Sarah Mallery was here in June to talk about her novel Unexpected Gifts. To read that interview, click here. Today, I'm happy to have an excerpt from the book for your reading pleasure!
About the book
Can we learn from our ancestral past? Do our relatives behaviors help mold our own? In Unexpected Gifts, that is precisely what happens to Sonia, a confused college student, heading for addictions and forever choosing the wrong man. Searching for answers, she begins to read her family s diaries and journals from America s past: the Vietnam War, Woodstock, and Timothy Leary era; Tupperware parties, McCarthyism, and Black Power; the Great Depression, dance marathons, and Eleanor Roosevelt; the immigrant experience and the Suffragists. Back and forth the book journeys, linking yesteryear with modern life until finally, by understanding her ancestors' hardships and faults, she gains enough clarity to make some right choices.
Excerpt from Unexpected Gifts
by Sarah Mallery
Chapter 2: Sam––Living With Fear
[From Sonia’s father’s letters]
“...crack-crack-crack! Everyone froze. “Get the f*** down!” yelled our squad leader, Sgt. Carbini.
We dropped like stones, trying to listen for snipers over our pounding chests...”
“...Nearing the village, we passed women in their beige tunics, black pants, and Sampan hats…Most kept their heads lowered as they walked, but the few who didn’t, stared up at us with dead, black-brown eyes and pressed lips...”
“...Carbini was first. He marched over to a hooch, flipped on his Zippo, and carefully lit the underbelly of its thatched roof. It smoldered for a few seconds, a thin, rising wisp of smoke twisting in the tropical air. From that, a flame grew, nibbling at the straw with a low, blue heat before suddenly bursting into a torch, arcing up towards the sky in a yellow-hot blaze...”
Chapter 10: Tony’s Demons
[from Sonia’s great-grandfather Tony’s journal]
“...In 1930, the big city breadlines expanded by the hour, snaking around buildings like a python slowly choking the life out of its victims, but the farmers stayed smug; they thought they were the bee’s knees…..but when record droughts, the likes of which had never been seen, ravaged the Great Plains, farming became impossible. By 1936, storms had picked up, slamming the entire country with heavy rains, blizzards, tornadoes, and floods, and if that didn’t beat all, giant black clouds of rolling dust and grit darkened the sky over the Midwest, cocooning it like it was the end of the world...”
Chapter 12: Daria––Living With Proverbs
[written in Sonia’s Irish great great-grandmother Daria’s bible]
“...And they say I was born at an inconvenient time. The year was 1902, and the moment, the wee hours of a rain-soaked morn in County Kerry. A terrible storm it was, with lightning that crackled the sky and hoarse winds that rattled the trees. If it be true that St. Patrick had banished all the snakes from Ireland, it sure was a shame he didn’t bother with the rain. But maybe that was too big a job even for the likes of him, who knows?”
Chapter 14: Adriana––Guilty Freedoms
[from Sonia’s great Aunt Adriana’s journal]
“...Eleanor [Roosevelt] surreptitiously pulled me aside…”
“I want you to go down to Alabama…”
“...speeding off, I looked behind us at the Spanish Moss swaying in the sultry summer breeze, the porch lights on, the fireflies sparking, the cicadas sawing their song, and the memory of…double-edged gentility. We both breathed huge sighs of relief and agreed how we could now fully commiserate with the Negroes in our country, not only in the South.
BANG! My body lurched forward, my head hitting the windshield. I could hear Jim swearing.
“Dammit! They’re comin’ after us!”
Chapter16: Adriana––Sentinels Amongst the Hoi Polloi
[From Sonia’s great-great aunt Adriana’s journal when she was a young suffragist]
“...as the nurse jammed a twenty foot tube, topped off with a funnel on one end, far up into my right nostril, all my senses heightened. I could smell the stench of urine in my underwear, feel the ties on my hands digging into my skin, the hard chair under me prodding my backbone, and just before the steady flow of liquid food descended into my nasal cavity, I heard the nurse heave the tiniest of sighs.”
Chapter 18: Andrei––Escaping Icons
[From Sonia’s great great-grandfather Andrei’s journal working at the Ford Factory in 1915 Detroit]
“...The first couple of rooms were filled with drive train assembly lines, the large, metal chains hoisting and lowering engines onto chasses. The next couple of rooms were only for women building spark plugs by hand, their backs hunched over in awkward positions that foreshadowed major arthritis at too young an age...”
Sewing Can Be Dangerous and Other Small Threads.The eleven short stories in Sewing Can Be Dangerous and Other Small Threads combine history, mystery, action and/or romance––from drug trafficking using Guatemalan hand-woven wallets to an Antebellum U.S. slave using codes in her quilts as a freedom message system; from a wedding quilt curse dating back to the Salem Witchcraft Trials to a mystery involving a young seamstress in the infamous Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire; from a 1980’s Romeo and Juliet romance between a rising Wall Street financial ‘star’ and an eclectic fiber artist to a Haight-Asbury love affair between a professor and a beautiful macramé artist gone horribly askew, just to name a few.
Sewing Can Be Dangerous and Other Small Threads by S. R. Mallery is due December 1. Don't miss it! And of course...A Blue Million Books will feature it.
About the author:S. R. Mallery has worn various hats in her life. Starting out as a classical/pop singer/composer, she worked in clubs and churches while composing for educational filmstrips. From there, she moved on to having her own calligraphy company, a twenty-year quilting and craft business, and teaching English as a Second Language/Reading. Finally, she tried her hand at fiction writing and it was like an all-consuming drug. She's been happily writing ever since.
She has had eleven short fiction pieces published in "descant 2008," "Snowy Egret," "Transcendent Visions," "The Storyteller," and "Down In The Dirt." Several of her stories have appeared in different anthologies through Scars Publications. Before that, she had articles published in "Traditional Quiltworks" by Chitra Publications, and "Quilt World" by House of White Birches when she was a professional quilt artist/quilt teacher.
Connect with the author:
Website | Twitter | Facebook | Goodreads
Buy the book:
Amazon | Barnes & Noble