Thursday, October 8, 2015

The Sparrow Sisters by Ellen Herrick

The Sparrow Sisters is Ellen Herrick’s first novel.
Ellen was a publishing executive in New York until moving to London. 

With echoes of the alchemy of Practical Magic, the lushness of Saving CeeCee Honeycutt, and the darkly joyful wickedness of the Witches of Eastwick,
Ellen Herrick’s debut novel spins an enchanting love story about a place where magic whispers.

The Sparrow Sisters are as tightly woven into the seaside New England town of Granite Point as the wild sweet peas that climb the stone walls along the harbor. Sorrel, Nettie and Patience are as colorful as the beach plums on the dunes and as mysterious as the fog that rolls into town at dusk.
Patience is the town healer and when a new doctor settles into Granite Point he brings with him a mystery so compelling that Patience is drawn to love him, even as she struggles to mend him. But when Patience Sparrow’s herbs and tinctures are implicated in a local tragedy, Granite Point is consumed by a long-buried fear—and its three hundred year old history resurfaces as a modern day witch-hunt threatens. The plants and flowers, fruit trees and high hedges begin to wither and die, and the entire town begins to fail; fishermen return to the harbor empty-handed, and blight descends on the old elms that line the lanes.
It seems as if Patience and her town are lost until the women of Granite Point band together to save the Sparrow. As they gather, drawing strength from each other, will they be able to turn the fearful tide and restore life to Granite Point?

Once there were four Sparrow Sisters. Everyone called them the Sisters, capitalized, and referred to them as a group, even when just one had come to the post office to collect the mail.
“The Sisters are here for their package,” the postmistress would 
say, calling her clerk to the desk. Or, “What do you know, the Sisters are taking the train into the city.”
All four had left Granite Point over the years on school trips to Boston and 
for the symphony or the museum, but they always came back; it was home.
The only 
Sparrow sister who did leave town forever did so in the hardest way. 
The oldest Sparrow, if only by seven minutes, was Marigold, Sorrel’s twin. She was the real homebody, the one people still shook their heads over, and she actually left Granite Point just twice; the first time to accompany her father to a meeting with lawyers upon the death of her mother and the last upon her own death, in a smallish wooden box nestled inside an Adams’s Hardware bag on the arm of her twin. Sorrel took Marigold to the Outer Beach, past the break north of the seal colony, to scatter her ashes in the Atlantic.
Now there were only three Sparrows left in the house at the top of the hill overlooking the far harbor. Long ago this house that their great-great (and more) grandmother Clarissa Sparrow built had rung with the shouts and laughter of her four sons and the many Sparrow sons that followed.
It was made of the timber used to craft the 
whaling fleet that sailed out from the harbor and into the dark waves. Her husband was a sea captain so fond of his trade that Clarissa chose wood from her father’s shipyard with the idea that if George Sparrow loved his boat so much, surely he would be called home to a house made of the very same wood. She’d even built a widow’s walk high above the street so that she could watch for him to sail back to her. Eventually, the widow’s walk would earn its name several times over.

Hello, my name is Ellen Herrick and I’m a recovering publishing executive. When I say recovering I mean I’m no longer on the gatekeeper side of the business; now I am a gatecrasher. I’m the escapee from the sausage factory tap, tap, tapping at the door to get back in and add my bits and pieces to the great publishing grinder.
Let me be honest. I never planned to publish a novel. I never planned to show a single living soul the novel I wrote at my kitchen counter. I never planned to write a novel, at all! Part of sneaking out of the sausage factory (and off the fast-moving work/life juggling walkway—I was already stumbling and dropping every other ball) involved moving to London with my husband and two small children. They’d never track me down there! I spent the first few months (OK, years) standing around marveling at the fact that I was in my own house while it was still light out! I was undone by the fact that my job was, in fact, to pick up discarded socks, schedule appointments, birth a third child, learn to cook properly and wander through the Covent Garden Flower Market at five am. Not one piece of my new life puzzle was without some kind of pleasure. Really. And this I did for nearly twenty years.
But then…I ran out of Alice Hoffman, Sue Monk Kidd and Sarah Addison Allen books. Then I ran out of John Irving, Chris Bohjalian, and Anne Patchett. With Laurie Colwin gone from the earth, I was totally out of her charming stories. Oh Dear. I discovered wonderful British writers and British friends who were readers. I tore through Muriel Sparks and Cecelia Ahern, Kate Morton, Sebastian Faulks and Alan Hollinghurst. I cooked my way through Nigella Lawson and baked my way through Mary Berry. What’s a girl to do?
My daughter, a surprising pleasant thing for a teen, dared me to write a novel. No, she did. The family, minus me of the four left feet, was off to ski in Austria (as you do) and I was looking forward to ten days of relaxation and reading. Well honestly, just the reading. But then Emma asked me what I would do with those ten days if I knew I couldn’t fail and before I could stop myself I said, “Write a novel.” She offered to read it when she came back. Busted, trapped, hoisted on my own petard (pen-tard, really)! I sat down at the kitchen counter while an unusually heavy snow fell around the streetlamp in front of our little house in Notting Hill. I opened my laptop and I wrote, “Once upon a time there were four Sparrow Sisters.” That line has remained, minus the “upon a time” bit.
My point, dear readers and writers, although it is so dull now as to be sidewalk chalk, is this: I am a reader first and foremost. I am reader in bed, in a chair, on the beach, while walking (I have the bruises to prove it), in planes, trains and automobiles. I am a writer at the kitchen counter because when I can’t lay my hand on just the right book, I guess I write it. Isn’t that what we all do?

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