Wednesday, July 25, 2018

#GIVEAWAY Review Every Time You Go Away by Beth Harbison

Beth has always been a favorite author for me I love her wit and her unsinkable female protagonists. This story has all that but its also very personal for her. If you love YA you might recognize the name because her daughter Paige is a YA author.
Beth's Publisher, St. Martin's Press is sponsoring a #Giveaway, details below.


ISBN-13:  9781250043832
Publisher: St. Martin's Press
Release Date: 7-24-2018
Length: 304pp
Source: Publisher for review
Buy It: Amazon/B&N/Kobo/IndieBound/Audible


In New York Times bestselling author Beth Harbison's most emotional novel ever, a fractured family must come together at a beach house haunted by the past.
Willa has never fully recovered from the sudden death of her husband, Ben. She became an absent mother to her young son, Jamie, unable to comfort him while reeling from her own grief.

Now, years after Ben’s death, Willa finally decides to return to the beach house where he passed. It’s time to move on and put the Ocean City, Maryland house on the market.
When Willa arrives, the house is in worse shape than she could have imagined, and the memories of her time with Ben are overwhelming. They met at this house and she sees him around every corner. Literally. Ben’s ghost keeps reappearing, trying to start conversations with Willa. And she can’t help talking back.
To protect her sanity, Willa enlists Jamie, her best friend Kristin, and Kristin’s daughter Kelsey to join her for one last summer at the beach. As they explore their old haunts, buried feelings come to the surface, Jamie and Kelsey rekindle their childhood friendship, and Willa searches for the chance to finally say goodbye to her husband and to reconnect with her son.
Every Time You Go Away is a heartfelt, emotional story about healing a tragic loss, letting go, and coming together as a family.

Giveaway is for one print copy of
Every Time You Go Away US ONLY
Please use Rafflecopter form to enter
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Read an excerpt:

Chapter One

I can tell you exactly when I lost my will to live.
It was three years ago. The day I found out my husband, Ben, who I’d contentedly believed was happily working on our beach house in Ocean City, Maryland, and getting ready to come home at the end of a long weekend, had actually died quietly in his sleep there.
That was when I, Willa Bennett, effectively ceased to be. That’s when the Willa who could laugh easily and speak her mind confidently went quiet. That’s when the Willa who enjoyed a largely anxiety-free life could no longer drape over the end of the sofa and have a conversation, and began, instead, to be a tight bundle of nerves. That’s when the Willa who could accept an unanswered phone as less than alarming became the kind of person who freaked out instantly if her son didn’t answer a call or text. It had already happened a few times, when Ben didn’t respond because he was driving, or he’d forgotten to charge his phone, or he was busy with power tools, and I’d jumped to the conclusion each time that he was actually lying dead, alone and unattended for perhaps a whole day. Sunrise and sunset, and sunrise again.
Three years ago. That’s when the Willa who believed in happily-ever-after and joy grew lonely, afraid, and hollow. That’s when she lost all hope, and even a slew of medications and meditations couldn’t bring her back.
That’s when I became Dead Willa.
Dead Willa, who, three years after the fact—tired of knowing that damnable house was still sitting there, untouched, since Ben had died—decided it was finally time to get rid of the place. The house had become an empty tomb, a sad monument to what had once been, what had happened, and what would never be again.
I finally decided that I had to be present for my now-seventeen-year-old son before I blinked again and he was twenty-one, and so on right through all the lyrics of “Cat’s in the Cradle.” I had become an incomplete person the moment he lost his father, when he needed me most. It was time—well past time, actually—for me to pull myself up by the bootstraps and join life again.
The only way to do that was to face the house. To move in for the summer—easily done, as I am an English teacher at a private high school in Potomac and had the summer off—fix it up, and get the place sold.
Did I mention that the old Willa didn’t believe in ghosts? Much as she might have wanted to, she just couldn’t bring herself to buy in. Ghosts and spirits and psychics and tarot cards—it was all nonsense to her.
But she believes now.

