Heartbroken A novel

Lisa Unger, 1970-

Sound recording - 2012

Long after anyone expected Kate to do anything with her life, she did. Using the journals left behind by her aunt and grandmother, she wrote a novel based on a very real, generation-old love story that ended in tragedy. On the other side of town, Emily is about to set fire to her life. She's in a dead-end job and is involved with the wrong man; she can feel herself being drawn into darkness with horrific consequences. Without knowing each other, and with lives that couldn't be more different, they both head to the same point on the map: Heart Island, an idyllic place in the middle of a lake in the Adirondacks.

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1st Floor FICTION ON DISC/Unger, Lisa Checked In
Suspense fiction
New York, NY : Books on Tape [2012]
Main Author
Lisa Unger, 1970- (-)
Other Authors
Amanda Carlin (-)
Physical Description
11 compact discs (13 hrs., 23 min.) : digital ; 4 3/4 in
Contents unavailable.
Review by Booklist Review

*Starred Review* Unger is back to the excellent form of her first two novels in this half family saga (part 1) and half high-adrenaline thriller (part 2). Kate, mother of two, understands just how lucky she is to have met and married Sean, a real-estate agent with a big heart and a large capacity for love. These qualities were sorely missing in her first marriage, let alone in her upbringing, led by her cold and judgmental mother, Birdie Burke. Emily is a young woman just starting out, but it seems she's destined to make bad decisions. Her boyfriend, Dean, had shown such promise handsome, good construction job, dreams for their future but has since lost his job and now mixes with a bad crowd. What joins these two apparently unrelated stories is the mysterious Heart Island, a small, private enclave owned by Birdie's family for years. The island is both beloved and feared, holding wonderful memories as well as frightening ghost stories for Kate, her siblings, and even Birdie, who is so at one with the island that she refuses to leave it, even as it appears to be sucking the life out of her. Unger delivers compelling, fully drawn characters while at the same time putting the thrill in thriller. A first-class page-turner. HIGH-DEMAND BACKSTORY: Unger's novels have sold more than one-million copies in the U.S. and have been translated into 21 languages; her latest, promoted heavily to librarians and book groups, will only add to those numbers.--Wilkens, Mary Frances Copyright 2010 Booklist

From Booklist, Copyright (c) American Library Association. Used with permission.
Review by Publisher's Weekly Review

An island on an Adirondack lake becomes both a haven and a hell for three women in Unger's tense psychological thriller. Kate Burke's annual visits to Heart Island, owned by her wealthy parents, never go smoothly, mainly because of the uneasy relationship she has with her imperious 75-year-old mother, Birdie. Kate expects the next visit will be even more upsetting because she's written a novel based on journals kept by her aunt and grandmother that's a thinly veiled story of a love affair that ended in tragedy on the remote island. Meanwhile, Birdie has visions of a dark intruder prowling Heart Island at all hours. Finally, Emily, a waitress drifting through life, feels powerless to resist as her boyfriend pulls her into schemes that will betray the people closest to her. Unger (Die for You) skillfully builds the fissures in each of these women's lives as she illustrates the power of the heart and the corrosive nature of lies. Agent: Elaine Markson: Markson Thoma Literary Agency. (June) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Review by Library Journal Review

Birdie Burke, a harsh, difficult woman, invites her relatives for a vacation at the family's property, Heart Island. This secluded spot in the Adirondacks is the backdrop for a tale of family intrigue and dark secrets, as the stories of three women unfold: Birdie, her daughter Kate, and the sad and confused Emily, who has been drawn into a maelstrom of crime and emotional torment through her relationship with her very troubled boyfriend. As Kate fights to cope with her mother's controlling personality, her own daughter, Chelsea, suffers from a painful lack of self-confidence and falls for a young man she knows only online. VERDICT In Unger's (Darkness, My Old Friend; Fragile) latest engrossing thriller, the author's in-depth portraits of three different women searching for answers to their own set of difficulties will captivate fans of mystery and psychological suspense. This is one of Unger's best novels yet.-Linda Oliver, MLIS, Colorado Springs (c) Copyright 2012. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

(c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Review by Kirkus Book Review

Unger's latest offers a triumvirate of strong women pitted against a shared past and dangerous future. Birdie Heart loves Heart Island more than anything else, and that includes her family. She's tied to the island in a way that is nearly visceral; so much so that she fought her siblings to the point of estrangement to gain ownership of it when her parents died. Now, she and her husband, Joe Burke, host an annual gathering of family on the small island that is barely touched by modern conveniences. Only this year, no one really wants to go other than her grandchildren, the son and daughter of Birdie's daughter, Kate. With her brother, Theo, bowing out, dutiful daughter Kate proceeds with plans to take the kids to the island, but last-minute complications end up with her leaving her son and husband behind and taking only daughter Chelsea and her friend, Lulu. Independent of their preparations, Emily, a waitress at the Blue Hen, waits tables and returns home to worthless boyfriend, Dean, a druggie and thief who struggles to control Emily and work as little as possible. After causing a rift between Emily and her mother, Martha, Dean and a very dangerous associate of his hatch plans to rob the Blue Hen and take Emily along for the ride. Emily, seemingly incapable of telling Dean "no," goes along with his plans and the two are caught up in a terrible sequence of events that lead them on a collision course with Birdie and the girls. Unger is a master at building characters that crackle with personality and purpose, and the women in this novel are no exception. Birdie, unhappy with everything in her life, is particularly well-drawn, but the character of Emily remains a puzzle. Unger undoubtedly meant for Emily to come across as sympathetic. Everyone who encounters her feels inexplicably sorry for her, but in the long run, she's an unlikable young woman who makes terrible life-altering choices. Unger knows how to write a taut thriller, but one improbable character keeps this book from being extraordinary.]] Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

