Monday, June 15, 2020

The Bitter and Sweet of Cherry Season

Title:  The Bitter and Sweet of Cherry Season
Author:  Molly Fader
Publication Information:  Graydon House. 2020. 320 pages.
ISBN:  1525804553 / 978-1525804557

Book Source:  I received this book through NetGalley and the Harlequin Trade Publishing 2020 Summer Reads blog tour free of cost in exchange for an honest review.

Opening Sentence:  "Night in Northern Michigan was no joke."

Favorite Quote:  "They were little things, but it was always the little things that rubbed a person raw. That hurt the most." 

Life has not gone quite as Hope had envisioned it. She finds herself driving in the middle of the night to a place she thinks she's never been, or at least not so that she remembers. She has run out of options for herself and her ten-year-old daughter Tink (short for the nickname Tinkerbell). She is running. The reason, while not immediately stated, is clear from her black eye and other injuries and from the fear.

The destination is a farmhouse in northern Michigan. It is her mother's childhood home. Her aunt Peg still lives there, working the cherry orchard. The home is aptly named Orchard House.

Like Hope, Peg's life is not what she envisioned. She harbors memories and secrets of both joys and sorrows. She takes Hope in with no questions about her injuries or her arrival in the middle of the night. She asks only that if Hope is to stay, she help in the cherry harvest.

So begins a journey of healing for both of them. The beautiful rural setting, the grounding in the orchard and in a garden, a small town community who welcomes, and a precocious child who has lost some of her innocence to fear all contribute to that healing.

Gradually memories and understanding emerge. The past also comes back in a shocking, dramatic way to create the climax of the book.

The book is ultimately a sweet story of family - the one we are born into and the one we create out of love. It is about the lesson that it is never too late to make amends, connect, and create the family that might have been. It is also, as you might expect, about love stories - a new beginning and a love scarred by circumstances but never lost forgotten. The romance is unnecessary to the book. The story and strength of the women is sufficient, but the romance is expected for the genre.

The book is marketed as a summer read, and it fits that bill. It deals with serious issues of abuse in a relationship and substance abuse. However, it does so in the context of a heartwarming, small town, feel good story.

Through the secondary characters in the book, the story honors the diversity of the Michigan community. The women of the town, from different backgrounds, come together in friendship and sisterhood. While this is not a focal point of the book, I love seeing diverse characters because representation matters.

Finally, the book has recipes - cherry ones, of course. I am not familiar with Michigan cherries so I learned something, Michigan producers grow both sweet and tart cherries, producing 70 percent of the US production of tart cherries. One variety of sour cherry, the Montmorency cherry, is used in cherry pies and also marketed as juice. In the past couple of years, the juice has garnered a following in the health community for its benefits. With this story and its recipes in mind. I think I will be looking for Michigan cherries on my next grocery trip.

Food, friendship, and family - the perfect ingredients of a summer read.

The Bitter and Sweet of Cherry Season
Blog Tour

Author: Molly Fader
Publication Date: June 6, 2020
Publisher:  Graydon House Books

Author Bio:
Molly Fader is the author of The McAvoy Sisters Book of Secrets. She is also the award-winning author of more than forty romance novels under the pennames Molly O'Keefe and M. O'Keefe. She grew up outside of Chicago and now lives in Toronto. Follow her on Twitter, @mollyokwrites.

Book Summary:
For fans of Robyn Carr, commercial women's fiction about three generations of women who come together at the family orchard to face secrets from the past and learn to believe in the power of hope and forgiveness.

In cherry season, anything is possible...

Everything Hope knows about the Orchard House is from her late-mother's stories. So when she arrives at the Northern Michigan family estate late one night with a terrible secret and her ten-year-old daughter in tow, she's not sure if she'll be welcomed or turned away with a shotgun by the aunt she has never met.

Hope's aunt, Peg, has lived in the Orchard House all her life, though the property has seen better days. She agrees to take Hope in if, in exchange, Hope helps with the cherry harvest—not exactly Hope's specialty, but she's out of options. As Hope works the orchard alongside her aunt, daughter, and a kind man she finds increasingly difficult to ignore, a new life begins to blossom. But the mistakes of the past are never far behind, and soon the women will find themselves fighting harder than ever for their family roots and for each other.