Chapter Two

The boy was running along the beach, kite trailing behind him high in the air like one of the signs tugged along by a biplane later in the summer. It was as if he were the only person in the world. And he practically was, truth be told. There didn’t seem to be anyone else here besides me, him, and my old golden retriever mix, Dolly, and she was busy sniffing the new environment and undoubtedly trying to find stinky new things to roll in and make herself repulsive.
We might have been the only living creatures in the world, even though it was late May in a beach town and the throngs were about to descend. But it was a cool, gray day with the kind of wind in which, my husband used to say, it “takes two men to hold one man’s hair on.” Anyone who had already come for vacation had probably decided to stay in and play board games or go to the movies, the boardwalk, or the nearby outlet center, which boasted junky beach food galore and no sales tax. That center probably attracted as many people as the ocean did.
The waves crashed on the shore over and over, a slow meter in the background, like in the song “Bridge over Troubled Water.” It was soothing. It was alive. It held life, I reminded myself. I was determined to be Zen during this sabbatical. So, while the ocean looked a cold battleship gray on this overcast cool day, I took a deep yoga breath in and told myself it was full of life, from the dolphins leaping along the surface to the unknown prehistoric creatures that still lived at the very bottom.
I tried to picture Finding Dory but the full-color vision eluded me. It takes a lot of imagination to see fireworks in this particular variety of gray. The words, though, the words stayed with me.
Just keep swimming.
Ben and I had had what felt like a million nights here together, but it had always been our tradition to come straight to the shore to say hello to the ocean before we went into the house, and I held fast to our old tradition out of pure habit.
I had a feeling there would be a lot of that.
Hello, ocean.
The answer was a gray crash and a spray of phosphorescent foam.
We’d met here, in this tourist haven, twenty years ago. Senior week at the beach. We didn’t go to the same school—he was already in college—but he was a friend of a friend of a friend, and as soon as we’d laid eyes on each other, it was the same old tired story of love at first sight. Only, in our case it was true. Or I think it was true. It certainly turned into love. The best love I’d ever known.
At the time I’d been the kind of beach blonde with wavy curls that they showed on the Sun-In bottle, and, while I didn’t feel any conceit about my looks or believe I was any great beauty, I loved the feel of the wind in my hair and the way I knew it looked. Now it was shorter, above my shoulders, and best described as dirty blond, though a merciful stylist might have seen some hope for highlights and shaping. I just hadn’t bothered for years.
But once … once I had felt like a real beach girl here. I’d met Ben with all the confidence I could muster.
My group of friends were renting the house I now owned. It wasn’t such a nice place back then—the floor saw a lot of pizza, spilled beer, and vomit. Usually, in that order. And, with a landlord who evidently didn’t mind renting to a hundred raging underage alcoholics as long as they could pony up the deposit, I could only imagine it had seen a lot of that treatment over the summers before and after our time here, until Ben and I had finally seen it was up for sale and had bought it in what seemed like the coup of the century.
It was a money pit. But a beautiful one. Sandblasted white siding, old-fashioned shutters that actually closed, but probably wouldn’t protect from a hurricane, and a tall, thin Victorian shape that would have made it the perfect candidate for a Titanic-era beach movie.
In fact, before we started renovating, we were literally offered two thousand dollars to let a small production company shoot a horror movie there (not quite Titanic), but we figured two thousand wouldn’t be enough to scrub the fake blood off the walls and floors afterward, or to scrub the gory images of the movie from our minds when we were enjoying some peaceful time at our second home.
“Besides,” Ben liked to say, “it’s already haunted.”
“You think so, huh?”
“Sure,” he said easily. “Ghosts have more substance in the damp air.” He said this with great authority, like he was Dan Aykroyd in Ghostbusters or something. “That’s why England has so many hauntings. It’s an island.”
“I thought it was because it had hundreds more years of organized civilization. They’ve been telling ghost stories there since they were wearing loincloths.”
He shrugged and smiled. Ran his hand through his dark, wavy hair the way he always did when he was trying to emphasize a point that he knew wasn’t very strong. “Moist air.”
I laughed. “Ugh, stop, you know I hate that word!”
“Moist,” he said again, then came toward me like a menacing creature from one of the very stories we were talking about. “Moist, moist, moist—”
“Stop!” I put my hands to his chest, and he laughed and wrapped his arms around me. And suddenly everything from the ghosts to the dreaded word dissolved, and there was nothing in the world to worry about.
Bit by bit we’d worked on the house until finally the whole thing was done and pristine and beautiful. The floor was new, the walls were new, the fixtures were new, the appliances were new … Honestly, I’d be hard-pressed to tell you what remained of the original place except it was still basically the same shape and in the same location.
