The Shadow Wife

By Joan Holmes,2014-11-04 18:56
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From Publishers WeeklyHealing, be it psychological, physiological or spiritual, informs this humane but too-familiar novel from veteran writer Chamberlain (The Courage Tree, etc.). The daughter of '60s free spirits, Joelle D'Angelo is a recently divorced, naturally empathetic social worker at a coastal California hospital. Unfortunately, she's madly in love with co-worker Liam Sommers, who just happens to be married to her best friend, Mara. Things are particularly tricky because Mara, once a brilliant psychiatrist, suffered brain damage caused by an aneurysm while giving birth to her son, Sam. Liam has remained a dutiful husband to his near-comatose wife, visiting her every opportunity he gets, but that doesn't stop him from sleeping with (and impregnating) Joelle in a moment Published by MIRA on 2010/11/23

    Praise for the novels of


    “As Chamberlain examines myriad forms of love, her complicated novel will bring tears to herreaders, but they won’t regret the experience.”

    Booklist on The Shadow Wife (formerly Cypress Point)

    “A fast-paced read that…explores the psychological complexity of a family pushed to itslimits.”

    Booklist on Secrets She Left Behind

    “A shattered chronology that’s as graceful as it is perfectly paced…. Engrossing.”

     on Publishers WeeklyBefore the Storm

    “Diane Chamberlain is a marvelously gifted author! Every book she writes is a real gem.”

    Literary Times

    “Chamberlain has penned another compelling women’s novel with characters who become realthrough their talents, compassion and indiscretions.”

    Booklist on Her Mother’s Shadow

    “Here, as in previous offerings, Chamberlain creates a captivating tale populated withhaunting characters.”

    Publishers Weekly on Summer’s Child

    “The story…unfolds organically and credibly, building to a touching denouement that plumbsthe nature of crimes of the heart.”

    Publishers Weekly on The Bay at Midnight

    “The story offers relentless suspense and intriguing psychological insight, as well as asatisfying love story.”

    Publishers Weekly on Breaking the Silence




The Shadow Wife

Dear Reader,

    The Shadow Wife. Originally published in 2002 as CypressI’m delighted to introduce you to

     is a story close to my heart in many ways.Point, The Shadow Wife

    First, the setting. Although I now make North Carolina my home, I lived in California for manyyears and visit it often. On one visit, I drove along the stunning Seventeen-Mile Drive inMonterey, getting out of my car near the mystical “ghost trees” that cling to the rockycoastline. From there, I spotted a mansion high on a cliff. In my imagination, I saw two littlegirls on the mansion’s veranda. It was as if the ghost trees were offering me an image fromthe past. I thought about those girls and what it would have been like to grow up on a cliffhigh above the Pacific. From that seedling of an idea, the story for The Shadow Wife developed

    into something complex and intriguing.

    Another reason this story is special to me is that I gave the central character, JoelleD’Angelo, my old job as a clinical social worker in a high-risk maternity unit. I loved doingthat work myself, being able to touch many lives in a positive way. Aside from her occupation,however, Joelle and I are not very much alike and I would hate to be confronted with thepersonal dilemma The Shadow Wife presents for her. She faces hard choices and makes them with asort of nobility I hope I would possess if I found myself in her shoes.

    Finally, I wanted to explore healing in this story. I have rheumatoid arthritis and havelearned that healing comes in many forms. It’s a loaded subject for me, and I suspect it isfor many of you, as well. I hope you will draw your own conclusions about what it means to behealed through reading this novel, but most of all, I hope The Shadow Wife keeps you engaged

    and entertained until the very last page.

    With best wishes,


To my extraordinary sibs,

Tom, Joann and Rob. What a year, eh?


