Ronni Sunshine left London for Hollywood in the sixties to become a beautiful, charismatic star of the silver screen. But at home, she was a narcissistic, disinterested mother who alienated her three daughters. Still, when Ronni discovers she has a serious illness, she calls her now-adult girls home to fulfill her final wishes.
Nell, Meredith, and Lizzy are all going through crises of their own. But as their mother’s illness draws them together to confront old jealousies and secret fears, they discover that blood might be thicker than water after all.
And now I am delighted to reveal this beautiful cover. I am so excited to share it with you and can’t wait to hear what you think!
I am notoriously bad at booking things. Part of the problem is that I do things very quickly, and don’t have the patience to study the details. Invariably I am disappointed that things are not what I expect.
I also have an assistant who is very, very similar to me. This is why I completely adore her, but we are both disastrous at things like booking travel. I just want to get it done, as does she, and neither of us ever realize how long and complicated things can be, until I am actually on the road.
Eldest daughter was desperate for a spa day once we got to Lithuania, so I decided to treat the two girls, and my husband and myself. I am not good at spa days. I am spectacularly low-maintenance when it comes to looking after myself. It’s all I can do to get myself to a hairdresser a couple of times a year, let alone do things like facials and massages. It just isn’t in my DNA, but I decided to splurge.
I have no idea what I googled, but I came up with an amazing looking resort, just outside of Vilnius, that looked more like it belonged in Fiji than in Lithuania. It had Tiki huts on stilts on a lake, and was offering spa days that included massage, facials, steam room, saunas. And all for a ridiculously bargain price. I immediately booked four spa days, congratulating myself on my find.
Vilnius is very beautiful, particularly the old town. The taxi picked us up and wound us through town, before taking us to the countryside, which is rather grey and dismal. About twenty minutes later we pulled into a long driveway, at the end of which stood our resort.
I can’t say the pictures didn’t do it justice, because I’m not sure there were pictures of the front of the resort. It was very…. Well. I’m not too sure I can find the right words. It was huge, and empty. There was lots of orange wood that had been lacquered in high gloss, and slightly musty sage green carpets.
The spa was in the bowels of the hotel, and was empty, save for a woman with a hoover in the ladies changing room, which was vast, and marble, and smelled dank, as if it hadn’t been used for years.
It felt like a relic from Communist Russia. Our two girls looked at me, wide-eyed. We changed into threadbare robes, then made our way upstairs, to a few sunloungers outside. The sun-loungers were in a bed of weeds, at which point, I got the giggles.
“See?” I said to Beloved, who frequently says I was rather grand when we met. “You’ve knocked all the princess out of me.”
“And you’ve now gone lower than I ever would,” he responded, with a grin, at which point I looked around at the weeds, and became vaguely hysterical – I started laughing so hard, I was doubled over in pain.
“Can we, er, bounce?” said eldest daughter. As a famous newspaper used to often say, we made our excuses and left. And I have now been told that I am never to be put in charge of spa treatments again.
Years ago I saw a George Clooney movie called Up In the Air, in which he played a traveller so seasoned, he never ever checked his bag. Since that time, I have lived my life in a Clooneyesque manner, never ever checking my bag. It doesn’t matter where I travel, nor for how long, I manage to fit everything into my carry-on.
I have always been something of a light packer. My most important item has always been my hairdryer. I once travelled Europe with a backpack the size of the one my children take to school every day. It contained a handful of T-shirts and clean knickers, and a very large powerful hairdryer.
But my recent trip to Sweden, Iceland and Lithuania proved to be more challenging. Sweden required city clothes, and Iceland, layers of warm clothing including hiking boots and rainproof jackets. Lithuania was going to be hot again, and I had cocktail parties and perhaps dinner with other people, so needed something vaguely nice.
In other words, there was no way in hell I was going to be sticking to carry on. It was just this once, I figured; what could possibly happen?
I remembered we had an enormous suitcase in the basement, which I dragged out, and proceeded to fill to the brim. It was so full, it was groaning. I wasn’t sure it would make it without splitting.