We thought we’d have it forever, that it would be a place to bring our children and, someday, our grandchildren. Ben used to talk about all the little tchotchkes he picked up at yard sales and in our travels, and how the grandchildren would remember them all their lives. “The old ship’s light at Granddad’s,” or “the glass Pinocchio figure at Grandma’s,” and so on. God knows he collected a lot of funny old weird things, but I never protested. They were dust collectors, but they gave him such a kick I didn’t have the heart to point out that what he was spending on them could probably have put a pool out back.
We didn’t know then that Ben had a rare heart condition that was going to take him down at just thirty-six, suddenly and without mercy.
Death can be so swift, can’t it? I know a slow death is agony for the sick patient. I know the old “he never knew what happened” is a great blessing to the dead, but for those left behind, the sudden death is the worst kind of torture. You grieve over and over again because it breeds so many futile, circular thoughts.
No, I’d find myself thinking. Ben was annoyingly trim no matter what he ate. Every ounce he lost, I’d find. If I ate a Big Mac it seemed like he lost a pound and ran an extra quarter mile. He was incredibly healthy, there’s no way he just dropped dead.
Or, I have a message from him right here on my phone from this morning. This isn’t possible. I can listen to the message right now, I can hear his voice, he’s got to be here still!
The impulse to call and the certainty that he’d answer were tremendous. And, just like that, I’d have myself convinced, for just a fraction of a moment, that it hadn’t happened. It couldn’t have, it didn’t make sense, so it hadn’t.
But of course it had. And, as dumb as it is, that realization, even after just an instant of rationalizing why it couldn’t be, brought it all back like a surprise. A shock. There were times, even months later—hell, even years later—that I sincerely had to stop and ask myself if he was really gone or if it had just been a bad dream.
I’m sure there’s an element of genuine madness to that, but so many of us endure it that I guess it’s a socially acceptable form.
But this wasn’t all about me. Agonizing as it was, the loss was arguably worse for someone else. See, when he’d gone, he’d not only left me behind, but our son, Jamie, who was only fourteen at the time. Fourteen. And even that birthday was only a few weeks old. This boy who had, to that point, grown up so loved and nurtured by two parents, who had admired his father so much, was suddenly thrust into a world of grief. He’d wanted to be like his father and we thought he had a lifetime to learn. He still could, of course, but the lessons from Ben had ended before the biggest challenges of manhood had come along.
We had been a happy family. The happy, ideal little family with the nice house, the dog, the financial security—we were the Cleavers, the Petries, the Flintstones without the rocks. We even had the beach house with a nice story behind it. Our little haven held memories I’d never forget.
So it had been hard for me to even consider coming back until now. I just couldn’t face it. This had been our place, our home, in many ways even more than the one in Potomac, where we lived most of the year. They’d taken Ben out of here to Baltimore—and I’d driven the endless hour to identify him. That was the end of the beach house for years. The neighbors closed it up for me, kept half an eye on it, and I just paid the bills as they came in. I never wanted to come back.
Which was probably another reason I was standing out here on the beach watching a boy fly a kite, instead of going inside and getting down to the business of getting the house sold.
Then I’d never come back.
Ben had been getting it ready for our summer. Shaking out the dust and making sure everything was working before we descended on it with friends and relatives and plans for parties. He’d come alone for the weekend because I was just too lazy to face the hard labor after a week of exams.
I beat myself up about the place for a long time after that. What if he’d overexerted himself and that was why he’d died? The doctors said no, but what did they really know? I knew that when Ben got working, he worked like a horse, and here he’d been at our vacation home, fixing it up for me. It was a luxury. “The beach house.” It sounded so … unnecessary. Wouldn’t he still be alive if he hadn’t come here?
That was another one of those games my mind played with me, but still I couldn’t help but wonder. I’d wonder anything if the wondering could make me feel like it was possible it hadn’t happened.
My grandfather would have asked, Why can’t you just stay at a motel like everyone else? And, indeed, many of the motels where he would have stayed in his youth were still there. It was hard to argue that the Starlight Venture smells like urine and looks like prison when he remembered the glory days when the little neon lights out front worked and the rooms inside were the height of luxury because they looked out over the ocean (well, half of them; the other half looked over the bay) and smelled of thick fresh salt air.
It must have been nice then.
It was still nice, in many ways. Ben and I had loved it.
And once Jamie had been born (to my then twenty-year-old self), he had loved the beach too. For a while. Weirdly, once he reached teenagehood, he was less interested in coming. And obviously, once his father had died here, any thoughts he might have had of coming here for fun had disappeared like smoke in the air. He didn’t even want to come help me work on the place to be finally rid of it. Instead of joining me, he’d opted to stay home. Which meant he wanted to play video games, loaf off, and hang out with his crummy girlfriend.
