Authors: Anjali Banerjee
Tags: #Fiction, #Contemporary Women, #General
“The kind of book that makes me remember all the reasons I love to read. Anjali Banerjee writes in luminous prose about the deepest secrets of a woman’s heart. With a freshness of voice and a playfulness of the imagination, she brings her quirky characters to life. The gorgeous and multilayered language illuminates a story that will haunt the reader long after the final page is turned.”
New York Times
“Part love story, part ghost story, and all in all a thoroughly entertaining tale that will leave readers happy and satisfied by the surprising end. Banerjee intertwines traditions of her Bengali ancestry throughout the story, giving the tale an exotic twist that is as spicy and comforting as the delicious Indian dishes that are so appetizingly described. This is a book destined to become a perennial favorite with romance readers as well as fans of otherworldly tales.”
Las Vegas Review-Journal
“Banerjee’s opulent prose is as colorful as Auntie’s cherished keepsakes, and gently ironic supernatural elements…add dimension to a romance that spins refreshingly into a quirky, surprising denouement.”
“A literary ghost story, a gentle romance, and an homage to the Bengali culture as transplanted to our region. It is a subtle and encouraging book.”
The Bellingham Herald
“The recent spate of stories about life in America from the perspective of second-generation immigrants is wonderful, and Banerjee’s contribution is a welcome one…Jasmine’s interactions with the world, and even with the spirit world, are believable. The paranormal aspects of the novel are creative and fun.”
RT Book Reviews
FURTHER PRAISE FOR
ANJALI BANERJEE AND HER NOVELS
“Fresh and highly entertaining. I loved every word.”
—Susan Elizabeth Phillips,
New York Times
Like Water for Chocolate
San Francisco Chronicle
“Delectable…recounted with hilarity and warmth.”
The Seattle Post-Intelligencer
“This book has a romantic, magical quality.”
“Fascinating, insightful, and delightful. The descriptions shimmer and sparkle. I intend to rush out and buy a copy for every woman I know.”
—Jayne Ann Krentz,
New York Times
“The author’s hip-hot style combines breezy storytelling, wry humor, and just enough poignant sauce in a romantic comedy equal to
Bend It Like Beckham
—The Seattle Times
Bridget Jones’s Diary
Titles by Anjali Banerjee
BERKLEY BOOKS, NEW YORK
THE BERKLEY PUBLISHING GROUP
Published by the Penguin Group
Penguin Group (USA) Inc.
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Penguin Books Ltd., Registered Offices: 80 Strand, London WC2R 0RL, England
This book is an original publication of The Berkley Publishing Group.
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. The publisher does not have any control over and does not assume any responsibility for author or third-party websites or their content.
Copyright © 2012 by Anjali Banerjee.
copyright © 2010 by Anjali Banerjee.
Cover design by Laura Drew Design.
Cover photo by Shutterstock.
Text design by Kristin del Rosario.
All rights reserved.
No part of this book may be reproduced, scanned, or distributed in any printed or electronic form without permission. Please do not participate in or encourage piracy of copyrighted materials in violation of the author’s rights. Purchase only authorized editions.
is a registered trademark of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.
The “B” design is a trademark of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.
Berkley trade paperback edition / August 2012
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Enchanting Lily / Anjali Banerjee.
1. Widows—Fiction. 2. Northwest, Pacific—Fiction. I. Title.
PRINTED IN THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1
In memory of
Andrei I. Bazdyrev and Byron Sacre
The past scampers like an alley cat through the present, leaving the paw prints of memories scattered helter-skelter.
The Onion Girl
This morning, I take my usual route to the Fairport Inn for breakfast, enjoying the sweet smells of autumn leaves, salty ocean, and exquisite wild salmon. Here on our misty island, the day is beginning to hum. Quaint shops are opening their doors; proprietors are setting up hand-painted signs on the sidewalks. Chickadees and juncos flit in the nearby trees. As always, I take the shortcut through the overgrown yard of a yellow cottage, the empty one with a sign in front, but this time I stop for a closer look.
