THE GOOD LUCK GIRLS OF SHIPWRECK LANE is the story of two women with the same name, each of whom believes she is the rightful winner of a Dream Home Sweepstakes. For Nean, winning the house means an escape from a string of dead-end jobs and bad boyfriends. For Janey, it's a chance to build a life outside of the shadow of her fiancé's death. Both Janine Browns head for Christmas Cove, Maine to claim the house, and when their lives intersect, they discover that more than just a million-dollar dream home awaits them at water's edge. Filled with wit and charm, THE GOOD LUCK GIRLS OF SHIPWRECK LANE is an enchanting, heartfelt debut about the many ways love finds us, the power of a home-cooked meal, and what it really means to be lucky.
Hey, you know what? That sounds pretty good. You should buy yourself a copy. You totally deserve it. And you know what else? You should buy a copy for someone else too. Maybe someone you don't get along will all that well, someone who you'd like to get along with better. The Nean to your Janey. (If you're the Nean shopping for a Janey, perhaps you should let her buy her own book. She's loaded.) What I'm trying to say is, your support at the bookstore means a lot to me.
Online ordering available here and here. And when you go to buy a second copy for a friend (!) I hope you'll visit your local book purveyor and help them pay their rent so they're around for a nice long time to come, stocking my books.
Go here to find your nearest small bookstore if you aren't hanging out there drinking their coffee and messing up their merchandizing all the time already. And if you have a favorite bookstore you'd like me to visit, tell me. I usually bring food to share.
A free sneak peak from inside the book...
All this time, I am at home. Trying to take a nap after a long day manning the fry station at Hardee’s. Not hurting a hair on anyone’s neck. I have my alarm clock set to 7:30 p.m. because, despite all the odds, I know I am destined to win the Home Sweet Home Network’s “No Place Like Home Free House Sweepstakes” tonight, and I don’t want to miss out on the announcement.
I am trying to nap because I have a headache. I have a headache because of all the shouting my boyfriend Geoff likes to do. Geoff is in a band and I’m pretty sure that all the loud noise he subjects himself to is making him deaf, because he never talks in a normal tone of voice anymore. If he wants to know where he put his keys, it sounds like this: “WHERE DID I PUT MY KEYS?!” And if he is hungry he will turn to me and say “BABY, WHAT ARE WE HAVING FOR DINNER TONIGHT?!” This is when I’m sitting next to him on the couch. There isn’t really punctuation yet invented for the noise he makes when I’m in the other room. It’s just shouting, all day and all night, whether he’s angry or not, though it’s usually the former. He is one of the angriest people I have ever known.
He—and his one-bedroom with a view of the interstate—is also the only thing standing between me and homelessness, though, so let us remain mum on Geoff’s lesser qualities for now. He is not the first jerkwad I have had to crash with just to have a place to live. But he will be the last. Soon, I will be the proud owner of a new, fully furnished, Free House somewhere in New England, and then I will not have to put up with guys like Geoff ever again.
They ran a TV special about the house’s features last week, as a tease for the drawing tonight, and the house is pretty damn fantastic. When I win, I won’t need another thing but the clothes on my back and a bus ticket to Maine. The whole damn house is furnished straight out of an episode of The Martha Stewart Show, with all kinds of sofas and matching lamps and books already on the shelves and all the stuff you need to live already right there, and color-coded to boot. And it has a fitness area with state-of-the-art exercise equipment and a flat-screen TV for watching Oprah while you do the Best Life Challenge on the treadmill. And it has a finished basement game room with a fifty-bottle wine refrigerator. A refrigerator just for wine, you understand. To say nothing of the real refrigerator that has a TV built right into the door so you can watch Jeopardy! while you wait for the pizza to come.
