"An endearing and humane story about a family and its sticky web of secrets and misunderstandings . . . one of those rare books you could recommend to anyone and know that they'll love it." -The Australian Women's Weekly Harriet Turner knows all about journeys. She's arranged hundreds of them for her family's travel agency. Now Harriet is joining her adopted sister, Lara, to lead a group through the Cornish countryside. But when Lara fails to appear at the airport as planned, Harriet finds herself in uncharted territory and suddenly alone with a busload of eccentric seniors. As the tour wends its way through the picturesque landscape, Harriet must uncover her sister's whereabouts and confront long-held family secrets involving Lara's arrival twenty-five years ago . . . not to mention keeping track of more baggage-real and emotional-than she ever expected. "With every book, Monica McInerney becomes more skilled at juggling plot complexities and giving depth to her characters. . . . Perfect [for] weekend reading."
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June 20, 2006
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Excerpt from Family Baggage by Monica McInerney
It was all coming back to her, Harriet Turner realized. The key to being a successful tour guide was to think of herself as a duck. A mother duck, to be precise. A thirty-two-year-old mother duck in charge of twelve elderly, excited ducklings.
She glanced back over her shoulder, doing a quick head count of her tour group. Good, all twelve were still in sight, obviously tired but upright at least. They'd followed her obediently as she led the way off the plane, through passport control, and here into the baggage collection area of Bristol Airport. Ten gray-haired women, two balding men, none of them under sixty-five years of age, all in comfortable clothes and sensible shoes. Each sported a large turner travel: tours tailored just for you nametag on one shoulder and a homemade i m on the willoughby tour! badge on the other. Some looked bedraggled from the long journey, but more than half were still smiling. The excitement of arriving in England had obviously lifted their spirits. Harriet was glad to see it.
Her protective feelings toward them had grown with each step of the journey. She'd arrived at Melbourne Airport two hours early so she could greet each of them personally. On the plane she'd regularly checked whether they were too warm or too cool and if they needed anything to eat or drink. During their overnight stopover in Malaysia, she'd kept a close eye when they crossed roads, walked across bridges, or ate anything that might have bones in it. All the simple rules of being in charge of a group had come flooding back. Of course she could do this, she told herself for the hundredth time since her brother s surprise phone call. The tour would be a success. She'd do everything she could to make it a success.
They were among the first passengers from their flight to arrive at the baggage carousel. Harriet found a prime position, near the start of the conveyor belt and close to the exit. She was taken aback when the group clustered in a circle around her, looking up with big smiles and expectant expressions. It took her a moment to realize what they were waiting for. The customary Turner Travel welcome speech. James, her eldest brother, had begun the tradition, marking the start of each group tour with a little poem or funny speech beside the baggage carousel. He was usually so organized he had copies printed to hand out to the group members as souvenirs. Harriet s mind went blank. She had been brought in to this tour on such short notice she d hardly had time to learn the itinerary, let alone write a funny ditty.
She looked around at them again. Twelve faces looked back. Pushing embarrassment to one side, she smoothed down her official Turner Travel uniform, gave a big smile, and threw open her arms.
"Welcome to England!" she cried.