Cathy Kelly Homecoming

ISBN 13: 9780007240449

Homecoming

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9780007240449: Homecoming

From #1 international bestselling author Cathy Kelly comes a witty, warmhearted novel about friendship, forgiveness, and second chances. . . .

Sometimes the only way forward . . .

They say you can’t go home again, and truth be told, Eleanor Levine never planned to. Yet here she is, back in Ireland after a lifetime in New York, moving her treasured possessions—including her mother’s handwritten book of recipes for living—into a cozy Dublin apartment. With its picturesque Georgian villas, redbrick houses, and central garden, the Golden Square is just large enough for anonymity. At least, that’s what actress Megan Bouchier hopes, when a tabloid scandal sends her fleeing the paparazzi, back to the place she felt safest as a child.

. . . is the road that takes you home.

Rae, manager of the local café, has noticed the lovely, sad-eyed girl. There’s little Rae doesn’t notice, and every customer feels nourished by her food and her kindness, yet Rae’s own secret remains hidden. Connie O’Callaghan—with her fortieth birthday looming—has a secure teaching job, an abundance of blessings . . . and a deep-seated loneliness only her new neighbor Eleanor understands. And as the lives of the four women intertwine, each in her own way is learning about love, letting go—and that finding your way can lead to the last place you expected.

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About the Author:

Cathy Kelly is the author of six other novels, all of which were #1 bestsellers in Ireland, as well as top ten bestsellers in England. Someone Like You was the Parker RNA Romantic Novel of the Year. Cathy lives in County Wicklow, Ireland, with her husband and their twin sons.

Excerpt. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

1
New Year

It didn’t take long for Eleanor Levine to unpack her things in the apartment in Golden Square. She’d brought just two suitcases on the flight from New York to Dublin. For a simple holiday, two suitcases would probably be too much luggage. But for the sort of trip Eleanor planned, she was traveling light.

When she’d arrived at the hotel in the center of the city just two weeks before Christmas, the receptionist had simply nodded politely when Eleanor said she might need the room for more than the three weeks she’d booked beforehand. Nothing shocked hotel receptionists, even elegant elderly ladies with limited luggage who arrived alone and appeared to have no due date to leave.

Equally, nobody looked askance at Eleanor when she gently turned down the invitation to book for the full Christmas lunch in the hotel’s restaurant and instead asked for an omelet and a glass of prosecco in her room. After a lifetime spent in New York, a city where doing your own thing and not apologizing for it was almost mandatory, it was comforting to find the same behavior had traveled across the Atlantic to the country of her birth. It wasn’t what she’d expected, truth to tell. But then, it was so long since she’d been home, she didn’t really know what to expect.

On the plane journey, still reeling from having left her warm, cozy apartment and her family behind her, Eleanor had thought about the Ireland she was about to see. She’d left over seventy years before in the steerage of a giant steamship, a serious eleven-year-old traveling to the New World with her mother and her aunt. Their belongings had fitted in a couple of cardboard suitcases, and her mother, Brigid, held the family’s meager fortune in a purse round her neck.

Now here she was, returning with several platinum credit cards, a line of letters after her name, and a lifetime of experience behind her.

Apart from Eleanor herself, only one thing had made both trips: her mother’s recipe book.

Now that she’d put her toiletries in the master bedroom’s en suite bathroom and had unpacked her clothes and books, she took a white shoebox out of the second suitcase.

Her wedding shoes, white satin pumps from Christian Dior, had lived in the box for many years until she’d given them to her daughter, Naomi, for her prom night.

Now her granddaughter, Gillian, borrowed them from time to time, wearing them with the full-skirted vintage dresses that had been all the rage during Mr. Dior’s New Look in 1947. Like many modern teenagers, Gillian loved wearing vintage and often visited her grandmother proudly bearing something she’d paid $50 for, and which was a replica of something Eleanor had thrown out twenty years previously. Fashion comes full circle, Eleanor thought, smiling.

Thousands of miles away from Gillian, Naomi, and life in New York, Eleanor tenderly opened her box of treasures. None of them were treasures in any monetary sense. But as tokens from a life lived with great happiness, they were treasures indeed. There was a dyed-black ostrich-feather mask from a Halloween party, the silk ribbon still tied in a knot from the last time she’d worn it, half a century before. A single pressed rose was visible through the thin layer of tissue in which it lay. Ralf had given her the rose as a corsage one night at a ritzy white-tie affair at the St. Regis Hotel. Under the tissue, the dried-out petals were featherlight.

There was the shell-like gold compact she’d been so proud of when she was twenty-five, the gold paint tarnished now and the pinky powder nothing but a dusty remnant on the inside rim. There was red lipstick in its black-and-gold case. Manhattan Red. It had been all the rage in 1944, a color to brighten lips and hearts.

