Authors: Kathryn Magendie
Praise for Tender Graces
“Virginia Kate’s tale will leave you charmed, seduced, and fully satisfied by a cast of offbeat, lovable characters. Don't miss this one!” —Barbara Quinn, Author,
The Speed of Dark
“Kathryn Magendie . . . reminds me of a Barbara Kingsolver or Anne Tyler. . . . Her work made me laugh, cry, think, and marvel . . . ” —Susan Reinhardt, Author of
Not Tonight Honey—Wait 'til I'm a size 6
“Every so often, if you're fortunate enough, you'll find a book that not only captures your attention and imagination, it captures your heart.” —Deborah LeBlanc, Author,
“Kathryn Magendie has a magical way with words. [Her] unique fresh voice and lyrical turns of phrase are gifts she gives to readers, and which last long after the last page is read. Powerful stuff for a debut novel.” —Angie Ledbetter, Author,
Seeds of Faith
“Readers will hear about the voice in this novel and rush out to buy and listen to that voice, familiar and yet with tonalities not yet heard, igniting delight never before quite felt.” —David Madden, Author,
"Tender Graces" is a novel that reads like a poem to childhood and growing up.
—Ed Cullen, featured writer for the Baton Rouge Morning Advocate, frequent contributor to All Things Considered on National Public Radio, and author of
Letter in a Woodpile
“ . . . poignant, tangy, sweet, loving, wanting, needing and so satisfying!” —Diane Buccheri, Publisher, OCEAN Magazine
Bell Bridge Books
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons (living or dead,) events or locations is entirely coincidental.
Bell Bridge Books
PO BOX 300921
Memphis, TN 38130
Bell Bridge Books is an Imprint of BelleBooks, Inc.
Copyright © 2009 by Kathryn Magendie
Published in the United States of America.
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced in any form or by any electronic or mechanical means, including information storage and retrieval systems, without permission in writing from the publisher, except by a reviewer, who may quote brief passages in a review.
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Cover design: Debra Dixon
Interior design: Hank Smith
Photo credits: : © Mikael Damkier | Dreamstime.com
Vine Texture: © Enna Van Duinen | Dreamstime.com
To the Angels:
Our Beloved David, Annabelle, and Granny
Ay, to the proof; as mountains are for winds,
That shake not, though they blow perpetually.
Grandma Faith wavers in the mists, the wolf calls, the owl flies, the mountain is. Up up I go on Fionadala’s back, her hooves thundering. I see my child’s eyes only, through the closet keyhole, dark eyes are open, then closed. Thundering hooves, up the mountain we ride. At the ridge I stop, take Momma from my pack. And there, with mountain song rising, with fog wetting, with Fionadala nodding her head, with the fiddles of the old ghosts of old mountain men crying, with the voices of all I’ve lost and all I’ve gained, with the mountains cradling, with the West Virginia soil darkening my feet, with Momma’s cry of “Do It!” I open her vessel, and as I twirl, turning turning turning, I let her out—she flies out with a sigh, with forty thousand sighs. As I come to rest, she settles upon me, settles upon the trees and mountain and rock, settles, then is finally stilled. The owl cries, the wolf calls, the mountain is, Grandma Faith nods. Momma is a part of it all now.
All my tired flies out the window when I see Grandma Faith standing in the mountain mists that drift in and out of the trees. She’s as she was before, like one lick of fire hasn’t touched her, whole and alive and wanting as she beckons to me. Grandma whispers her wants as she’s done all my life.
I put my hand out the car window as Momma used to do, and say “Wheeee . . . ” then holler to the owl flying in the night, “I’m Virginia Kate, and I’m a crazy woman.” He keeps his wings spread to find his supper. I don’t feel silly one bit. I rush headlong into the night in my gray Subaru, a tangible addition to the darkness. The tires seem to hover above the road as if like the owl I am also flying. I could let loose my hand from the steering wheel and my car would find its way to a little holler that lies in the shadow of the mountain. Inside the unused ashtray my cell phone lies silent, for I’ve turned it off, pushed it into the little drawer, closed it as much as I could. I am in no mood for voices telling me any more bad things.
The last time I allowed it to ring, Uncle Jonah had called and said, “Come home and fetch your momma.” I haven’t called West Virginia
for longer than what’s good, but I left before light to do as he said without giving myself time to think too hard on it.
Grandma Faith used to say, “Ghosts and spirits weave around the living in these mountains. They try to tell us things, warn us of what’s ahead, or try to move us on towards something we need to do. But most of all, they want us to remember.”
Momma never told stories much, since it hurt to do it. She said looking behind a person only makes them trip and fall. I understand why now in a way I didn’t as a girl.
I touch the journal Momma sent two weeks ago. I should have gone to her right after I read her letter, but I was too ornery for my own good, always have been. I didn’t want her to think she could crook her finger and have me scurry back to West Virginia after she gave me up as she did when I was a girl who needed her momma. I had set my teeth to her words and carried on with my own business.
I know you’d want to have this diary from your Grandma seeing how you are two peas in a pod. I made a few notes alongside hers. She didn’t have everything written down, so I had to fix parts of it. Come soon. I got lots to talk about. Things I reckon will explain what the notes in the diary won’t.
I wrote back,
Dear Momma, I’m busy. You can mail my stuff to me (I’m enclosing a check that should be more than plenty for postage). You have your nerve writing me after all this time and expecting me to drop everything. That’s all I have to say right now. Signed, Virginia Kate.
I didn’t open the diary until a week later. And only then because Grandma took up to poking at me until I had enough.
Now I’m full of regret. Momma didn’t tell me she was so sick; how was I to know? And the diary notes would have changed things, changed the way I thought about my momma. I’m almost to the West Virginia state line, but I already know it’s too late for Momma and me.
In Grandma Faith’s journal is the story of how Momma and Daddy met. How I began. In the pages are tucked pictures—one of Grandma with me on her lap, another one of Momma when she was a young girl of seventeen, and one of my parents after they were married in 1954. The journal burns my right palm warm as I rub the tooled leather and pass the sign that welcomes me to the state of West Virginia. But I don’t need the sign to tell me. The pull of my mountain calls me home. Oh, how I’ve missed these mountains, even when I didn’t know I did. They’d been tucked away inside, hiding behind my heart, pulsing with my blood. Waiting for me.
Between Pocahontas and Summers County, where Momma was born, where Grandma Faith lived and then died on her own mountain, I look up and beyond at my heritage. All the mystery, all the secrets, all the loss and gain of our lives.
When Momma was a girl, she ran on the mountain wild and dirty until my daddy came to fetch her away. I can well imagine Momma the day she met Daddy, from Momma’s scrawled notes off to the side of Grandma’s slanted ones. I see my momma just as clear as if I were there myself. The old house perched on the mountain, and Daddy walking up to knock on their door.