- Published: 21 March 2023
- ISBN: 9780241628270
- Imprint: Viking
- Format: Trade Paperback
- Pages: 400
- RRP: $32.99
THE INSTANT NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER
For the first six days of William Waters’s life, he was not an only child. He had a three-year-old sister, a redhead his parents named Caroline after John F. Kennedy’s daughter. There were home videos of Caroline in which William’s father was laughing, a sound William never heard again.
His father’s face looked open, and the tiny redhead, who pulled her dress over her face and ran in giggling circles in one of the movies, was apparently the reason. Caroline developed a fever and cough while William and his mother were in the hospital, after his birth. When they came home, the little girl seemed to be on the mend, but the cough was still bad, and when her parents went into her room to get her one morning, they found her dead in her crib.
William’s parents never mentioned Caroline, while William was growing up. There was one photograph of her on the end table in the living room, which William traveled to occasionally, in order to convince himself that he’d actually had a sister. The family moved to a navy-shingled house on the other side of Newton—a suburb of Boston—and in that house, William was an only child. His father was an accountant who worked long hours downtown. With his daughter gone, the man’s face never opened again. William’s mother smoked cigarettes and drank neat bourbon in the living room, sometimes alone and sometimes with a female neighbor. She had a collection of ruffled aprons that she wore while preparing meals, and she became agitated whenever one became stained or messy.
“Maybe you shouldn’t wear the aprons while you cook,” William said once, when his mother was red-faced and on the verge of tears over a dark blotch of gravy on the fabric. “You could tuck a dishtowel in your belt instead, like Mrs. Kornet does.”
His mother looked at him as if he’d spoken in Greek. William said, “Mrs. Kornet, who lives next door? Her dishtowel?”
From the age of five, William would walk to the nearby park most afternoons with a basketball, because basketball, unlike baseball or football, was an activity he could play alone. There was a neglected outdoor court that usually had a hoop free, and he would shoot for hours, pretending he was a Celtics player. Bill Russell was his favorite, but to be Russell you needed someone else to block or defend against. Sam Jones was the best shooter, so William was usually Jones. He tried to imitate the guard’s perfect shooting form, and pretended the trees that surrounded the court were cheering fans.
“Since death is certain, but the time of death is uncertain, what is the most important thing?” — PEMA CHÖDRÖN
From the moment she steps out into the laneway before her morning shift, Hazel Bates, tea lady at Empire Fashionwear, has the curious feeling of being watched.
Curtis McCoy was early for his ten o’clock meeting so he carried his coffee to a table by the window where he could feel the watery April sun.
Robin notices her three times on the trail, nodding a friendly hello as friendly hellos are expected here, before she stops to introduce herself: Lucy.
There’s a hospital room at the end of a life where someone, right in the middle of the floor, has pitched a green tent.
What is the worst present you’ve ever received for Christmas?
Number two highlight of my thirty-ninth birthday: an extremely fit policewoman calling me interesting in front of some very hard to impress neighbours.