The suitcase did very well in Stockholm, and Iceland, but sadly Scandinavian Airlines lost it somewhere between Iceland and Lithuania. Three of our suitcases went missing, and there was no-one to help us, nor answer our increasingly desperate plea.
After a couple of days, we learned our suitcases had been sent to Poland. We weren’t sure why, but it was quite clear it was going to be a while until we would be reunited.
And so I hit the shopping mall next to our hotel in Vilnius. Oh dear. This was not the smart shopping mall, this was the one filled with multi-colored polyester kaftans. Reader, I really tried. I am firmly of the belief that if you have a good eye, you can always find something good, and I very much believe that I have a good eye, but I couldn’t do it. No matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t make the green and orange floaty nylon top work.
Eventually we discovered another shopping center. By this time we were all starting to smell, and drastic measures were needed. There was an H & M, which we all pounced on with glee. By this time, I was fed up, and tired, and not in the mood to try anything on. I gathered a handful of T-shirts, a pair of jeans, and on the way out, in a slightly dodgy shoe store, found some sandals that seemed the height of fashion in Lithuania, plus enough make-up to ensure I felt like me. Back at the hotel I discovered that nothing looked very good, but by then I was determined to make-do.
Our luggage arrived after four days. I have never been so happy to see my hairdryer, and my clothes. I celebrated with a hair wash, and I have decided that no matter the circumstances, I will never, ever be checking luggage again.
A few months ago my whole family discovered something brilliant on our iphones – an app called Find my Friends. I added all my children, and Beloved, and they did the same to me.
This is particularly brilliant for me at this stage of life because of the following scenario which occurred multiple times during any given week. What are you doing this morning, I will ask Beloved, on a Sunday morning. He will say words, and I will respond by making approving noises or telling him to have a good time, and a few minutes later I will ask him again what he is doing this morning. He will look at me in disbelief, and then say more words, that may or may not be the same as the words he said before, and I will nod approvingly and pretend that I am listening, and two hours later, when I realize he is nowhere to be found, I will send him an angry text asking where the hell he is.
He will then tell me that he has told me repeatedly where he is going, and I will deny it furiously, with every fibre of my being, convinced that he has not told me, and that he is in fact gas-lighting me by making me feel completely crazy. I will not, for one second, ever, admit that a lot of the time I do not listen to him. I will not, for one second, ever, admit that there is so much going on in my head all of the time, that even if I am looking at people, smiling, and nodding, the chances are that in my head I am thinking about something completely different.
I blame ADD. Which is besides the point. Since adding Beloved to Find my Friends, rather than send him furious texts or phone him demanding to know where he is, I click on the link and see that he is at the gym. Oh yes, I think, now I remember him telling me that. Or I see that he is in a neighboring town. Ah yes, think I, I do vaguely recall him mentioning lunch with a business colleague who lives over there.
Find my Friends has done wonders for our relationship. He no longer things he is married to an angry crazy woman with early-onset dementia, and I no longer find myself despairing over where my husband disappears to. Although, he still disappears. I’m just going out to get some groceries, he will say, and three hours later I will track him on Find my Friends and discover he is at the boatyard, discussing outboard motors for the Boston Whaler.
Beloved also knows where I am all the time. Thankfully, I have nothing to hide, but my goodness, I have no idea how people conduct affairs with all the apps and texts popping up on your screen all the time. I have heard of people who are unfaithful having second phones, but I have a hard enough time keeping track of one phone, let alone two (never mind the fact that I am hopeless at secrets not to mention very happy in my marriage).
I am also busy tracking my children, but I am very careful to pretend that I am not in case they should decide to remove me. I phone them all the time asking where they are, when I can see perfectly well they are at the beach, or at a friend’s house.
Somewhat worryingly I have found myself attempting to track my friends when they are late. I have gone as far as opening the app, wondering where Sophie is, or whether Nicole is on her way, or is Dani back home. And then I remember, this is for family only.
I’d very much like it for my friends, but I think it’s epically stalker-y, and so I will keep on wondering where they are, and I will keep sending texts, having forgotten entirely that they have already told me they are on holiday for two weeks. Hopefully, because they are all women of a certain age, rather than think I am losing my mind, they will know exactly what it’s like.
