Can love really heal all things? If Sam Carroll hadn't shown up, she might have been able to get to her mother in time. Instead, Allie Everly finds herself at a funeral, mourning the loss of her beloved mother. She is dealt another blow when, a few hours later, she is sent from Tennessee to Maine to become the daughter of Miss Beatrice Lovell, a prim woman with a faith Allie cannot accept. Poetry and letters written to her mother become the only things keeping Allie's heart from hardening completely. But then Sam arrives for the summer, and with him comes many confusing emotions, both toward him and the people around her. As World War II looms, Allie will be forced to decide whether hanging on to the past is worth losing her chance to be loved.
Allie, 13-years-old stumbled outside half-asleep with her mother to look at the stars in the night sky. Allie’s Mama wanted her to be a writer someday. Allie was born in 1925, the same year her Mama turned forty-seven. Mama always referred to Allie as her “miracle baby”. All they had was each other.
The next morning there was a knock at the door and when Allie opened it, much to her surprise was Sam Carroll. “Happy Birthday, Allie are you fourteen now”? “Yes”, replied Allie. “Are you having a party”? “No!” “Are you expecting anyone else then?” “No!” Allie’s Mama directed the two of them out to the backyard to drink lemonade. After pouring it into their glasses, one of Allie’s Mama’s hands began to shake. She crossed her hands and put them behind her back and she was shivering. Sam was thoroughly enjoying the homemade chocolate chip cookies that Allie had made. It was her grandmother’s recipe.
Allie and her Mama lived in Tennessee and Allie loved to sit outside to watch the sunset and take in the magnificent beauty of the Tennessee hills. Allie took out her sketch pad and new set of chalks and began filling in the colours of the sinking sun going down behind the old white church. Fiery red, burnt orange, creamy yellow.
In the middle of the night Allie was suddenly awoken by a shrill screaming which she immediately recognized as her mother’s. Hurrying to her Mama’s room she tried to soothe her as best she could. Mama saw a bird and a snake but Allie told her they were both gone now and she was safe – Mama asked Allie: “Will you stay with me tonight?” Allie swallowed a lump in her throat and replied: “Of course, Mama. I’ll stay.”
The next day, Sam came calling after being away visiting his Aunt Rachel for 3 weeks he was going to go on another picnic today with Allie and her Mama.
Six years ago, Mama’s husband had left her and Allie, and now Mama had brain cancer and was dying. There was no one to take care of her except Allie. Dr. Murphy told Allie that her Mama: “...showed all the symptoms of brain cancer. Possibly even a tumor.” Mama was dying and Doc Murphy told Allie she had to be: “…prepared for anything.” The doctor also told Allie that without treatment, her Mama would decline quickly until she had to feed her, dress her, and take care of her full-time. Allie, nor her Mama had enough money to pay for the treatments. Allie’s job was to make her Mama happy in order to keep her with her. The doctor said that as long as Mama could remember she’d be fine. But she couldn’t remember.
Mama fell out of a tree, she’s always doing crazy things and now she is in the hospital. Dr. Murphy told Allie there was nothing he or Allie could do for her other than keep her comfortable. He said he could arrange at-home-care with nurses working around the clock so Mama could die at home. Mama’s breathing was becoming laboured and poor Allie was saying: “No, no! with all my heart I beg God to help her. Fix her. Heal her. I’ll do whatever it takes. Just please. Please don’t take her from me.” It suddenly dawned on Allie to play the piano, she had been practising for her birthday. She walked to the piano and began to play the cheeriest song she knew. Song after song she played, her fingers stumbling as her tears threatened to burst forth.
Mama had stopped breathing and Allie knew it, but shoved it down deep in her chest, refusing to believe it. But on August 14, 1939 Mama died and Allie wished she had her back. She felt like all the happy things in the world had died except for her.
A Mrs. Pamela Dewsbury introduced herself to Allie at the funeral and said she was from the adoption agency. She instructed Allie to pack her things so they could catch the six o’clock train. Allie was going to live with what Mrs. Dewsbury called a compatible adult. Allie was also informed that the majority of her things would be sold in order to pay for Mama’s funeral. She was only allowed to take one suitcase of things with her, and she must leave her beloved cat, Daphne, at home as she was going to Maine!
Soon they pulled into an unfamiliar driveway, they met Allie’s new caretaker, Miss Beatrice. She was a middle-aged woman, about 50 or so, tall and very skinny with graying hair, high cheekbones, and blue eyes covered by steel gray reading glasses.
After spending her first night in Maine, Allie awoke to a breakfast of oatmeal. Once breakfast was done, Miss Beatrice took Allie on a tour of the huge beautiful home she now found herself living in. Then Miss Beatrice took Allie to one of the “poshest” stores she had ever seen. She purchased a Sunday dress, four or five school dresses, night things, underthings, and shoes. Allie had never worn such fine clothes.
The next stop they made was “Goodey’s” restaurant where Allie met Irene Goodey, Miss Beatrice’s daughter. She and her husband, Daniel where given the money by Beatrice to start the restaurant up. Allie suddenly felt very alone, tired, homesick, and empty. Next stop was Allie’s new school, 9th Grade and she’d made a friend already, Charlie, short for, Charlotte.
At the end of her first full day, Allie sat down on the window seat and wrote her deceased mother a letter: “Sept. 19, 1939…They sky is alive tonight, Mama with thousands of sparkling stars. Usually they’re grand and silent, but tonight they’re feisty and bold. The last one on the Big Dipper keeps winking at me! I know you said heaven doesn’t exist, Mama but I wish I knew where you were right now. I heard a little girl once say that her baby sister died and became a star…Are you a star now, Mama smiling down on me? Why did you leave me, Mama? Why? Why did you leave me by myself?”
Soon Sam Carroll shows up a Miss Beatrice’s door, he is staying next door with his Aunt Rachel. Come to think about it, have you wondered yet just how Allie ended up being adopted by Miss Beatrice who just happens to live next door to Sam’s aunt? Keep reading, this is a powerful story and one that will tug at your heart-strings.
Although this novel was geared for ages 15 to 18, I found it highly enjoyable and would recommend it for both youth and adults. Great read!
THANK YOU to NET GALLEY for the preview copy!