Author Q&A:
What message do you hope readers take away from The Bitter and Sweet of Cherry Season?
Oh wow! So many! I hope they think about about the power of memory in their own lives. That memories are what make us - good and bad. Mothers are fallible in a million ways and most are just trying their best. Grace and forgiveness feel better than resentment. When times are tough - get yourself some chocolate cherry brioche? :)

What's the story behind the story/how you came to write this novel?
Well, the opening scene literally just arrived in my head. Mom with a dead cell phone driving through the dark dark Michigan night. She’s absolutely out of options. Her daughter isn’t speaking to her. And she’s been beaten up.  As far as opening scenes go it’s one of my absolute favorites. Women out of options, out of pride, trying SO HARD to do the next thing… I love it.

Do you have any specific writing rituals (outfit, snacks, pen,music, etc)?
I wake up early, make the coffee and go. Sometimes the internet is a little too distracting so I need to turn it off. But most days, that’s how it works. Some days - when I go on retreats or I’m really behind - I work in the morning, go for a long walk, come back and have a beer before writing some more. When I was a newbie writer I had a few more tricks I needed - there were books I wrote listening to the same album on repeat, but now I can’t have any music. I’ve written some books in different rooms in the house -because for whatever reason that’s where the writing magic happened. The McAvoy Sister’s was written almost entirely in my daughter’s bed room… I have no explanation for it.

Which character do you most relate to and why?
Honestly, all of them in different ways and in different parts of the story. I have never been in the situation that Hope has been in but there have been parts of motherhood when I find myself in situations outside of my control and I have to treat my kids like adults. Or expect them to act like adults. And I know it’s not fair, but it’s what happens sometimes. I can also really relate to how she can find a million reasons to beat herself up as a mother - but struggles to see what an amazing job she’s doing. I think most mothers understand that reality.

I also understand Peg’s reluctance to open herself up to more pain. And how what she thinks is keeping her safe is actually a prison. And I can also appreciate her - If I don’t talk about it, it didn’t happen - stance. I think that’s a very real part of human nature.

And frankly even Tink - I LOVED how she used what power she had to make her point clear. The story about Tink and the broken leg - that came from real life. My kid’s friend spent most of a year wrapping his leg up in an ace bandage and telling everyone it was broken - it was like he was conducting a very specific social experiment on us. And then one day… done.

What can you tell us about your next project?
Oh, I’m so excited about it. The title is always changing… so we’ll skip that part and get right to the good stuff...

Sarah Beecher has died and everyone in Greensboro, Iowa has shown up for her funeral. She was a beloved Administrator and Nurse at the Nursing School who has lived almost the entirety of her life in this small town. Her daughter’s are there - each battling some real life demons but supporting each other, despite old resentments and feuds. They are absolutely firm in the knowledge that Sarah Beecher had no secrets.

Into this funeral walks Kitty Deveraux - legendary star of stage and screen. And she’s there to tell Sarah’s daughters their mother was not who they thought she was.

And neither are they.

It’s got two timelines! Family secrets! Twists! Seriously, I enjoy it so much. AND it’s based in part on my mother’s experience at St. Luke’s Nursing School in Iowa.

Have you been to the cherry festivals in MI?
I have! I’ve been to the cherry festival in Traverse City. I competed in a cherry pit spitting contest and ended up spitting the pit on my shoe. I was an embarrassment to my kids and husband. Luckily there was plenty of cherry ice cream (thank you Kilwin’s!) around with which to console myself after that poor showing.

Actually I spent part of almost every summer of my life in Michigan. First along Southern Lake Michigan - St. Joseph’s and South Haven. And then in Northern Lower Michigan - Traverse City, Boyne City and Petosky. A few summers on Beaver Island. I have enjoyed The Cherry Festivals, The Tulip Festivals, a million Beer Festivals and the odd Elvis Festival. 

Why did you decide to use a cherry orchard?
I wanted to set the book in Michigan. I knew I wanted it to be rural and agricultural and lots of hard work. And after all the summers in Michigan - picking up bags of fresh washed cherries from road stands all over the state - a cherry orchard seemed perfect!

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