In the meantime, I’m off to check what Twin B is up to today…
A few weeks ago I was invited to a rather swanky literary dinner at a hotel called The Gramercy Park, in Manhattan. It was to be filled with the great and the good, and not only was I excited for the dinner (and utterly thrilled to have been invited), I couldn’t wait to go back to the Gramercy Park hotel.
The last time I went to the Gramercy Park hotel was in 1996. I had decided to write a modern take on the Cinderella story called Jemima J. I had booked an extended stay in Los Angeles to do the research, and was spending a week beforehand in New York with a girlfriend. We were going just after Christmas, with plans to be in Times Square on New Year’s Eve.
Both of us were young single girls, with little money. We were doing New York on a shoestring, and had booked into a terrible hotel near Times Square with stained furniture and dirty sheets. We lasted one night, before deciding that squalor was not what we had in mind for this trip, and I would use some of my new book advance to upgrade.
Have you ever tried getting a hotel room in New York at Christmas time? We spent hours desperately trying to find a hotel, and the only thing we could find was a suite at the Gramercy Park Hotel.
A suite! It sounded so grand! We discovered the Gramercy Park had hosted The Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan, and The Beatles. U2 had lived there, as had Debbie Harry of Blondie. This was clearly the epitome of cool, and we had to stay there.
The hotel faces a pretty private park, in a lovely neighborhood. I caught my breath as we got out the taxi, and walked in to the hotel, past the dark wood-panelled bar, and exhaled again in vague disappointment when we were taken up to our suite. I remember the carpet being impossibly worn and shabby, in an unflattering shade of green. The hotel was dated and dingy, with an old and fabulous bar filled with New York characters, and we felt incredibly cool staying there.
We were there for a week, and over the final weekend, I fell slightly in love. A friend of a friend was in New York at the same time, and my girlfriend and I spent the day with him. We came back to the suite, and while she was in the bathroom, he kissed me.
We spent the next two days together, as characters in a Nora Ephron romantic chick-flick, circa 1996. It snowed as we held hands walking down Park Avenue. We had snowfights in Central Park then drank hot chocolate in a storied bar. We went up the Empire State Building, before I left for Los Angeles, itching to get back home to London, to see whether this new romance might turn into something more.
So here I am twenty one years later, a married mother, living in Connecticut, standing outside the hotel that truly epitomized my single girl adventures, and it is almost unrecognizable. A few years ago it was transformed into a sleek, stylish, trendy hotel.
The hotel is now beautiful. The party was wonderful, and the food, delicious. I spent the evening looking over my shoulder expecting to see the ghost of the love-struck girl I once was, but she, along with the shabby green carpet, had long since disappeared.
And whilst I loved everything about the evening, and whilst I am so happy and grateful for the way my life has gone and the woman I am now, I have to confess I had a few moments of yearning for just a touch of the hotel I used to know.
July 4th is a very big holiday on this side of the pond. On American Independence Day we fly the flag proudly (the American one), gather with our friends and neighbors and celebrate with a barbeque, and tables filled with disgusting desserts turned red, white and blue with food coloring.
In our neighborhood, there are fireworks at the beach every year, and parties at almost all of the houses. Guests spill from the front yards across the road – closed for the day – and onto the beach. In the old days, when I lived on the other side of town, we braved the traffic to come down to the beach, with a twenty minute drive taking up to an hour. In the past I have assigned the driving to someone else, jumping out of the car and stopping at various people’s houses for glasses of wine on my way down to the beach.
The mood is celebratory, and fun. At the beach, when the children were small, we would set up picnics, and bump into everyone we had ever met. It was social, and happy, and one of my most favorite holidays.
It was crowded, but not too crowded. I have never been good with crowds. I once spent New Year’s Eve watching the ball drop in New Orleans, and as the crowd closed in on me, I had my one and only panic attack. Now I tend to avoid crowds wherever possible, even in my home town.