I sense that someone will soon arrive on the ferry from
Seattle, someone who belongs in the cottage, someone who needs me. On this island, she will seek her own island, a small castle of loneliness away from the world. It won’t be long now, so I crouch in the garden to wait.
Lily drove north from San Francisco in search of a dream. The farther she traveled, the more the possibilities unfurled before her. She began to envision a future beyond the heaviness of loss, and yet she could still feel her husband, Josh, sitting next to her, a faint reminder of the life she was leaving behind. On this route, he would’ve planned each detour, each stop, each hotel. She imagined his head bent forward over a crinkled map, making sure they stayed on track.
But now she could do anything she wanted. She could lose her way. She could take a dirt road on a whim. She could disappear and nobody would know. She relished this new freedom, and yet she felt unmoored, anonymous. Who would care if she veered off a cliff? Her body might lie at the bottom of a ravine, decaying for weeks before anyone found her. The truck would rust and eventually fall apart.
She wondered if she had become invisible, a solitary young widow without community or connections, heading toward an uncertain fate. The farthest north she’d ever been was Seattle—she and Josh had taken a plane. The captain had pointed out Crater Lake, Mount Saint Helens, and Mount Rainier, all tiny and manageable from a height of thirty thousand feet.
But this time, Lily stuck to the road, the terrain rushing by in life-sized color. She raced through the flat agricultural fields of central California, stopped to hike in the cool shadows of the redwood trees near the Oregon border. She took comfort in knowing that this ancient forest had existed virtually unchanged for millions of years; that it would likely remain long after her death. There was something immense and unknowable in nature, a mysterious truth that put her grief in perspective.
As she navigated the steep mountain highways of southern Oregon, she thought Josh would’ve loved the breathtaking views of Mount Shasta, the descent into the lush valleys, the density of firs. No longer bound by the material world, he could follow her into restaurants and parks, rest stops and motel rooms. He was everywhere and nowhere.
In an Ashland hotel, late at night, she awoke to his breath on her cheek. But when she turned over, she touched
only the pillow, and the familiar pain settled into her chest. How could she do this alone? An experience had never seemed real unless she shared it with Josh. Had her existence become ephemeral? She half expected to lose her concrete sense of self, to become a fog that drifted across the planet.
Where was she going? When did she plan to stop? She sought the perfect destination, the kind of idyllic getaway that she and Josh had often discussed. She would know the town when she saw it, and she figured the Toyota Tacoma could reliably carry her there, even with the trailer hitched to the back. Inside the cargo space, she’d packed her most precious possessions, the ones she couldn’t bring herself to sell at the estate sale: Josh’s best costume creations and the dozens of vintage treasures she’d collected over the years, from Chanel pullovers to Halston dresses, Escada purses to rhinestone jewelry.
The truck and trailer carried her all the way to Seattle and then on the ferry to Shelter Island, a green dot of rain-soaked darkness in the middle of the Puget Sound. She expected to drive through wilderness and catch another boat and then another, but as she descended the ramp into the quaint town of Fairport, the island’s main community, a peculiar thing happened. Time slowed. A silver mist crept in from the ocean, gradually clearing to reveal cast-iron
lampposts lining the waterfront road, giant old poplar trees, and moss growing through cracks in the redbrick sidewalks. Rose and lavender bushes swayed in a soft autumn breeze. Slanted sunlight lent an otherworldly glow to the rows of tiny shops, each nestled in an antique brick building or converted Craftsman-style cottage.
She drove past Island Eye Care, Classic Cycle, Le Pichet Restaurant, and Jasmine’s Bookstore perched on a hillside in a burnt umber and white Victorian.
Josh would’ve appreciated this old-world charm—islanders strolling along at a leisurely pace, enjoying a pristine morning. A woman in a tight blue jogging suit walked her golden retriever, the dog stopping to mark every lamppost. A white-haired couple strolled along, looking in windows, slurping from coffee cups. That was what Lily needed—caffeine.
She parked on Harborside Road and bought a mocha at the Java Hut, a warm shop in which watercolor paintings of the ocean and mountains adorned the walls. Locals in flannel shirts, jeans, and knit caps chatted at small tables, and the smells of coffee and baked goods swirled in the air. She imagined sitting by the window and reading for hours.