A Secret Word
Jennifer Paddock's incandescent debut novel spans fifteen years in the lives of friends Leigh, Sarah, and Chandler, beginning one fateful day in high school that forever connects them. While Leigh remains stuck in dead-end jobs in their Arkansas hometown, the more privileged Sarah and Chandler move to Manhattan, where Sarah seeks acting fame and Chandler struggles to make sense of her failed relationships, only to be sent reeling by an unexpected tragedy. Sweeping from the Deep South to New York and interweaving each girl's distinctive voice into a seamless narrative, A Secret Word is a luminous story of friendship and family, sex and secrets, growing up and growing apart. It is about how well you can ever really know another person and the secrets we keep from our friends, our families, and, most important, ourselves.
Caroline Berry is lost at twenty-seven, living in New York--not as the writer she once hoped to be but as an assistant at two part-time jobs. In her attempt to figure out a next step, she heads for Point CLear, Alabama, to spend several weeks at an old southern hotel on Mobile Bay--unaware that it will soon lie in the direct path of Hurricane Ivan. Ignoring evacuation orders, Caroline hides out in the hotel and braves the storm alone. The next morning, she meets a mysterious man on the beach as he enters the churning water for a swim. He is Walker Galloway, a champion swimmer, which she discovers after learning of his disappearance in the newspaper. Realizing she is the last to have seen him, Caroline becomes entangled with his family and friends, and as she is gradually drawn in to Walker's world, she finds, at last, the story she was meant to tell. Point Clear is a compelling tale of one woman's quest for self--who finds it only when searching for another.
The Weight of Memory
Destin, Florida, has a reputation as the vacation town of the well-to-do. For Leigh, searching for the sense of belonging, it is the place of dreams—somewhere she is called by memories of her friends from high school, Chandler and Sarah. Out of touch after the long years since graduation, the three women now face their challenges alone: Leigh, running from namelessness in her hometown and confronted by the specter of the father she never knew; Sarah, exiled from a marriage in disrepair and ever at odds with her distant, exacting father; and Chandler, betrayed by her husband but finding new fascination in a man named Walker, who suffers from recurring amnesia. All are haunted by the death of Trey, the boy they all loved in high school, and the suicide of Chandler's father ten years earlier. When the three come together one unforgettable night in deserted Destin as Hurricane Katrina rocks the Gulf Coast, their reunion sets off a chain of events that will rip open new doors for each of them--to past tragedy, fresh love, and a place to call home.