    Prologue Chapter 1 Chapter 2 Chapter 3 Chapter 4 Chapter 5 Chapter 6 Chapter 7 Chapter 8 Chapter 9 Chapter 10 Chapter 11 Chapter 12 Chapter 13 Chapter 14 Chapter 15 Chapter 16 Chapter 17 Chapter 18 Chapter 19 Chapter 20 Chapter 21 Chapter 22 Chapter 23 Chapter 24 Chapter 25 Chapter 26 Chapter 27 Chapter 28 Chapter 29 Chapter 30 Chapter 31 Chapter 32 Chapter 33 Chapter 34 Chapter 35 Chapter 36 Chapter 37 Chapter 38 Chapter 39 Chapter 40




    Big Sur, California, 1967

    THE FOG WAS AS THICK AND WHITE AS COTTON BATTING, AND it hugged the coastline and moved slowly,lazily, in the breeze. Anyone unfamiliar with the Cabrial Commune in Big Sur would never knowthere were twelve small cabins dotting the cliffs above the ocean. Fog was nothing unusualhere, but for the past seven days, it had not cleared once. Like living inside a cloud, thechildren said. The twenty adults and twelve children of the commune had to feel their way fromcabin to cabin, and they could never be sure they’d found their own home until they wereinside. Parents warned their children not to play too close to the edge of the cliff, and themore nervous mothers kept their little ones inside in the morning, when the fog was thickest.Those who worked in the garden had to bend low to be sure they were pulling weeds and not theyoung shoots of brussels sprouts or lettuce, and more than one man used the dense fog as anexcuse for finding his way into the wrong bed at night—not that an excuse was ever needed onthe commune, where love was free and jealousy was denied. Yes, this third week of summer,everyone in the commune had a little taste of what it was like to be blind.

    The fog muffled sound, too. The residents of the commune could still hear the foghorns, but thesound was little more than a low moan, wrapping around them so that they had no idea from whichdirection it came. No idea whether the sea was in front of them or behind.

    But one sound managed to pierce the fog. The cries came intermittently from one of the cabins,and the children, many of them naked, would stop their game of hide-and-seek to stare throughthe fog in the direction of the sound. A couple of them, who were by nature either moresensitive or more anxious than the others, shuddered. They knew what was happening. No secretswere ever kept from children here. They knew that inside cabin number four, Rainbow Cabin,Ellen Liszt was having a baby.

    In the small clearing at one side of the cabin, nineteen-year-old Johnny Angel split firewood.The day was warm despite the fog, and he’d taken off his Big Brother and the Holding Companysweatshirt and hung it over the railing of the cabin’s rickety porch. Felicia, the midwife,was inside with Ellen, boiling string and scissors on the small woodstove, and he told himselfthey needed more firewood, even though he’d already chopped enough to last a week. Still, helifted the ax and let it fall, over and over again, mesmerized by the thwack as it hit the

    logs. Every minute or so, he stopped chopping to take a drag from his cigarette, which restedon the cabin railing, and he could feel his heart beating in his bare chest. The hand holdingthe cigarette trembled—from the strain of chopping wood, he told himself, but he knew that wasnot the complete truth. He winced every time a fresh shriek of pain came from the cabin’s rearbedroom, and he was quick to pick up the ax again, hoping that the chopping would mask thesound.

    When would it be over? The labor pains had started in earnest in the middle of the night, andas he and Ellen had planned, he’d run—stumbling in the darkness and the fog—to the MoonglowCabin to awaken Felicia. Felicia had grabbed her bag of birthing paraphernalia and returnedwith him to Rainbow, and she’d held Ellen’s hand, speaking to her in a calming voice. It hadshocked him to see Ellen in the glow of the lantern. She looked terribly young, younger thaneighteen. She looked like a frightened little girl, and he felt unable to go near her, unsureof what to say or how to touch her. How to help. Her face was sweaty and she was gulping air.Johnny was afraid she might throw up. He hated seeing anyone throw up. It always made him feelsick himself.

    He’d left the two women together and walked outside to the woodpile. But he hadn’t known itwould take so long. How many hours had passed? All he knew was that he was on his second packof Kools, and the menthol was beginning to make his throat ache.