As the years have gone by I have become more introverted, and the beach has become busier. This year traffic was so bad, one friend drove to our house from her own, fifteen minutes away, and she sat in traffic for almost three hours. It was back-to-back traffic for miles, and the beach was so packed with people, you couldn’t see any sand. In the back, was an area for standing, and hundreds of people were crammed in there, sardine-style, for the firework display. Twin A returned from the beach saying there were so many people there this year, it was utter hell.
Happily for us, we live on a little private street just off the main beach area. We can cross the street to a private beach with a spectacular view of the fireworks, thereby avoiding the crowds entirely. We decided to eat at home with friends, then perhaps wander the beach when it got dark to experience some of the magic.
I made the obligatory barbeque food. For the first time I succumbed to one of those disgustingly decadent desserts, making brown butter Rice Krispie treats with a salted chocolate topping. I alternated spooning the stuff into the pan to set, and into my mouth. Once I had started, I didn’t seem able to stop. We ate smashburgers on pretzel rolls, and hot dogs with sauerkraut. We served corn on the cob and tomato salad. I had no room for the kale and grapefruit salad. Unsurprisingly I often find I have little room for kale.
By the time we thought about strolling along the beach, my stomach was so full, it was actually painful, and a headache was forming. I excused myself, went to bed and had Beloved bring me a mug of mint tea. Outside, I could hear our friends laughing softly, as I snuggled down, drank my tea, and drifted into sleep. All in all, it was about the most perfect July 4th I could ever have imagined. And not once did I have to brave the crowds.
Something strange is happening on book tour this year. It used to be that after I had given a talk and read from my book, I would sit behind a small table, and sign books. The line tended to move quickly, some people having questions that took a little longer, but I signed, made small talk, and left feeling much the same way as I did when I walked in.
Now that we all travel with permanent cameras built into our phones, everyone in that line asks for a picture. For the past couple of events this year, I bounced up and down from my signing table like a jack-in-the-box for pictures to be taken. It was fun, and tiring.
Recently I had an event in Cincinnati. I could tell instantly that this was a room of devoted readers. Mostly because they laughed uproariously at all my jokes, and audibly sighed with pleasure when I mentioned some of my older novels.
It was a wonderful talk. Afterwards I went to my signing table and the first two women came up, iPhones clutched in their hand. I stood up for the photos, sat back down again, stood up, sat down, stood up, and realized (clearly I am a little slow) that this would be much easier if I stayed standing.
I moved from behind the table to in front, and the strangest, and loveliest thing happened. After each picture, every single woman gave me a huge hug.
Now I know this happens to some authors. Glennon Doyle Melton, author of Love Warrior, turns all her events into love-filled hug-fests. I have also seen videos where she sits on the laps of her fans and cuddles them. Please know that this will not be happening at my events. Glennon is teeny tiny. If I were to sit on your lap, I may very well flatten you. The hugs, however, I will gladly take.
My boring old book signing turned into a glorious love fest, and my heart felt like it was going to explode by the end. This is only strange because my mother’s childhood nickname for me was “touch-me-not”. I never liked being touched, by strangers or anyone else, but as I have grown older, I seem to have completely shed that outer protective layer I carried for so long, and now there is nothing I love quite so much as a hug. Especially from a stranger on book tour.
I am fascinated by how I am changing as I am ageing, as I shed the insecurities, the fears, the need to impress or try to be good enough. I feel like I am finally Becoming Jane: more comfortable in my skin, more myself than ever before. And it is precisely by showing those vulnerabilities that enables me to connect with my readers in the way that I do, that ends up in a hug.
And so I have decided that for my solo events, I am never going to sit behind a signing table again. I am going to be standing in front, dispensing signatures, photographs, and many, many hugs.
(Picture is with the delicious Emma Straub, who is not only extremely huggable but the author of the brilliant Modern Lovers, and now bookseller extraordinaire at Books Are Magic in Brooklyn.)
All I want on book tour are events filled with adoring readers, drivers who drive smoothly enough that I don’t get car sick, and quiet hotel rooms with soft pillows.
The only one that is truly important is the quiet hotel room, and regular readers may know I have a history of disasters in that area.