There were love letters, too, from her beloved Ralf, some with humble elastic bands around them; others, bound with ribbon. He’d loved writing letters and cards. There was permanence in the written word, he’d believed. One was the letter he’d penned when their daughter, Naomi, was born, an incredible forty-five years ago.

“I will love you and our daughter forever,” he’d concluded. She knew it by heart. Eleanor’s fingers brushed the filmy folded paper but she didn’t open it. She couldn’t bear to see the words written in Ralf’s neat, precise hand. Perhaps she’d be too sad ever to read his letters again.

There were drawings and cards from her daughter, Naomi, so infinitely precious with their big, childish writing. Though it seemed so long ago since Naomi had written them, they still made Eleanor’s heart sing. Naomi had been such a beautiful-hearted child and she’d grown up into an equally wonderful adult.

The third important thing in her treasure box was another collection of writings: her mother’s recipe book. Originally, it had been covered with simple brown card, but decades ago Eleanor had glued shiny Christmas wrapping paper on the cover, and now faded golden stars twinkled alongside burnished red and green holly sprigs.

The extra pages, added over the years, made the book bulky, and a lavender wool, crocheted rope kept the whole thing tied together. It was all handwritten in her mother’s sloping italics, sometimes in pencil that had faded with age, sometimes in the deep blue ink her mother had favored.

Like Ralf’s letters and Naomi’s innocent little notes in their awkward writing, the recipe book was a source of huge comfort, a talisman to be held close to her chest when her heart was breaking. It had comforted Eleanor all her life and it comforted her now.

Nobody glancing at the battered recipe book would guess at the wisdom inside it. People, especially people today, thought that wisdom had to come from experts with letters after their names. Eleanor herself had plenty of those—the hoops psychoanalysts had to jump through meant half an alphabet could go after Eleanor Levine’s name.

But two things had taught Eleanor that people with little academic history often knew more than the most scholarly person.

One was her mother, Brigid.

The other was her own vast experience of life.

Eleanor was now eighty-three and she’d lived those eight-three years with gusto.

Brigid had taught her to do that. And so much more.

Eleanor had been schooled at some of the finest universities in the United States, while her mother had scraped merely a few years of education in a tiny Connemara village school where each of the children had to bring a sod of turf every day to keep the fire alight. Yet Brigid had been born with all the wisdom of the earth in her bones and a kindness in her heart that meant she saw the world with a forgiving eye.

During her years working as a psychoanalyst in New York, Eleanor had discovered that bitterness ate away at people’s insides just as effectively as any disease.

People spent years in therapy simply to learn what Brigid O’Neill had known instinctively.

The recipe book was where she’d written all of this wisdom down for her daughter.

At some point, the recipes and the little notes she’d written in the margins had taken on a life of their own.

Brigid’s recipe book had never really been a simple book of how to cook. It was a book on how to live life, full of the knowledge of a gentle countrywoman who’d lived off the land and had to use her common sense and an innate Celtic intuition to survive.

Eleanor had often wondered if her mother had more spiritual awareness than normal people. Some sort of instinct that the modern world had lost and was always trying to regain. For certain, her recipe book contained a hint of magic. Perhaps it was just the magic of food and life.

And really, food and life were so intertwined, Eleanor thought. Her mother’s life had been lived with the kitchen stove always nearby. Feeding people and nurturing them was a gift in itself. The old religions that made a point of the power of the feast had understood that. Food was about hope, rebirth, community, family, and a nourishment that went beyond the purely physical.

Like the mashed potato with the puddle of melting butter in the middle and spring onions chopped in that you ate when you were feeling blue. Or the chicken soup made when there was nothing to eat but leftovers, but which when mixed together with skill and love and a hint of garlic became a melting broth that would warm your heart.

Or the taste of fresh berries on juice-stained lips in bed with the man you loved.

Eleanor thought of a man she’d shared a warm bed and strawberries with once upon a time.

Even sixty years later, she could still remember the sheen of his skin and the way her fingers had played upon the muscles of his shoulders as they lay together in a cocoon of love.

It wasn’t something she could share with anyone now. People tended to be scandalized if an octogenarian mentioned sex. Ridiculous, really. A bit like being shocked at the notion that a vintage Ford from the 1930s had ever driven on the roads. She smiled.

She’d told Ralf about that man, her first lover, when they were first courting.

“I don’t want secrets between us,” she’d said.

And Ralf had understood. Because he knew that the lovemaking he and Eleanor shared far exceeded anything she’d enjoyed with the man with the strawberries.

Ralf had loved cheese, little bits of French Brie dripping off a cracker onto the plate, as they lay in their scrumpled bed and talked after making love.

She’d introduced him to Turkish apple tea, which somehow went with the cheese. He’d showed her how to make kneidlach, the little kosher dough balls he’d loved as a child. Some of their happiest moments—and there had been many, many happy moments—had been spent enjoying meals.

Food made it all better.

She’d loved it when they would wander out for dinner...

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