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Authors: Jill McCorkle

Ferris Beach

BOOK: Ferris Beach
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Praise for
Ferris Beach

Ferris Beach
fine. Call it enchanting, touching, funny, tragic, sensitive, evocative, moving. Call it any synonym for wonderful, and you still won’t be doing it justice.”

The Houston Post

“A really fine read . . . Jill McCorkle is a writer who has delivered on her earlier promise—and who promises still more.”

— The New York Times Book Review

“McCorkle hits all the right notes.”—
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

“Delightful . . . A novel about family secrets, identity crises, and mother-daughter standoffs.”


“Whimsically entertaining and dramatically compelling.”

The Boston Globe

“Beautiful and inspired . . . Rich with interesting characters.”

The Philadelphia Inquirer

“McCorkle gets all the details right . . . She has written the kind of story that makes you smile with recognition even as it tries to break your heart.”

The Orlando Sentinel

“A mature novel, full of complexity and compassion.”

The Village Voice

“Gently funny and expertly crafted . . . Satisfyingly rich.”

The Dallas Morning News

“Believable and well rendered . . . Illuminate[s] both the sadness and the possibilities of renewal in relationships.”

— The Washington Post Book World

“McCorkle writes with such insight into her characters that
Ferris Beach
is as personal as a letter and as visual as photos . . . Her skill at gently balancing humor and grief is masterful.”

Minneapolis Star Tribune

“Delightful . . . [McCorkle] has talent and style.”—
Detroit Free Press

“A thoroughly believable picture of growing up in a middle-class small-town family in the New South, in the 60s and 70s, after the throes of integration . . . As convincing as though she’d been lifting the story from her own teenage diary. The teenaged Kate Burns of
Ferris Beach
is a wistfully charming character.”

San Francisco Chronicle

“A many-layered and often mesmerizing novel.”

— The Virginian-Pilot and Ledger-Star

“McCorkle is a splendid writer . . .
Ferris Beach
And funny. And heartbreaking. But most of all, it’s a joy to read.”

The Cincinnati Enquirer

“Deep, rich and lyric.”

The Palm Beach Post

“McCorkle is a master . . . The charm of her vision stays with you long after the book is done.”

The State
(Columbia, SC)

“McCorkle illuminates character with ironic humor and empathic insight.”

Publishers Weekly

“A beautiful and accomplished novel.”

Memphis Commercial Appeal

“With an unerring sense of pacing . . . McCorkle unfolds her story slowly but powerfully, and by the end, with profound —and earned—emotion . . .
Ferris Beach
is a near-perfect example of a balanced story, with characters drawn from life and not from caricature.”

Richmond News Leader

“Endearing, evocative . . . Her writing is marked by a relentless curiosity and clear-eyed bluntness.”

Chicago Tribune

Library Journal,
starred review

“A marvelously readable novel . . . Its characters are so real that we miss them when the last page has been turned.”

— Richmond Times-Dispatch

“McCorkle’s writing shines . . . Her characters are finely drawn, funny, and right. Katie, the confused non-belle, rings true, and her story is as compelling as a soft southern night.”

Kirkus Reviews

“McCorkle is a strong character writer; she creates people who slip off the page into your memory when you’re not looking.”

— San Diego Union-Tribune

“McCorkle’s fiction is full of wonderful ‘characters’ . . . Jill McCorkle’s little
of a woman of the New South is well worth reading.”

Houston Chronicle

“What’s delicious about
Ferris Beach
is Katie’s funny, sad and even frightening discovery of complex truths about people and herself . . . McCorkle captures what’s unsaid, what her richly drawn characters feel, the emotional currents that tell them when something’s wrong or convince them that something’s perfect.”

The Charlotte Observer

“Well-drawn characters . . . Ironic humor . . . Accurate and sensitive portrayal of the adolescent experience . . . Quick, humorous dialogue.”

The Grand Rapids Press

“Impressive . . . McCorkle keeps getting better.”

starred review

Ferris Beach



The Cheer Leader

July 7th

Tending to Virginia

Carolina Moon


Crash Diet

Final Vinyl Days

Creatures of Habit

Going Away Shoes

Jill McCorkle

Ferris Beach


Published by
Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill
Post Office Box 2225
Chapel Hill, North Carolina 27515-2225

a division of
225 Varick Street
New York, New York 10014

Copyright © 1990 by Jill McCorkle.
First paperback edition, Fawcett, September 1991.
First Algonquin paperback, September 2009.
Originally published in hardcover by Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill in 1990.
All rights reserved.
Printed in the United States of America.
Design by Molly Renda.

