Authors: Kristy W Harvey
“Kristy Woodson Harvey weaves a story around characters with rich, complicated lives we all identify with. Harvey's story walks through the life of an ever-changing family and beautifully shows how a family comes to be. Not only by blood, but also by choice.”
New York Times
bestselling author of
Betting the Rainbow
is Southern fiction at its best. It shows us that love is not without sacrifice, and there's little in life that doesn't go down easier with a spoonful of jam. Beautifully written.”
New York Times
is like the Southern women within its pages and those who will love this book, sweet as sweet tea on the outside and strong as steel on the inside. Kristy Woodson Harvey is a natural.”
âAnn Garvin, author of
On Maggie's Watch
The Dog Year
“Southern to the bone and full of engaging charactersÂ .Â .Â . Kristy Woodson Harvey's debut novel captures your heart and doesn't let go; her keen insights into a mother's love will stay with you long after the last page.”
âKim Boykin, author of
THE BERKLEY PUBLISHING GROUP
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This book is an original publication of The Berkley Publishing Group.
Copyright Â© 2015 by Kristy Woodson Harvey.
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eBook ISBN: 978-0-698-19020-7
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Harvey, Kristy Woodson.
Dear Carolina / Kristy Woodson Harvey.
ISBN 978-0-425-27998-4 (paperback)
1. Single mothersâFiction. 2. Teenage mothersâFiction. 3. AdoptionâFiction. 4. Mothers and daughtersâFiction. 5. Love, MaternalâFiction. 6. Domestic fiction. 7. Psychological fiction. I. Title.
Berkley trade paperback edition / May 2015
Cover Photo of “Woman” Â© Maggie McCall/ Trevillion Images.
Cover design by Diana Kolsky.
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.
For my two Wills,
A real-life happy ending
It seems that every time a book is published, there's a little bit of magic involved, a sprinkling of fairy dust. For me, that magic was winning the Women's Fiction division of the Tampa Area Romance Writers contest, which was judged by my editor, Katherine Pelz. Thank you, Katherine, for loving this book, for saying yes, for sharing my vision, and for helping these characters come alive. You have made this process so fun and easy that I didn't get to complain about my editor even once!
And Bob Diforio, my wonderful agent, thank you for orchestrating rewrites and asking for opportunities, for continuously opening doors, and for taking a chance on me. Your voice on the other end of that phone line, telling me that this far-off fairy tale was actually happening to me, will always remain one of the pinnacles of my life.
I am so fortunate to have the opportunity to work with the amazing team at Berkley. Thanks to all of you for everything you did to help this book come together. Thanks especially to copyeditor Amy Schneider for taming my love of commas and polishing this manuscript so well. And thanks to Diana Kolsky for the beautiful cover, and Caitlin Valenziano for helping
get out into the world.
The real hero of this story is my husband, Will, who didn't bat an eye when I wanted to quit my job to be a freelance writer, and didn't flinch when, after that, I told him that maybe I'd like to write a novel. When I was frustrated and daunted by depressing publication statistics, I would say, “How long do I do this? When do I throw in the towel?” And he would always respond, “When writing quits making you happy.” There really aren't men like you. Your love and support is always the thing that makes me brave enough to take a chance. There's no one else I'd rather navigate this life with.
Thank you to my mom, Beth Woodson, my amazing first reader, who took on so many responsibilities at our blog, Design Chic, and, quite often, also became my personal shopper, party planner, and babysitter so that I could sneak in writing time. Thanks for teaching me to always follow through when I start something and never letting me quit. Thanks to my dad, Paul Woodson, who taught me to always be my best, to always be prepared, and that practice really does make perfect, even if it's just for the church softball game. Thank you both for being such amazing examples and for telling me from the day I was born that I could be and do anything I put my mind to.
My grandfather, Joe Rutledge, when I announced that I was going to go to journalism school, unflinchingly and very seriously said, “Well, someone has to take Barbara Walters's place,” and my grandmother, Ola Rutledge, was the voice in my head saying, “This too shall pass,” in those moments when those rejection letters clouded my vision of an ultimate happy ending. Thank you to both of you for always cheering me on.
Kate McDermott, Nancy Sanders, Cathy Singer, and Anne O'Berry, my friend and aunts, were the best “editors” a girl could have. Thank you for poring over these pages, asking questions, making suggestions, and, ultimately, loving this novel. Your support made this nerve-racking time so much easier.
Thank you to my son, Will, for fulfilling the biggest dream of my life. Being your mother has changed me completely, has made me feel more and love in ways I never could have imagined. Thanks for keeping me up all night so I could send all those query letters and for being willing to have your breakfast on my lap while I snuck in a few hundred words. Never forget that you can do anything you put that little mind to, and, of course, that you are loved so unconditionally.
Most of all, thank you to God, who, as always, put these thousands of puzzle pieces together and combined them into this one little book in ways I never could have seen or imagined. Grace is the most astounding miracle every, single day.
There are no words to express the gratitude I feel to all of you who hold this book in your hands, who walk through this world with these characters. That you would take your time to read something I createdÂ .Â .Â . That, I think, is the real magic.
I designed a special scrapbook for each of my children. A custom-made blue or pink album with white polka dots and a fat bow tied down the side, the front center proudly displaying a monogram that was given to each of you. I take those books out every now and then. Sometimes I add a new photo or memento. Other times I gaze at the pictures and marvel at how quickly the eyes-closed-to-the-world phase of infancy morphs into the headfirst-plunging alacrity of toddlerhood.
Other times, like tonight, with your book in particular, my sweet Carolina, I sit on the floor of our family room overlooking my favorite field of corn and simply stare at the cover, running my finger across the scrolling monogram.
It's only a name
, we have been reminded since middle school in what has now become perhaps the most clichÃ© of Shakespeare's musings. But, in what is certainly not the first exception to a Shakespearean rule, that name means more than the house your daddy built in this field
where we spent so much time falling in love or the sterling silver service that has been in our family for generations.
It means more because that name wasn't always yours. And you weren't always ours.
I was, just like a mother should be, the first person to hold you when you were born. Your birth mother, after thirty hours of labor, fainted when she saw you, perfect and round and red as a fresh-picked apple. I felt like holding you first would be like stealing money from the offering plate. But as soon as the misty-eyed nurse placed you in the nest of my arms, you quit crying, opened your eyes, and locked your gaze with mine. That instant of serendipity was fleeting because it wasn't more than a few seconds that your birth mother was out.
When she came to, and I was there, cuddling this lighter-than-air you that she had grown inside herself for nine long months, I begged for forgiveness. But she said, “I'm glad you got to hold her first. You've been here this whole dern time too.”
I had given birth myself before, and that teary first introduction to a new life after a forty-week hormone roller coaster was fresh in my mind, still damp like the coat of paint on the wall in your nursery. But I'd never been on my feet, outside the bed, when four were breathing the air and then, with one tiny cry, there were five. To experience that kind of wonder is like being born again.
Even in that resurrection moment, I couldn't have known that one day, I would get to hold you, swaddled and warm, all the time. But I did swear that I would do everything in my power to protect you, love you, and make sure you grew up good and slow as salad greens.
And so, my love, if you ever look at your book and think maybe it's a little thicker than your sister's and your brother's, it's only because instead of having one mother to save snapshots
and write letters and remind you how much she loves you, you have two: the one who brought you into the world and the one who brought you up in it. And if you ever start feeling like maybe you got dealt a bad hand, that having a mother who raised you and a mother who birthed you is too tough, just remember this: You can never have too many people who love you.