chapter one The Blue Hen was bustling, and Emily had screwed up in at least three different ways since her shift began. She'd given one customer the wrong change. She'd given another the wrong order. And now, as some little kid ran out of the bathroom without looking, cutting her off as she moved down the narrow hallway from the kitchen to the dining area, she felt the tray of ice waters slipping from her hands. She'd stopped short to avoid a collision, but the glasses and the tray had not. She watched the boy dart down the hallway, but everything else was in torturous slow motion. Four glass tumblers sailed though the air, water pluming, ice cubes suspended. The word "no" pulled and elongated in her mind. And then--­the shattering crash. She backed away from the shimmering, slicing mess and stared at it. Oh, God. Oh, no. Why did some days start out bad and just get worse? Angelo from the kitchen rushed out to help. He had a mop in one hand and a bucket in the other like some kind of diner rescue worker. Then Carol, the owner of the Blue Hen, came around the corner. "What happened?" she asked. "I dropped it," said Emily. Obviously. She wasn't going to bother getting into it about the kid. And how the bathroom door shouldn't open outward into the hallway. Or how people needed to heed the sign that read: Please open the door and exit slowly. Carol looked at the mess and put a plump, beautifully manicured hand to her forehead. Emily couldn't help but look at her rings--­a big diamond engagement ring and a ruby "family" ring, as Carol had called it. They glittered like stars. "Let Angelo get it. The order for your four-­top is up. You fetch that, and I'll get more ice water," Carol said. Her tone was weary but not unkind. Carol was never that. "Try to pull yourself together, Emily. I don't know what you have on your mind today. But it is definitely not your work." Emily nodded. "I'm sorry." Carol looked at Emily over the rim of her glasses. She had a nice face, round and pink-­cheeked, with pretty, darkly lashed blue eyes. Her body was short and soft--­a mother's body. Carol was, in fact, a bit henlike, Emily thought, zaftig and proud, strutting about clucking. Emily wanted to put her head in Carol's lap and cry her a river. "So, what is it, hon?" said Carol. "You need to talk?" "No," said Emily. She tried for a smile. "I'm fine." Angelo was already on his knees, picking up big shards of glass with calloused hands. "I'm sorry, Angelo," said Emily. He looked up at her with his dark puppy-­dog eyes, big, devoted, and a little lovesick. "Don't worry about it," he said. Angelo had a crush on Emily; she knew that. He gave her a wide grin, as though he liked being down on his knees for her. She felt a hot blush spread across her cheeks, and then she was chasing after Carol, who was talking to her. Carol had a fast, soft, but no-­nonsense way of communicating. She didn't care if you participated, only that you appeared to be listening. "When you get orders wrong, especially for someone like Barney, who comes here every single day at the same time for the same meal, it makes people feel like we don't know them, don't care about them. And if you work at T.G.I. Friday's or Chili's, maybe that doesn't matter so much. But here, at my restaurant, it matters--­because it's precisely that kind of personal interaction that separates the chains from the independents. Also, when you give people the wrong change, it makes us seem either untrustworthy or incompetent. Do you understand that, Emily?" Emily knew this wasn't an invitation to chime in. Carol went on. "Now, dropping things? Well, it happens. But it usually happens when we're not present. You're all flustered from a morning of mistakes. So I want you to take a few minutes, after you bring the food to your four-­top, and go out back and take a break. I'll cover your tables. Then come on back in like it's a brand-­new day, okay?" Emily found herself nodding vigorously, then running the four-­top order over to the family by the window. Pancakes for the girl, French toast for the boy, an egg-­white scramble with broccoli for the mom, and a chili-­cheese omelet with home fries and an extra side of bacon for the dad (boy, did he ever get a look from Mom over the menu when he ordered that). He looked like he could afford to take off a few, but not in an unhealthy, worrisome way. He was just a beefy guy who liked to eat. He probably had high cholesterol; that's why his wife had that kind of angry-­worried look on her face when Emily placed the plate in front of him. "Wow," the mom said. "That looks good." But what she meant was: Oh, honey, are you really going to eat that? At least that's what Emily thought. She was good at that, reading faces, body language. She felt like, a lot of the time, she knew what people were thinking even when they were saying something else altogether. She'd always been that way. After she ran a bottle of ketchup over to the table, she went out back like Carol had asked her to. She sat on the bench where everyone went for a smoke break, and looked up into the sky. The day was warm and humid, clouds high and white. A light breeze made the leaves of the tall oaks that towered above the parking-­lot fence dance and hiss. She took a deep breath, trying to shake it off, like Carol wanted. Why do you want to go to that place and run around for that stu- pid cow? That's what Dean had said to her this morning. He hadn't wanted her to go to work. He'd wanted her to stay with him. He didn't like Carol. Dean didn't seem to like anyone Emily liked. She wasn't sure what that said about him. "You'll make more in a morning with me than you will in a week at the Fat Hen." "The Blue Hen." "Whatever," he said. He'd lit a cigarette even though he knew the smell made her sick in the morning. "You don't need to run around like that." He didn't like the idea of her waitressing. His mother was a waitress, and Dean didn't like Emily to do anything that reminded him of his mother. "It's low-­class work," he said. Emily didn't think any honest work was "low-­class," whatever that meant coming from Dean. Carol treated her with respect. The customers, maybe because the Blue Hen was not the cheapest restaurant in town, were mostly polite. They tipped well. And usually, Emily was not half bad at the whole waitress thing. She liked talking to people, being friendly, and chitchatting about this and that with the regulars. Carol always made sure Emily had a meal before or after her shift and told everyone to help themselves to coffee and hot chocolate. The Blue Hen was the nicest place Emily had ever worked. Dean was mad at her when she left. That was why she'd shown up to work all shaky and upset. Well, one of the reasons, anyway. She didn't like it when he was mad, but if she didn't go to work and bring in a regular paycheck, they didn't always make it week to week. Then she'd have to borrow from her mother--­which she couldn't do right now. And that was a whole other set of problems. It was true that Dean could make a lot of money. But he didn't always, and somehow it seemed to be gone as quickly as it came in. Then, of course, there were the times when Dean disappeared for days. Once for a week. She hadn't expected him to come back that time. She wasn't as happy as she thought she'd be when he finally did come home. "Feeling better?" Angelo had come to stand beside her. She looked up at him, and he smiled shyly, turned his eyes toward the sky. He was always sweet to her, and she felt an odd desire to slip her hand into his. He smelled like the lemon soap he used to clean the dishes. "Thanks for cleaning up my mess," she said. She folded her hands in her lap. "No problem." She sensed that he was about to say more but changed his mind. He'd asked her out a couple of times. She told him she was living with someone. He'd given up asking, but he still smiled at her a lot, hopeful. She'd expected him to get angry or mean when she turned him down, but he didn't. He was just as kind to her as he always had been. For some reason, that made her think that he had a nice mom, someone who had taught him to respect women. She really liked that about Angelo. "I think Carol's going to need you back inside," he said. "She has paperwork to do in the office." "Okay," Emily said. Carol kept the week's cash receipts in a safe behind the desk in her office. She did all the paperwork during the day on Friday. On Friday night after closing, she took the money to the bank's after-­hours deposit slot. Emily had heard Carol's husband, Paul, complain about that. He thought they should take it every night on the way home, so there wasn't as much cash lying around. Carol had agreed. But as far as Emily could see, she hadn't started doing that. Emily had noticed that Carol was a creature of habit, and everything had to be done the same way every day. She didn't like change. From setup to close-­up, everything--­making the coffee, squeezing the orange juice, refilling the salt, pepper, and sugar dispensers, wiping down the counter and tables--­was part of an exact ritual. Emily liked that about Carol. She was predictable, reliable. There was no mystery to what she wanted, how she would react. It was such a comfort, because Emily seldom had any idea what was going to set Dean off. Or her mother. Emily never knew whether to expect kindness or cruelty from either of them. At the Blue Hen, there was only one rule. Work hard and be nice, and everything would go just fine. That should be the rule for life, too, Emily thought. But, of course, that wasn't how things went. Once she was back inside the restaurant, it did feel like a new day. Emily let the rhythm of the place take her, and she was in the groove for the rest of her shift. No more mistakes. At the end of the day, Carol made her a meat-­loaf plate with mashed potatoes and gravy and a big helping of sautéed vegetables. Emily wouldn't have said she was hungry, but she finished every last bite and felt like she could have eaten more. She saw Carol looking at her, and then the other woman came to sit across from her in the booth. The Blue Hen was in the lull between breakfast and lunch, a few customers lingering over their meals--­a mom spoon-­feeding oatmeal to a little boy, an old man reading a paper, a couple holding hands at the two-­top by the window. "How was it?" asked Carol. She tapped on Emily's empty plate. Emily would have lifted it and licked the gravy clean if she'd been alone. "Horrible," she said. "I'm sending it back." Carol smiled at her and patted her hand. "You didn't have breakfast." Excerpted from Heartbroken by Lisa Unger All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.