Yessir, the house is pretty fantastic. Outside, it has two matching rocking chairs on a porch in the front and a little heated pool off to the side, surrounded by pretty hedges for privacy so you can sit in it naked if you want and no one will ever know. And then the hedges open up to the back, which has a big view of the ocean and some pretty cliffs, though they are the sort of cliffs that you can imagine people getting too drunk and dashing their brains out on, so maybe I will put up a fence before my first big party. Still, the view is pretty spectacular. On the show they panned out to the ocean, and it was full of sailboats and seabirds and various other items of extreme scenicness.
I am really looking forward to living there.
Listen, I’m not dumb. I know the odds are stacked against me. But I had a very clear dream about a month ago about this house. It wasn’t one of those ambiguous dreams where you have to tell someone else about it to figure out what the hell it’s supposed to mean. It was a crystal clear dream—nay, <ital>vision</ital>. In it, I won a house, dreamed every last detail of it, and then the next day while I was watching TV I saw an ad for the sweepstakes and realized it was the exact same house from my dream. So yes, I’m pretty sure I’m destined to win.
I know it’s not a sure thing until they call my name on the live winner’s announcement show tonight, but it won’t be much longer now, and I am a very, very lucky person, if you don’t count my present circumstances, which I don’t. I probably would have won last year’s “No Place Like Home Free House Sweepstakes,” a house in Florida (which, let’s face it, is way nicer weather-wise than one in Maine) but the post office screwed up my entry postcard and it got bounced back to me after the drawing for insufficient postage. Boy was that a heartbreak. But at least it explained why I didn’t win.
This year I didn’t take any chances with the g--d--- post office. Those jerks are always changing the price of stamps, and they expect people to somehow know what the cost is to mail a postcard on any given day, like we have nothing better to do than think about postage prices. I say, if I go in and buy a sheet of postcard stamps—and they are specifically called postcard stamps, so I know whereof I speak—which are only useful on postcards and have exactly zero other uses, then they should keep being useful on postcards until they’re all gone. You can’t just all willy-nilly change the cost of postage and not tell anyone. That’s the sort of thing that can bring down a civilization. You just watch.
This year I went right down to that post office with my postcard and took absolutely no chances. I waited in line for nearly a half hour, and when I got to the front counter, sure enough, they had changed the postage prices again. If I hadn’t taken so much care and added a few extra dollars in stamps just to be on the safe side, my postcard would probably be at the bottom of some pile of letters to Santa or something and not where it is, which is in a big vat of postcards at the Home Sweet Home headquarters in New York City, very near the top where it will easily be selected by celebrity guest judge Carson Jansen-Smit, the hunky chiseled carpenter who is always going around knocking down people’s dining room walls without their permission.
When I win the dream house, I will NOT let Carson Jansen-Smit anywhere near the property with his sledgehammer. If he wants to come over he should bring only a bottle of massage oil and some condoms.
I can’t sleep. I’m too excited about the house. The announcement is not that far away. I crawl out of bed—okay, out of mattress, because it’s just an old mattress on the floor I’m napping on—and teeter out a little dizzily to the main room of the apartment. I’m still groggy while I take in the mess. Geoff is not a tidy person, and I’ll be damned if I’m going to clean up after a man at my young stage in life. Housewifery is for women over the age of thirty, if you ask me. For now I am just tolerating the squalor and holding on for those glorious days when Geoff’s mom comes over with a mop and bucket and glares at me until I get out of the way. After one of her visits you can see yourself in the linoleum kitchen floor and there’s no gritty sensation under your feet when you shower. She cleans up so thoroughly that dirt is afraid to come back for a couple of weeks, at least.
But those couple of weeks have come and gone. Geoff is asleep on the couch—maybe his shouting gave him a headache too—and the floor below him is covered in random stuff. Stickers, unopened mail, clothes, fast-food cups, and an unfathomable number of socks. It is early summer in Cedar Falls, Iowa, and Geoff wears black shower sandals pretty much 24-7, so I can’t for the life of me understand where all these socks are coming from. Part of me thinks they are other people’s socks, and Geoff is collecting them for some reason. Maybe he is getting his fans to give him their socks at his shows, and then planning to donate the socks to some sort of charity sock drive. I am fairly certain there are enough socks on the floor of this room to completely cover the feet of every homeless person in Cedar Falls, Iowa. Hey, that’s not a bad idea.
