A shattering new thriller about three women, strangers, on a heart-wrenching collision course none of them could have seen coming.
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. With nowhere to go, she finds herself on the run. Without knowing each other, and with lives that couldn't be more different, Kate and Emily head to the same point on the map: Heart Island, an idyllic place in the middle of a lake in the Adirondacks, owned for generations by Birdie Burke's family. The harsh and unyielding Birdie is at one with this island, which has a terrifying history all its own. She, too, has consequences to face.
Heartbroken is a tense, mesmerizing novel about the limits of dysfunctional families, of an island haunted by dark memories and restless ghosts, and of the all-too-real demons we must battle. Wonderfully suspenseful, exquisitely crafted, and written with raw, emotional power, this is Lisa Unger at her very best.
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June 26, 2012
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Excerpt from Heartbroken by Lisa Unger
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.