About the Book:
Olivia stopped living the day her brother died. Three years ago, Robby toddled into the backyard pool and drowned on her watch, taking the best parts of their mother and father with him. Now sixteen, Olivia can no longer remember what it feels like to really be alive, until a family of strange women move in across the street. Nothing about the Hallas women is normal, and Kara, the daughter who is Olivia’s age, has a morbid fascination—writing letters to convicted killers and criminals for murderabilia, tokens of infamy that promise to fetch a collector’s price online. But Olivia’s family has secrets of their own.
Read an Excerpt:
Featured in Aug/Sept 2019 Issue: Fierce Female
Sometimes, I tell myself the story of my own life. When I wake at night, and the dawn shadows summon from beyond the horizon, I put myself back to sleep with these stories. There are a multitude of ways to render the story that is me.
In some versions, Robby was never born. And the unborn cannot die. In these versions, we don’t miss his downy hair or lopsided smile. We never had a pool … or a boy. There is just me, my parents, and a stream of days in which we are infinitely content. In these versions, I am free to live the life I once imagined for myself. I go to college. I marry my first love. I make art. My life follows a well-established rhythm that has been laid out for it. I am normal, unmarked by tragedy.
In other versions, Robby comes and goes. He blooms, ripens, and withers on the vine. He graduates. He dates. He drives a car and says things like “No kidding?” and “good grief.” He grows, marries, and has his own children. He stands beside me at our parents’ funerals. He is unblemished. He is real. He is live. And I am much the same as before. I draw constantly. I read incessantly. I fall in love too easily. Still, I am normal. We are normal. I delight in being a we. I take it for granted.
But my favorite stories are the ones where Robby toddles to the pool’s edge, and I am lying in the sun in my first bikini. I see him approach and feel the fine hairs along my arms rise in warning.
I jump up and plunge into the water just as he topples over. I come up choking and gasping, Robby crying in my arms. I save the day. Not just the day—every day. I save the countless possible days that Robby would otherwise never know. I am not normal in this story. I am better than normal. I am heroic.
The story I am trapped in doesn’t end like these. It never crests, crescendos, peaks, and dips back down into a resolution we can settle happily into. Instead it slithers, bucks, and then slides along, dragging us with it. We are a snag in life. We live in its wake. Our rhythm is out of sync.
Normal is a thing of the past, and I am the opposite of a hero.