushed push of the wood oars, I could hear the quiet. Even with the squabble of geese down the shoreline, the occasional gunshot clap of a car passing over a trestle echoing off the hills, I could hear the quiet of our little boat slipping as surely forward as time itself.
It was mid-October, the air fresh with the smell of lake water and field grass and forest, the promise of frost. On the hillside we’d left behind, the maze of stone walls dwindled. Black-faced sheep we’d seen out the train window faded to nothing as lights blinked on in shops trailing down from the station to hug up together at Bowness, the boats in the harbor bare-masted as full sails were exchanged for fireside seats in restaurants and pubs and homes. Ahead, two white swans dug at the lake grasses. The thick woods on the shore beyond them took shape as individual trees. A stone chimney poked above the treetops upslope, collecting more stone around it: other chimneys, a square tower, various slants of roof that were all of a same.
“That’s your mama’s little writing cottage, Hope?” Anna Page asked, fingering her hair, which was wavy-dark and wild in the still of the approaching evening.
The boatman—Robbie, he’d said his name was—glanced over his shoulder, his hands on the rough oars not young, but steady and surprisingly well kempt. “That’s the one to gawk at, the big house,” he said, his voice Irish rather than English; perhaps that was the hint of not quite belonging I sensed in him. He raised the oars and pointed to the right of a lone wooden pier and a dilapidated boathouse. “There’s a cottage there through the scrub, see?”
Thanks for the sneek peek, Meg! If, like us, you’re eager to read more, visit your local bookstore or find The Wednesday Daughters online here: