Liquid, fragile, perishable A novel

Carolyn Kuebler

Book - 2024

"May has arrived in the tiny hamlet of Glenville, Vermont, bringing with it currents of rejuvenation and rebirth. For 3 families, though, the year ahead will prove to be a roller coaster of life-changing events, promises, and tragedies. Liquid, Fragile, Perishable unspools via a chorus of unforgettable voices: an old-school Christian beekeeping family and newly transplanted New Yorkers; a trio of teenage girls and a deeply rooted family of ne'er-do-wells; and one woman who just wants to live alone in the woods. The shifting set of relations among the citizens of this community encompasses teenage pregnancy, drug abuse, poverty--and a cavalcade of thwarted dreams, young love in bloom, and poignant missed connections."--

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FICTION/Kuebler Carolyn
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Social problem fiction
Brooklyn : Melville House 2024
Main Author
Carolyn Kuebler (author)
Physical Description
340 pages ; 21 cm
Contents unavailable.
Review by Booklist Review

Seasons in Glenville, Vermont, are marked by snows, thaws, swims, and changing leaves. Kuebler's debut plays off the four seasons and the seasons of life, all of them reflected in the river running through town. Postmistress Jeanne is interested in others' news but personally stagnant. Nell lives alone on a shoestring, haunted by the river and by loss. Friends Sophie, Honey, and Amber are the only girls in their class, if Honey, being homeschooled, counts. Sophie's family are innkeepers, and Honey's family has an agricultural business. Amber lives in town with her mother to escape her dad and brothers, the bad-news LeBeaus. New Yorkers Jim and Sarah and their college-bound son, Will, settle in Vermont to fulfill a dream. Then Will sees Honey swimming in the river, her face, figure, and thick blond hair jump-starting a romance the two hide from their families. Kuebler's prose is visual, astute, and rich. Family drama, mystery, and subtle foreshadowing carry readers headlong to the conclusion. A novel for readers who relish a sense of place, quirky characters, and intertwined stories.

From Booklist, Copyright (c) American Library Association. Used with permission.
Review by Kirkus Book Review

Varying perspectives show the inner workings--and secrets--of a rural Vermont town. The humdrum order of small-town Glenville, Vermont, is disrupted when a family moves in from New York. Parents Sarah and Jim Calper seek a better life for their son, Willoughby, while Will just seeks an end to the summer so he can leave for college. But when he meets sheltered, home-schooled Honey Mitchell and falls in love, he unknowingly changes Glenville forever. Kuebler's debut novel spans a year in the town through the alternating perspectives of residents whose deepest thoughts betray a tense, insular place buried beneath a peaceful surface. As Honey defies her evangelical parents for Will, other characters go through parallel changes. Honey's friend Sophie, for instance, deals with jealousy and fracturing friendships, while Nell, an isolated woman living alone in the woods, navigates poverty and disability in the midst of the cruel Vermont seasons. Honey and Will's relationship, though shown sparingly, is the axis around which the story swings. Their devotion to one another brings about a surprising conclusion, one whose arrival Kuebler sows slowly and carefully. The narrative moves like the river that runs through the town: gentle at first, then harsh and unforgiving. At times dark, at other times beautiful, Kuebler's debut shines in its precision. It picks apart each character's thoughts in an unusual clipped stream-of-consciousness narrative. The characters' points of view fit together like an elaborate quilt, gradually coming together into a satisfying whole. Kuebler's skillful, minimalist prose carries this small-town story from tranquil beginning to perilous end. Among the residents' growth, discovery, and tenderly told emotional arcs, only one thing is certain: Glenville will never be the same. An intricate, slow-burning patchwork of a debut novel. Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

If she can walk to the supermarket and back, three miles down, three miles up, then she can do without the car. Nell stops to rest where the trail meets the road, where the road curves from the mountain into town. The old house is still there by the river. She's looking at it from the other side now, at the yard, the porch, the place she used to live. The back porch is bare but for a blue recycling bin, upside down. A pair of mallards sleeps in a patch of sun on the bank. Heads tucked into feathers, unmoving. It's spring now, and all the rivers are rushing. Brown with white caps, foam and branches swirling beneath the bridge. The rivers are rushing, but not Nell. No reason to hurry. She will sit here a while, on a rock in the sun. The car can stay up at her place until she decides to fix it. Seven hundred and change is more than it's worth to her now. Another spring without a job, and now she'll do without a car too. See, I am doing this, walking to the supermarket. Resting in the sun, on a rock, by the river. Of course everything is easier with a little sun. With the smell of mud, warming and rising. What's possible in May is more than you can expect for January, even a warm January, like this year. The year before that too. She looks out to the old house now, its backyard stretching from the porch to the riverbank. It was too close to the river, Dad always said, but they lived there anyway. All six of them, for so many years, until one by one they left. She'd stand there on the bank with the binoculars, after Mom died. See that, Nell? he'd say, do you see them? The green herons were the most difficult to find, their squat bodies, their ugly sounds. Not like a heron at all, she'd say. She did the best she could for him, though. Scanning the reeds and treetops, closing her eyes to listen. And later she knew what he needed before he asked. A heating pad, a cup of tea. But he's gone now too. Dead and gone. Some words toll like bells. Like the bells on the hour that always rang, that still ring, if you stop in the town long enough to listen. She didn't think she'd live more than a minute without Laura, and yet here she is. Thirty years later. Thirty years longer. Her sister Laura who was first at everything, afraid of nothing, till they found her, broken, on the rocks below. Even now, Laura precedes every moment. Or is Nell exaggerating? Certainly she goes for hours, days even, without thinking of her. Thirty years now. Thirty-one if you count that first year. She doesn't count that first year. She can't count what she doesn't remember. The winter was long and gray but Nell can breathe in the smell of spring now, the smell of wet, which is the smell of life, which just keeps going. A fisherman steps into the river, all in brown. So quiet, like a deer coming out for a drink. Nell is like a deer today too, coming out of the woods by the river. Quiet, disturbing nothing, in need of nobody. If she could disappear back into the woods again like that, she would. But there's a small list in her pocket of everything she needs. Flour. Canned food to last. It will be heavy. She still has applesauce from last fall. A ten-pound block of cheese getting smaller. Little by little she's finding what she can do without. The fisherman steps in deeper, and out goes a ribbon of line. The shadow of a cloud lifts from the grass across the river. The fishing line swoops and glitters. She could stay here forever, with the sunshine pressing through her hair, the cool of the rock through her jeans. But how long will it be, really? A half hour maybe. Then the sun will shift and she'll get going. It's all she has to do today, to get back before dark, three miles down, three miles up. A duck lifts its head and shakes its neck, its wings. Both the ducks now, flapping in the sun. Nell will get moving too. Across the bridge, through town, and out on the highway to Shaw's. She'll walk along the shoulder. It's not so far. She can carry her pack. Her legs are strong and she has more time than she needs. ** You can't open a plate-glass window, so Jeanne props the door. Ah, if only they'd call a holiday on the first real day of sun! They have holidays for everything else around here. The sun is nearly hot and yet it's just the start of May. It's a treat, such a gift--free heat for everyone! Even for people who never pay their bills. From the look of things, LeBeau's not paying. You can barely fit another thing in his box. Another final notice. Nothing's every quite final for the LeBeaus, though. They've been here forever and forever they'll stay. Today Jeanne is standing at the counter. It's better than sitting, they say. Sitting is the new smoking. Jeanne never smoked. Not cigarettes, anyway. It was the seventies back then--what do you expect? Yes, she used to be quite a peach, smoking grass in her hippie skirts, hair down to there. They don't call it grass anymore, though, do they? The kids. Smoking a blunt, her sons would say. Not that her sons ever really went in for that stuff. Jeanne opens Summer's Parade just below the counter. It's always a game of will they do it, or won't they, in these books. Or more like when, because it always works out in the end. The characters are always so young, so good-looking. Bob would tease her. What, you don't get enough at home? He'd tell her to read something better. You're smart, he'd say. You could get a degree. When did he stop saying that? Both of them too tired now from working all these years. Raising kids. The whole nine yards. Their boys both have degrees now. Kevin and Danny with their jobs up in Kingsbury. Jobs and wives. Yes, Jeanne did okay by her boys. Didn't need a degree for that. No reason she can't just read whatever she wants now. Though it's taking its sweet time, this book. People are really coming out of the woodwork today. The young ones already in T-shirts and shorts. Jeanne doesn't know the little ones anymore. Now she mostly knows the old-timers. Of course she knows Nell Castleton. Walking by with an old metal-frame backpack. God knows where she must've dug that thing up from. Everyone knows the Castleton family. One of them went to Harvard. Maybe Yale? One of them died in a hiking accident out West. No, Jeanne doesn't really know them. She can count on her fingers the people she really knows anymore. Apart from the mail they get. One for you, one for you. Day after day the bills that come, the cards and letters less and less. Such a waste to be at work on a day like this! She could be home cleaning out the garage at least. All those old baby clothes. The kids' art projects from way back when. Sometimes it's like she's saving all this junk just for the mice to nest in. Well, mice have families too. They have to sleep somewhere. With the door open like this, Jeanne can't help but look up every time a car goes by. A truck now, grinding its gears at the stoplight. A heavy bass thumps from a car with the windows down. Since time immemorial kids in cars blast their music. Jeanne used to blast music. Still does, now and then, back on Chubb Road with no-one around but the deer and the skunks. There's always that sudden quiet when she turns off the ignition. "Silence descends." She must've read that in her book, though really she should be reading the new regulations. She read them once but has forgotten. Who can remember stuff like that? If only she hadn't eaten her lunch so early. She shifts from one foot to the other. Standing is no better than sitting if you lean like this. Give me a break, she says. I'm old. A breeze comes in from the door and she closes her eyes. But not really. I'm not old when I close my eyes. Not when it's May. Excerpted from Liquid, Fragile, Perishable by Carolyn Kuebler 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.