    Felicia had asked him if he wanted to be in the room with Ellen, and he’d stared at her, wild-eyed with surprise at the question. Hell, no, he didn’t want to be in that room. So he’dleft. Now he felt like a coward for declining the offer. He knew that some men were fighting

    for the right to be in the delivery room these days, and that two of the men here at Cabrialhad stayed with their women while they delivered. But he was not like those men. He couldn’timagine being any closer to Ellen’s pain and fear than he was right now. Besides, that was nodelivery room Ellen was in. She was lying on the old double mattress on the bare floor in thetiny bedroom they had shared for the past six months, her butt resting on newspapers, whichFelicia claimed were made sterile by the printing process. Felicia was no obstetrician. She wasnot even a real midwife, merely the mother of four kids who were, right now, playing hide-and-seek in the fog.

    When he and Ellen had first talked about it, the idea of Felicia delivering their baby hadsounded fine, even appealing; after all, women used to help other women deliver babies all thetime. But now that it was happening, now that Ellen’s screams made the hair on the back of hisneck stand up, many things about the commune that had previously sounded appealing seemedludicrous. His parents had rolled their eyes in disgusted resignation when he told them that heand Ellen were moving into a Big Sur commune. He told them about the large stone cabin thathoused a common kitchen and huge dining room, where the commune residents took turns cookingand cleaning up and doing all the other tasks that were part of living together in a group, and

     cook and clean up. His parentsherhis mother had asked him why he never bothered to help

    scoffed at the names of the cabins— Rainbow, Sunshine, Stardust—and they showed real alarmwhen he told them there was no phone on the commune. Then they threatened him: If he droppedout of Berkeley and moved into the commune, he could expect no more money from them for schoolor for anything else, ever. That was fine, he said. There was little need for money in thecommune. They would live off the land. They would take care of each other.

    Right now, he would give just about anything to have his mother with him. She had no idea hewas about to become a father. Wouldn’t she be mortified to know that her first grandchild wasbeing born this way, far from medical care, not to mention out of wedlock? Johnny could onlyimagine what she would say about the ritual that would follow the birth, when Felicia wouldtake the placenta and bury it somewhere on the commune grounds, planting a tree, a Montereycypress, above it, tying the baby’s spirit to this beautiful place. Johnny loved the idea,despite the fact that he had not even known what a placenta was before moving here.

    The thirteenth child. He was adding freshly split wood to the pile by the cabin porch when itsuddenly occurred to him that his son or daughter would be the thirteenth child on the commune,and although he was not ordinarily superstitious, that thought filled him with fear. He didn’twant his kid to start out with the deck stacked against him. Lighting another cigarette, hewondered if he and Ellen had treated this whole pregnancy as too much of a lark. They’d talkedabout how the baby would look. They would never cut his hair. They would let him run aroundnaked, if that’s what he wanted. He’d never be ashamed of his body. He—or she—would grow uphere in the Cabrial Commune, free of the stifling rules and restraints of the rigid worldoutside, being taught by other adults who shared their values. They’d discussed names: ShantiJoy, if the baby was a girl, and Sky Blue for a boy. He’d imagined his son or daughter one daygoing to school in the northernmost cabin, where two of the women and one of the men spent mostweekdays teaching the commune’s children. It had sounded like the perfect way to live. Now hefeared they were playing with fire.

    Arms aching, he lit another cigarette and sat down on the porch step just as Ellen began towail, and he squeezed his eyes shut against the sound. Did he love Ellen? She’d looked like astranger to him when he’d brought Felicia back to the cabin earlier. A young girl, glisteningwith perspiration, strands of dark hair stringy around her face, her body taking up far morethan her share of the mattress. God, she’d put on a lot of weight. She was going to end uplooking like Felicia, like a big earth mother type with long, frizzy graying hair. Ellenalready had the bones for it. He growled at himself. Shouldn’t matter. Looks shouldn’t matter

    at all. He’d probably look like hell himself if he were in her position right now. He was ason of a bitch for even thinking about it.

    Crushing the butt of his cigarette beneath his sandaled foot, Johnny stood up. He ran his handover his dark, sparse beard, the beard of a boy, not a man, and stared into the fog. If the day

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