Today, I have some great news for you lucky readers of Traveling With T.
A GIVEAWAY! Yes, a giveaway. And we all know how I feel about a giveaway. But this is even more special: This is Traveling With T’s first INTERNATIONAL giveaway. Thanks to the fab Katie @ St. Martin’s- I have 2 copies to give to 2 lucky folks!
I am STOKED! Seriously! Jazz hands are a-flailing over here!
Ok, before I get too carried away- there is more! The Chapter 1 excerpt! Just in case you weren’t sure about reading The Secrets of Midwives- this excerpt (especially the last line) will make your mind up!
So, quick, fast and in a hurry- go read the excerpt and enter the giveaway!
From Sally Hepworth’s THE SECRET OF MIDWIVES, Chapter 1
I arrived in Conanicut Island at a ten to eight. Gran’s house, a shingle-style beach cottage, was perched on a grassy hill that rolled down to a rocky beach. She lived on the southern tip of the island, only accessible by one road across a thin strip of land from Jamestown. When I was little, Mom, Grace, Dad and I used to rent a shack like Gran’s every summer, and spend a few weeks in bare feet—swimming at Mackerel cove, flying kites, walking the trails in Beavertail State Park. Gran was the first to go on ‘permanent vacation’ there. Grace and Dad followed a few years ago and now lived a few streets away. Grace had made a big deal about ‘leaving me’ in Providence, but I was fine with it. Apart from the obvious fact that it meant Grace would be a little further away from me and my business, I also quite liked the idea of having an excuse to visit Conanicut Island. Something happened to me when I drove over the Jamestown Verrazano Bridge. I became a little floppier. A little more relaxed.
I stepped out of the car and scurried up the grassy path. I let myself in through the back door and was immediately hit by the scent of lemon and garlic.
Grace and Gran sat at the table in the wood-paneled dining room, heads bobbing with polite conversation. They didn’t even look up when I entered, which showed how deaf they were getting. I wasn’t exactly light on my feet lately.
“I made it.”
They swiveled, then beamed, in unison. Grace, in particular, lit up. Or maybe it was her orange lipstick and psychedelic dress that gave the effect. Something green—a bean, maybe?—was lodged between her front teeth and the wind had done a number on her hair. Her bangs hung low over her eyes. She reminded me of a fluffy, red sheep dog.
“Sorry I’m late,” I said.
“Babies don’t care if you have dinner plans, Neva,” Gran said. A smile pressed into her unvarnished face. “No one knows that better than us.”
I kissed them both, then dropped into the end chair. Half a chicken remained, as well as a few potatoes and carrots and a dish of green beans. A pitcher of ice-water sat in the center with a little mint floating in it, probably from Gran’s garden. Gran reached for the serving spoons and began loading up my plate. “Lil hiding?”
Lil, Gran’s painfully shy partner of nearly eight years, was always curiously absent for our monthly dinners. When Gran had announced their relationship, and as such, her orientation, Grace had been thrilled. She’d yearned her whole life for a family scandal to prove how perfectly tolerant she was. Still, I had a bad feeling her avid displays of broadmindedness (one time she referred to Gran and Lil as her “two mommies”) were the reason Lil made herself scarce when we were around.
Gran sighed. “You know Lil.”
“Mom’s not the only one who can bring a partner along, Neva,” Grace said. “If you’d like to bring a guy alo—”
“Good idea.” I stabbed some chicken with my fork. “I’ll bring Dad next time.”
Grace scowled, but one of my favorite things about her was that her attention span was short. “Anyway, birthday girl. How does it feel? The last year of your twenties?”
I speared a potato. “I don’t know.” How did I feel? “I guess I’m—”
“I’ll tell you how I feel,” Grace said. “Old. Feels like yesterday I was in labor with you.” Grace’s voice was soft, wistful. “Remember the moment we clapped eyes on her, Mom? All that red hair and porcelain skin. We thought you’d be an actress or a model for sure.”
I swallowed my mouthful with a little difficulty. “You’re not happy I followed you into midwifery, Grace?”
“Happy? Why, I’m only the proudest mom in world! Of course, I still wish you’d come and work with me, doing home-births. No doctors hovering about with their forceps, no sick people ready to cough all over the precious new babies—”
“There are no doctors or sick people at the birthing center, Mom.”
“Delivering in the comfort of one’s own home, it’s just …”
“Magical.” She sighed. “Oh! I nearly forgot.” She reached for her purse and plucked out a flat, hand-wrapped gift. “This is from your father and me.”
