Authors: Brendan Kiely
“I told you,” she said, “it's my New Year's resolution.” She grinned. “I'm here.”
“I'm here too.”
We ran down the sidewalk beside the snowy banks of the parking lot, out into the street, through the center of town, behind the golf course, and into the Kowolskis' neighborhood, and it wasn't toward forgiveness that I ran, and it wasn't because Josie forgave me that she ran with me. There was no peace at the end of the road. We kept up the
pace all the way across town, and I ran as if in a pack with all my fears around me.
It wasn't until we made it to Mark's house and stood quietly catching our breath that I recognized the cold. The fierce wind that had brought the storm the day before still lingered behind it. Josie hugged me, and that was all there had been that winter, and only briefly: a few warm bodies, strangers I wanted to know better, before they or I were gone.
We proceeded up the walkway to the front steps, and I pressed the doorbell. Barbara's heels nailed the hardwood as she approached. She pushed the curtain aside and stared at me with a face that was terrified and haunted. As she unlocked the door, I reached for Josie's hand and she took it. And that had been Mark once, I realized. Even as we were battered back and forth amid the fearful riot of voices, Mark had reached for my hand once and then again, a natural gesture that alone might have sufficed to brace us as we marched ahead into the furious stammering of tomorrow.
First and foremost, there are real children and families who have suffered and who have their own similar stories. It is my hope that this novel honors the courage, dignity, and full humanity of both those who are still searching to find a voice to share their experiences and those who have been brave enough to speak up about the magnitude and devastation of abuse and the system that enabled and protected it.
In the making of this book, I want to thank Rob Weisbach, my friend and superagent, who would not give up. His passion continues to inspire me, and his vision and direction helped shape this story into the novel I'm proud of today. And thank you to my friend David Groff, without whose guidance, support, edits, and nurturing this book would never have found another reader.
I am grateful and proud to be part of the Margaret K. McElderry family. Many thanks to Justin Chanda and the entire Simon & Schuster Children's team, from the copy editors and proofreaders to the jacket and interior designer, to the amazing folks in marketing and sales who make it their business to get people to readâall of whom I admire and am grateful to have worked with on this bookâand most especially to my wonderfully fearless editor, RÅ«ta Rimas, whose vision and edits made this a much better book and whose enthusiasm made certain that Aidan's story would find a place in the public conversation.
I also thank Jonathan Rabb, around whose table a few of us sat many years ago and from whose workshop this novel was born. It took another village to raise this child, however, and I am grateful to The City College of New York writing community for being that village. Thanks to the crew who spent too many nights (who am I kidding, are there ever enough?) at Soundz and Dublin House and elsewhere, talking about books, our own and others, and always reminding me why we give a damn and why we write.
Thank you to Fred Reynolds, whose support and mentorship (and invitation to Archer City!) helped me carve out the space to put priorities, writing and otherwise, straight. And my deep thanks to Bill Lippman, Debbie Himmelfarb, and their family for their initial belief in this novel; their support, through the Doris Lippman Prize in Creative Writing, brought this book to the attention of others and asked them to care about it too.
This writer doesn't exist without his two literary mothers, Linsey Abrams and Felicia Bonaparte, who are the intellectual, spiritual, and philosophical nuclei around whom my entire graduate school experience orbited and to whom I will be forever indebted for waking in me a second life in love with literature.
And last, but so very far from least, I thank my family, the Kiely-Shannon-Chaffee clan: Heide and John, to whom I am grateful every day for folding me into their family, and whose special advice, knowledge, and wisdom about books, ideas, and life shaped this book and me in innumerable ways; Joshua, Niall, and Trish, siblings whom I greatly admire for the lives they lead and the footprints they leave that I will follow anywhere, and whose reservoirs of support and encouragement buoyed me through this process; Ted, my brother-at-large, for his infectious enthusiasmâa renewable energy source that can provide for others for a lifetimeâand for constantly reminding me why the adventure matters; Grandma Jane, whose spirit, love, faith, vast wisdom, and radiant smile are constant beacons in my life; and especially my mother and father, Maryanne and Tom, who both taught me that defining one's principles, living by them, and using them to learn how to better love another person is what it really means to be a human being. And extra special thanks to my father, the real writer in the family, without whose red pen and indefatigable patience I would never have comprehended the English language.
Jessie, this book, as all things in my life, is because of you and for you, the woman who inspires me every day, from whom I learn every day, and for whom I work every dayâhere's to loving you, all ways and always.
Photograph by Gary Joseph Cohen
BRENDAN KIELY received an MFA in creative writing from the City College of New York. His writing has appeared in
Fiction, Guernica, Big Bridge
, and the journal
Mikrokosmos Literary Journal
, among other publications. Originally from the Boston area, he now teaches at an independent high school and lives with his wife in Greenwich Village.
Margaret K. McElderry Books
Simon & Schuster, New York
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This book is a work of fiction. Any references to historical events, real people, or real places are used fictitiously. Other names, characters, places, and events are products of the author's imagination, and any resemblance to actual events or places or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.
Copyright Â© 2014 by Brendan Kiely
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