Heartwood by Belva Plain
Delacorte • $26 • February 8, 2011

We were saddened to hear about Belva Plain's death last fall at the age of 95—she had done a lovely "Meet the Author" feature for us back in 2004 and was a favorite author for many BookPage readers.  But she left behind a final manuscript—one that was a sequel to her best-selling 1978 first novel, Evergreen. In Heartwood, the children and grandchildren of Evergreen heroine Anna get their own stories, and as the novel opens, Anna's daughter Iris is excited about having her three children home for Thanksgiving. Iris thinks the children she has to worry about are her sons, but her daughter Laura is having problems of her own with her husband, Robby.

"You know how my folks love having the whole family together. And Dad loves Thanksgiving. . . ."

"It's a hyped-up commercial travesty, and you know it."

It was fashionable in their circle to say things like that, but suddenly, Laura realized that she didn't believe it. She pictured her parents on Thanksgiving Day after the meal was set out on the dining room table, and everyone was seated. Mom would be glowing, although there would be something tentative in her eyes, because Mom never could trust her happiness. But there would be no such shadow in Dad's smile. He would look around the table at his handsome children, their spouses and children, and his eyes would shine with the joy of a man who had built a life for himself on the ashes of despair His love of this country that had taken him in was not a hyped-up travesty.

"I don't mean to be corny, but my dad knows in a way  that you and I never will what it means to be an American. That's why he loves to celebrate Thanksgiving. It isn't just about the food or the Macy's parade for him. He really does give thanks. You know?" The sullen, closed-off look left Robby's eyes. For a moment he was the Robby she had loved and married—the sensitive boy who knew what she was thinking before she did. "Please come with me," she said.

What are you reading this week?

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