Recently I showed up at very swanky hotel in Boston, after a grueling few days on tour. I couldn’t wait to crawl into bed, order room service, and spend my one day off doing absolutely nothing other than reading in bed and drifting off to sleep.
After an excellent night’s sleep, I spent the morning reading and was just drifting off for a second sleep when I was startled by a loud cacophony of whistles and cheering outside. I looked out the window to see the street outside my hotel had been cordoned off, and was filled with thousands of people, all carrying rainbow flags.
It was Pride march in Boston. I stood in the window in my long white nightie, watching my dreams of sleep and quiet disappear. The crowd looked up, and saw me, ghostlike, in my window, and started waving. I waved back, and then, as a smile spread upon my face, I figured if you can’t beat them, you have to join them.
If you read my novels you will know that I am an unequivocal supporter of gay rights, and that I firmly believe that it doesn’t matter who you love, as long as you love.
My gay male friends (and I have many) ask me if I am sure I am not secretly a gay man. My lesbian friends (and I have many) ask me if I am sure I am not secretly a lesbian.
Perhaps, in another life, I was one of each. I do know that I am fervently and passionately and ardently supportive of gay rights, and that watching that Pride parade brought me to tears. This year marks the 50th anniversary of the Sexual Offences Act in the U.K., which decriminalized homosexual acts between two men in private. How wonderful that today so many are out and proud and accepted.
And yet, after years of growing acceptance of different races, colors, sexualities and genders, we are again living in frightening times with no idea if these past few decades of freedom will soon be a distant memory.
I jumped in that march. Someone gave me a rainbow flag, and I hollered and whooped with the best of them.
It may not have been what I planned for my one day off, but I couldn’t have asked for a more perfect day.
Stan has been living on the porch for the past year, but now that we have finished the kitchen renovation, we have lost the porch. It has now become part of Beloved’s office, and Beloved is not happy with sharing a room with Stan the rabbit.
Because it is summer and because the weather is warm and beautiful, we decided to move Stan and his rabbit palace into the garden for the summer. Surely he would be happier in his natural habitat.
I’m not sure that Stan has ever felt grass before. We moved the hutch into the vegetable garden, with a big pen, and watched as Stan explored, seemingly delighted at being on the grass. Baby the cat, who is Stan’s best friend, immediately jumped into the pen, as Stan bounded over to be groomed. He closed his eyes in heaven as Baby licked his head, then the two played for a bit, as Beloved and I stood and watched, our arms around each other as we congratulated ourselves on what a good thing we had done, on how happy Stan would be, bounding around in nature, with a tempting view of all the vegetables.
I went back inside, as a nugget of doubt started gnawing in my head.
“Darling,” I said, half an hour later. “Can raccoons lift rabbit hutches?” I was thinking of the fact that this rabbit hutch has no secure base.
“Raccoons don’t eat rabbits,” he said, confidently, before pausing. “Do they?”
Minutes later he re-emerged, phone in hand. Apparently raccoons are a huge threat, and not the only threat. Stan is a very large and rather fat rabbit. It seems eminently clear that he is a rabbit bred for the pot rather than domesticity (which is true), but he would be no match for a raccoon. Nor for a coyote, fox, possum, owl or hawk. Apparently cats and dogs can also be rabbit predators, but luckily not ours. Baby adores Stan, and the other cats are entirely disinterested. The dogs are kept well away.
Apparently there is no such thing as a predator-proof outdoor cage, and rabbits often die of fright with the stress of being outside and coming face to face with predators, even outside their cage.
Needless to say, Stan and his rabbit palace were back in Beloved’s office before you could say Beatrix Potter. And it looks like that’s where he’ll be staying, at least until someone comes up with a better idea. I am thinking about somehow incorporating a rabbit hutch with the chicken coop, but I’m pretty sure Stan – a grouch at the best of times – will end up terrorizing the chickens. I will just have to hope Beloved and Stan can bond a little more in the safety of the office.
Jane Green is the author of seventeen novels, including sixteen New York Times bestsellers. She has over ten million books in print, and is published in over 25 languages.Full Bio