In these stories, the mysterious bonds of family are tested, transformed, fractured, and fortified. A recent widower and his adult son ferry to a craggy Scottish island in search of puffins. An actress who plays a children’s game-show villainess ushers in the New Year with her deadbeat half brother. A mother, pining for her children, feasts on loaves of challah to fill the void. A new couple navigates a tightrope walk toward love. And on a trip to a Texas water park with their son, two fathers each confront a personal fear. With sentences that crackle and spark and showcase her trademark wit, McCracken traces how our closely held desires – for intimacy, atonement, comfort – bloom and wither against the indifferent passing of time.
From the day she is discovered unconscious in a New England cemetery at the beginning of the 20th century – nothing but a bowling ball, a candlepin and 15 pounds of gold on her person – Bertha Truitt is an enigma to everyone in Salford, Massachusetts. She has no past to speak of, or at least none she is willing to reveal, and her mysterious origin scandalises and intrigues the townspeople, as does her choice to marry and start a family with Leviticus Sprague, the doctor who revived her. But Bertha is plucky, tenacious and entrepreneurial, and the bowling alley she opens quickly becomes Salford’s most defining landmark – with Bertha its most notable resident. She changes the town forever: her singular spirit resonating powerfully through every board and brick and bone.