I’m a huge fan of the books published by Legend Press and am thrilled to feature another from them today: Petals and Stones by Joanne Burn. I have a wonderful extract to share from Petals and Stones and a chance for a lucky UK reader to win their own copy.
Petals and Stones was published on 6th September 2018 and is available for purchase here.
Petals and Stones
When Uma discovers her husband’s infidelity just hours before his untimely death, the carefully woven threads of her life begin to unravel.
Struggling to manage the grief of those around her, she escapes to a remote cottage by the coast where she swims in the winter sea, cooks the forgotten Keralan dishes of her childhood and begins the search for her husband’s lover.
It isn’t long before Uma realises what she must do to pick up the tattered threads of her life. But will her choices jeopardise the only family she has left?
An Extract from Petals and Stones
Holly’s dark ringlets and olive skin meant the two of them were easily mistaken for mother and daughter. The shopkeeper – her elbows and heavy chest resting on the counter top, her long grey hair slicked behind her ears – seemed to make that assumption, exchanging knowing looks with Uma as Holly brushed her fingertips across the chocolate bars and packets of sweets.
‘So lovely at this age…’ the shopkeeper said, offering Uma the kind of smile that said how lucky you are, how lovely she is, how proud you must be. ‘I always wanted a daughter but all I got was boys.’
If she had asked directly then Uma would have put her straight. But she didn’t, and Uma let the untruth stand beside them like another customer waiting to be served. A deception of sorts, but nothing like an outright lie.
Outside, the snow blew into their eyes and mouths despite their generous layers of wool and fleece and all attempts to turn their faces from the bitter gusts. They walked, heads down, Uma squeezing Holly’s hand through their gloves in silent encouragement.
‘I’m cold, Auntie Uma,’ Holly whimpered eventually, two streets from home.
‘If we walk quickly, we’ll be back in no time.’
Holly was slowing, resisting the tugging of Uma’s hand, bowing her face towards the snow beneath her feet.
‘We just need to keep going,’ said Uma.
She thought of the log burner in the kitchen, the gentle warmth of the underfloor heating, the fairy lights she had strung around the place once the days had shortened. She imagined them sinking into plump cushions as they snuggled together to watch the television.
‘Think how nice it will be, once we’re home.’
The steps up to the house were buried, hardly discernible beneath the snow, and they kicked until they found the stone, making a game of it.
Inside the house, they stamped their feet, shedding their sod-den clothes and scattering an icy slush across the hallway tiles.
‘Your phone is ringing Auntie Uma.’
‘Is it?’ Uma said, straining to hear, faintly making out the sound. ‘What brilliant ears you have!’
She ran to the kitchen and snatched up the handset. You have new messages. Please wait to be connected to your messaging service. Holly appeared in the kitchen, making straight for the wood burner, flopping onto the rug and lifting her feet towards the glass.
‘Not too close.’
Uma sighed. They were an annoyance, these occasional, accidental text messages that came through to the landline – hard to decipher the robotic text translation and tedious to track down the mobile number in her contacts list to work out who it was from. Uma reached for a pad from the table and scribbled the number as it was given.
Message received today at 3.55pm: Missing you already Danny-boy. Why is it never enough? xxx
Motionless, she looked at the numbers on the paper.
To listen to the message again press one. To save it press two. To delete it press three.
Uma took the phone from her ear, looked down at the keypad and carefully, heart quickening, pressed one. The message played again. Missing you already Danny-boy. Danny-boy? Who would address him so affectionately? His mother didn’t call him Danny-boy. His sisters didn’t call him Danny-boy. And why is what never enough?
A sense of unease, slow and cautious, seeped through her. She saved the message and replaced the phone in its cradle, staying where she was, looking through the window at the large garden that swept down towards the stream at the bottom. Everything familiar had been erased by white. Every shape and contour had been muffled beyond recognition by a thick blanket of snow. She became aware of Holly speaking, reaching up her little hands to pull on Uma’s arm, taking her fingers, leading her towards the cupboards on the other side of the kitchen.
‘I’m hungry Auntie Uma. I need a snack.’
She looked down at her Goddaughter. She was perfect – crazy ringlets, flawless skin, the tiniest scar from her lip operation. Her gaze rested on Uma, trusting her needs to be met.
‘A snack,’ Uma repeated, allowing herself to be manoeuvred. She took bread from the bread bin and cut it with a knife, dropping it into the toaster.
‘Can I have chocolate spread?’
‘Peanut butter would be better,’ Uma said, her voice a whisper. ‘Don’t you think? You’ve got your sweeties too so I think peanut butter would be better. And some orange juice.’
Holly didn’t argue, and fetched her special plate and cup. They were heavy crockery with pictures of Pooh and Piglet. Uma had bought them when she first agreed to have Holly after school once a week. She had been aware of her efforts to make it special, of her craving for the child to like her – to really like her. Pippa, Holly’s mother, had laughed at the expensive crockery. You want plastic, she had said, picking up the plate and turning it over in her hands. She’ll throwthis straight on the floor. But somehow, even as a toddler, Holly had known not to throw things. And now, of course, she loved her Pooh and Piglet plate, and how grown up it felt to be trusted with something so lovely.
Uma put the snack in front of Holly and left the room. She sat on the bottom step of the stairs, the paper with the scribbled number on it trembling in her hands. She checked the number against her contacts list, but it wasn’t recognised. She dialled it – no idea what she intended to say – but it rang out and went through to voicemail. She listened to the voice-text message again, as if she needed to, as if every word hadn’t already become a song she had known forever, a song she couldn’t prevent from repeating. Missing you already Danny-boy.
Her confusion was merging slowly, inescapably, with suspicion, and a looming certainty that she knew what this was. She was trying to turn away from it but it was everywhere she looked. Her face was hot, her mouth dry. And Daniel was having an affair. Her husband was doing that thing that people do.
Uma grabbed handfuls of her jumper, pulling the soft wool to cover her face, images of him kissing another woman, his hands against imaginary skin, running through her mind.
(I don’t know about you, but that has made me determined to read Petals and Stones as soon as I can.)
About Joanne Burn
After studying politics at the University of Sheffield Joanne worked in the charitable sector, for various homelessness and community development organisations. In 2004 Joanne trained as a life coach, and specialises now in creativity coaching. She lives in the Peak District with her husband and two daughters.
Petals and Stones is her debut novel.
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A Paperback Copy of Petals and Stones by Joanne Burn
I’m delighted to be able to offer the chance for a lucky UK reader to win a paperback copy of Petals and Stones by Joanne Burn thanks to the lovely folk at Legend Press.
For your chance to enter click here.
Giveaway closes at UK midnight on Thursday 4th October 2018 and once the winner is identified and their address to receive their prize passed to Legend Press, please note that I will not retain any of your data!