So I was on my own. In so many ways.
The life insurance payment was safely invested, leaving my salary to dwindle as it always had, quickly, and leaving very little at the end of the month, particularly with a child, and with the hefty mortgage payment on a vacation house I didn’t need and which we never came to visit anymore.
I returned my attention to the beach. The beautiful beach. A place of peace and sunshine even when it’s overcast, at least in my mind.
In seven and out fourteen 
The boy looked over his shoulder and his eyes met mine for a moment. It sent a jolt of shock through me, partly because he looked familiar suddenly. I realized it was because he looked a bit like Jamie had a few years ago. Like Jamie, the boy’s coloring was like Ben’s—wavy dark glossy hair, icy pale blue eyes. Central casting would have him filed under Cute Kid. Active, carefree.
Unexpected tears filled my eyes. I envied him at that moment, that lone kid. For my son and for myself. He looked so peaceful, so focused on his one task. No painful thoughts, apparently; all he wanted was to fly that kite until, presumably, he had some other childlike thing to do. He looked to be about seven, maybe eight. It would be years before he had the troubled thoughts of adulthood.
He turned sharply, kicking a spray of sand up behind him. That got Dolly’s attention. She looked up, eyed him for a moment, then took off running toward him, kicking sand up behind her.
“Dolly!” She ignored me. “Dolly!” She reached the boy without even glancing back at me, and he looked down at her for a moment. She seemed to delight in his attention and ran by his side, looking up at him with that big loopy dog smile, trying to jump on him but unable to catch a moving target.
He didn’t seem to mind, so I stopped calling her and just watched them run together, thinking how nice it would be to travel back in time to when Jamie was that age.
Had I failed him irreversibly? I wondered. Had my devastation at Ben’s death put me into such a selfish tailspin that I hadn’t been there for my little boy’s needs upon his own father’s death? I wanted to tell myself no. I wanted to believe that my efforts to be cheerful, even when they seemed superhuman, had made a difference to Jamie, but all I could think of was the old chestnut everyone said. Kids know. And they do. They know when you’re lying, when you’re faking, when you’re not interested, when you’re drunk, when you’ve been crying. I’d committed all of those crimes at various times in my grief, and even though I’d tried to smile through every one of them, I’d failed him. Of course I had.
I needed to get him back. We needed to be the pals we used to be, back when he was the same age as this child. I needed to bring out the little boy he’d been and run with him on the beach, laugh with him, play with him. Make him know he wasn’t alone in this world no matter that his heart was broken.
Looking at this boy now brought it all back to me in the most poignant way. I wasn’t a wife anymore. I needed to be a better mother. Before it was too late.
The dog barked, bringing my attention back. The boy had stopped and was pulling the kite back in. Dolly was watching with rapt attention. So was I, come to think of it. When he was finished, he put the kite under his arm and walked toward me. I found myself straightening, as if I were about to have an important conversation, but he didn’t even look at me as he approached. In fact, he seemed to look everywhere but at me, yet there was something in his eyes that struck me. Loneliness. The definition of old soul curled up in those little blue eyes.
“Hello,” I said, as he passed.
It was the strangest thing. He slowed his gait, looked around, eyes never actually landing on me even though I was just a few feet away from him, then gave a tiny shake of his head and kept walking.
Of course he didn’t answer. That was good sense. I was just some strange woman standing on the beach watching him fly a kite, and not only should he not talk to me, but, given all the stranger-danger stuff we try to teach our kids, he probably should have hurried past me.
I watched him go, with a small ache and a measure of envy for his joy, then turned back to the sea.
“Hello, King Triton.” I whispered the greeting that Ben and I used to call out loud like crazy people.
Dolly stopped in front of me and panted her greeting. I knelt down and scuffled her shaggy head. “Hey, girl. Good girl! Did you have a good run?” I thought maybe I should get a kite too, good exercise and a little more interesting than just running along avoiding the horseshoe crabs that had washed up.
She jumped and hooked her front claws on my shirt, digging painfully into my stomach. “Down!” I ordered, and, chagrined, she got down and looked at me, probably wondering why I never wanted to hug. “Stay down.”
She obeyed and immediately set off sniffing the sand like she was onto something big. God knows what she was picking up on. Then she stopped and her hackles rose and she barked as if someone were climbing in the window in the middle of the night. She never got like this. She was such a dopey girl usually that to hear her growl and bark so low and ferociously was unfamiliar to me.
“No! Calm down, Dolly. No bark.” I glanced behind me for the boy, afraid he’d be frightened. “I’m sorry, she’s harm—” Although he had only just passed me a moment ago, he was gone.
Vanished into thin air.