Library of Congress Cataloging-In-Publication Data
McCorkle, Jill
Ferris Beach : a novel / by Jill McCorkle.
p.  cm.
ISBN-13 978-0-945575-39-9 (HC)
I. Title.
PS3563.C3444F4 1990
813′.54—dc20    90-37089 CIP
ISBN-13 978-1-56512-931-3 (PB)

10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2

In celebration of Claudia and Rob


Our neighborhood was never the same after Misty Rhodes and her family moved in across the street. While my mother and our neighbor, Mrs. Theresa Poole, mourned the loss of the farmland and the barns and sheds dating back to the 1800s, I rejoiced in finally having the chance of someone my own age close by. The days of blindfolding myself and wandering around my room in Helen Keller simulation, spelling words into my own hand as I acted out Annie Sullivan’s role as well as Helen’s, were drawing to a close. Instead I perched by the window, watching as moving van after moving van came down our street.

“The split-levels are coming! The split-levels are coming!” Mrs. Poole had announced at a meeting of the historical society at which she and my mother and several others attempted to prevent the sale of the stretch of land in front of us. Known for
her do-gooding and her white Lincoln Continental, Mrs. Poole was soon known as well for that proclamation.

Our own house was built in the early 1800s, and my mother had gone to great lengths to learn its history. “There was a time when there was not another house within ten miles of this one,” a state historian had told her when he came to photograph our house and list it on the state historical register. He gave her a lot of information which she carefully typed on heavy bond paper and filed away with all of her other historical information. My mother had grown up in Boston, and didn’t live in the South until she was sent to a girls’ school in Virginia. She had many papers, like pedigrees, that told of various ancestors. The sharp edges of her accent had been filed down over the years, slowed and softened; they appeared only occasionally when she talked about raking the
or playing
or how life was

“You, Mary Katherine, have the best of both worlds,” she told me the day we were pulling together all of the paperwork necessary for my joining the Children of the Confederacy. I was not thrilled over joining a club, but it was one of those times when it was just easier to go along with her. She had relatives who had served on both sides, so finding the name of the necessary ancestor was as easy as flipping open one of her books. I think her greatest ambition was that I, too, spend my summer mornings at little meetings where I had to dress as if it were Easter Sunday.

She fanned out brochures on historical organizations and showed me her collection of various pins and certificates, essays she had written in school, lectures she had given while teaching school, all the while ignoring my father’s comments on
lineage, which he said was composed of Scotch, Irish, Polish, and whatever else
took root
down in South Carolina. He had grown up in a small town the other side of Ferris Beach.

“You’re half Scotch and half soda,” he said, and raised his glass. My mother didn’t even glance up from her yellowed certificates, her broad bony shoulders bent slightly as she smoothed her fingers
over some document or the Formica tabletop. Sometimes she ignored him completely, unclipping and retwisting her thick hair and humming over his voice. Once dark, her hair was almost completely gray and the severe pull of her bun made her look older than she was.

My parents never looked like they went together to me, even in the wedding photo that was permanently placed on our living room mantel. I expected the real spouses to step in from the wings on either side. My dad was a lean man, always with a cigarette between his thin fingers, his gestures quick and animated as he moved through the house, forever pacing. Though most of his time was spent teaching math at the local community college, he had great ambitions of writing the perfect murder mystery, one with a plot that had to be solved mathematically. It was not unusual for him to suddenly jump up and run to write down a series of numbers while my mother shook her head and looked up at the ceiling. My mother was tall and big-boned, usually the tallest woman in the room but never settling for flat shoes. For every animated move my father had, she had composure and reserve; the only time my mother lost her calm control were those times my cousin Angela showed up at our house and my father escaped behind the closed living-room door or out into the darkness of the porch to have talks with her, conversations that were not repeated or explained.

Really, all I knew of Angela was what he had told me, that his sister, unmarried and only seventeen, had a complicated delivery and died soon after, that his mother had raised the baby and as a result he felt Angela was more like his little sister or even his own child. I had no memories of my grandmother, but he spoke of her so often that I saw her in a magical sort of way, this little white-haired lady whose husband had run a shrimping boat, her face and hands a weathered brown from hot days spent surf fishing or shaking the sand from white sheets she hung on a line. When I imagined myself being lifted from the world like the Little Match
Girl, she was the one who came for me. My father said that she was a brilliant lady, a poet’s soul buried in a tough little shell; my mother described her as a poor sad woman who lost her mind.

BOOK: Ferris Beach
3.92Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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