“Wow … You shouldn’t have.”
“Nonsense. It’s your birthday.”
Gran and I exchanged a glance. Of course Grace had ignored the no gifts directive. The one thing I’d wanted for my birthday. I hated gifts. The embarrassment of receiving them. The awkwardness of opening them in public. And, if it was from Grace, the pressure of ensuring my face was adequately arranged to demonstrate sheer delight, a wonder that I’d ever been able to get through life before this particular ornament or treasure.
Go on.” She pressed her hands together and wriggled her fingers. “Open it.”
An image of my thirteenth birthday flashed into my mind—the first time since elementary school that I had agreed to a party. Maybe it was the fact that I was in the middle of my second-ever period, and was cramping, bleeding, and wearing a surfboard sized maxi-pad in my underwear, that skewed my judgment. Grace wasn’t happy when I insisted we keep it small, just four girls from school, and she was positively broken-hearted when I refused party games of any sort, but she didn’t push her luck. With hindsight, that should have been my first clue. My friends and I had just got settled in the front room when Grace burst in.
“Can I have your attention, please?” she said. “As you know, today is Neva’s thirteenth birthday. We are celebrating her becoming a teenager.”
She looked like a children’s stage performer, smiling so brightly I thought her face might crack into three, clean pieces. I willed her to vanish in a cloud of smoke taking with her the previous two minutes, and the crimson, crushed-velvet dress she had changed into. But any notion that this might happen faded as quickly as my friends’ smiles.
“My baby is no longer a baby. Her body is changing and growing. She’s experiencing the awakening of a vital force that brings woman the ability to create life. You may not know this, but the traditional name for first menstruation is ‘menarche.’”
Panic broke out; a swarm of moths over my heart. I no longer wanted Grace to disappear and take the last two minutes—I wanted her to take my future. To take Monday, when I would have to go to school and face the fact that I was a social outcast, now and forever. To take the coming few weeks, when I would have to go about my life, pretending I didn’t hear the whispers and sniggers.
“In some cultures,” she continued, oblivious, “menarche inspires song, dance and celebration. In Morocco, girls receive clothes, money, and gifts. Japanese families celebrate a daughter’s menarche by eating red rice and beans. In some parts of India, girls are given a ceremony and are dressed in the finest clothes and jewelry the family can buy. I know for you young ones it can seem embarrassing, or heaven forbid, dirty. But it’s not. It is the most sacred things in the world, and not to be hidden away, but celebrated. So, in honor of Neva’s menarche, and probably some of yours too,” she glanced at my friends, “I thought it might be fun to do like the Apache Indians here in North America, and …” She paused for effect … “dance. I’ve learned a chant and we can—”
I can’t believe I let it go on for as long as I did. “Grace.”
Grace’s smile remained in place as she met my eye. “What is it, darling?”
“Just … stop.”
I barely breathed the words, but I know she heard it, because her smile fell like a kite from the sky on a windless day. A steely barrier formed around my heart. Yes, she’d gone to a lot of trouble, but she’d left me no choice. “Dad!”
Our house was small; I knew he would hear me. He appeared a few seconds later, his wide eyes confirming he’d heard the urgency in my voice. He surveyed the room. The horrified faces of my friends. The abundance of red everywhere—Grace’s dress, the balloons, the new cushions which amazingly, I had only just noticed. He clasped Grace’s shoulders and guided her out, despite her determined protest and genuine puzzlement.
But now, as Grace hovered over me, I didn’t have Dad to help me. I turned the gift over and began to open it tentatively, starting with the cello-tape at one end.
“It’s not a puzzle, darling. You’re not meant to unpeel every little bit of tape, you’re meant to do this!”
Grace lunged at the gift with such vigor she rammed the table with her hip. Ice cubes tinkled. The water pitcher did a precarious dance, teetering back and forth before finally deciding to go down. Glass cracked; water gushed. A burst of mint filled the air. I shot to my feet as the water drenched me from the chest down.
Usually, after a commotion such as this, it is loud. People assigned blame, gave instructions, located brooms and towels. This time it was eerily quiet. Gran and Grace stared at the mound that was impossible to hide under my now-clinging shirt. For once my mother couldn’t seem to find any words.
“Yes,” I said. I cupped my belly, protecting it from what, I knew, was about to be let loose. “I’m pregnant.
Did you get chills? Do you now WANT this book? Oh, gosh, I hope so!
The giveaway is open internationally! It will end February 17th! Check the Rafflecopter link for more info:
Happy Reading and Bookishly Yours,
T @ Traveling With T