Copyright © 2018 by Beth Harbison

My Review:

Every Time You Go Away
Beth Harbison

Beth Harbison’s latest, Every Time You Go Away is a love story and a modern day ghost story complete with a haunted house and a friendly spirit, a bit atypical for her usual light women’s fiction but its also very personal and that emotion is evident in every heartrending page. It’s about a family fractured by death, a mother and son who’re struggling to go on living without the man who meant the world to them. The dual POVs Willa’s 1st person and Jamie’s 3rd is the perfect way to tell this tale. Its not all dark but also filled with light, hope and full of this author’s iconic humor and wit that will bring both tears and laughter from her entranced audience. The conversational dialogue and vivid narrative bring to life the seaside backdrops and the wonderful soundtrack, plus the characters all rock especially Willa, Jamie and the ghost, but it’s the comforting outlook on the afterlife and how the haunting by her late husband helps Willa’s healing albeit she’s kicking and screaming the whole way that are the real stand outs. Harbison’s fans plus fans of the genre will devour this in one sitting and I personally hold her responsible for having “Every Time You Go Away by Paul Young on a non-stop loop in my head!
In the three years since the untimely and totally unexpected death of her husband Ben, Willa Bennett stopped living too. Oh she gets up every morning and teaches English during the school year, buys groceries etc… but that’s only existing. She should have been being a good mother to their then fourteen-year-old son Jamie who, hello lost his father and then his mother too. Well enough it enough, it’s time for a fresh start and first thing on the agenda is going to their beloved Ocean City MD beach house, the place where Ben died in his sleep. Clean it up, clear it out and sell it. But then she starts getting haunted by her dead husband, or maybe she’s just finally lost it completely.
Meanwhile back home in Potomac Virginia Jamie now seventeen has his own drama-filled life to deal with. Unlike other kids he’s mostly left alone by his mom and it’s his slightly psycho girlfriend who hovers, a girlfriend he’s finally had enough of but trying to dump her is proving to be a bit on the difficult side. As far as his mom goes, he knows she was hit hard when his dad died, they were devoted to each other and as a kid he felt like they had the perfect family, but he kind of lost her too and he’s not sure if he wants her back or if it’s too late to try. What he does know is that he does NOT want to go to the beach house and help her pack up a place that holds so many good memories for him.

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Meet Beth:
BETH HARBISON is The New York Times bestselling author of One Less Problem Without You, If I Could Turn Back Time, Driving with the Top Down, Chose the Wrong Guy, Gave Him the Wrong Finger; When In Doubt, Add Butter; Always Something There To Remind Me; Thin, Rich, Pretty; Hope In A Jar; Secrets of a Shoe Addict; andShoe Addicts Anonymous. She grew up in Potomac, Maryland, outside Washington, DC, and now shares her time between that suburb, New York City, and a quiet home on the eastern shore.

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  1. This novel sounds intriguing and captivating. It would be a very enjoyable novel to read this summer. Thanks.

  2. That first half of that excerpt was heartbreaking the second half was eerie.

  3. It has been ages since I read something with a ghost in it (that was not pure UF ;)

  4. I read a review for this just yesterday and thought I'd like it. I don't mind a friendly "get on with life" ghost!

    1. This is right up your alley Kathryn too bad you can't enter :(

  5. I thought this would need truffles, wine and a box of tissues. You have me curious about the paranormal element.

  6. I want to read this just because of the ghost story element. Sounds wonderful!!

  7. Well I definitely wouldn't have guessed that from the cover. lol Sounds good!

  8. Sounds like a heart tugging story. Thanks for sharing the excerpt and chance to win.