It’s an idea I want to run by Geoff right this second, in the hopes that he’ll pick it up in here a little. So I sit on the couch and stare at him until he wakes up. Nothing happens. Apparently my piercing stare is not that piercing. When staring doesn’t work I start bouncing on the couch a little. He keeps sleeping so I lean over and get my face down right in his, planning to scare the shit out of him when he opens his eyes, but when I’m within sniffing distance I get a big whiff of booze. Crap. I move away slightly but before I do I take another big snootful of the smell and think hard. It isn’t tequila, thank crap. Tequila is rare, but it’s also scary. This smell on his breath today is Jack Daniels, which I can totally handle. In fact, I could go for a Jack and Coke myself. I leave Geoff to sleep and go fix myself a drink.
In the kitchen the sink is full of damn near every dish we have, all covered with a layer of crusty grime that almost puts me off my drink. But I look in the cabinets and there are still three or four clean coffee mugs, the sturdy homemade kind that his last girlfriend made for him on her potter’s wheel. On the bottom of each there is a heart with her and Geoff’s initials in it. I take one down and pour in a finger or three of Jack and then ice, and then half a can of Coke over the top. I give it all a good swirl with the paring knife, which is mostly clean. By the time I’m done the announcement is about to start.
And here, things get tricky. There is only one TV in this apartment, and it’s right next to the sleeping body of my landlord boyfriend who is stinking drunk. I have to turn it on—the TV, not the boyfriend—because I have to see the announcement. If I miss it, I won’t know if I won for sure until the library opens tomorrow morning at 10:00 a.m. and I can go use the computers there to look on the HSHN website. Waiting overnight would make me crazy. And surely the HSH people will be expecting the winner to be watching tonight and provide instructions on how to claim the prize. What if I miss that?
I’ve got to turn on the TV. I’ll just lean over, turn it on, and then right away dial down the volume to next to nothing and stand really close to the TV so I can hear what they’re saying. Geoff will sleep right through. I pull up a beanbag right in front of the screen and plop down with my drink. Then I lean over and push the power button on the TV and watch the flash of light grow into a picture, all while trying to hit the volume down button as many times a second as humanly possible.
It doesn’t work. It might have worked if we’d had a nicer TV, but this one, with it’s missing remote and sticky console buttons, simply can’t react in the time necessary for this endeavor. The sound blares on and it’s set loud enough for Deaf Geoff to hear his favorite show: South Park. The noise that my drunken landlord boyfriend wakes up to is a giant cartoon fart, ripping its way across the apartment and startling him so much that it takes him several blinks to figure out exactly where he is. By the time he is sitting up I’ve got the sound off and the channel switched to the giveaway. I turn around and smile innocently, bat my eyelashes a little. “Sorry.”
“Turn off the fucking TV,” Geoff tells me.
“Okay,” I say, then turn back to face the TV, where the opening scenes show a beautiful view of the coast of Maine from a boat or maybe a helicopter just off shore. Does the house come with a helicopter, I wonder?
Behind me, I hear Geoff get up. My hands clench around the drink. I will be watching this show. I <ital>have</ital> to watch this show.
“Hey, bitch,” Geoff says. He is moving towards me. I know because I hear the detritus that covers the floor part like the Red Sea as he stumbles my way. On screen they are zooming in on the house. I’m starting to get nervous.
Geoff’s leg connects with the coffee table and he shouts, “FUCK.” I am trying hard to keep my eyes glued to the screen and focus on the show, but it’s hard when I know he’ll soon be standing right behind me. I check the clock. It will be five or ten minutes until they announce the winner. I know I can hold him off that long.
Now he is right behind me. I’m sitting cross-legged on the beanbag chair pretending I don’t care about his existence and he’s right behind me, standing up, and he grabs my head with his big hand and says again, “BITCH.” I’m pretty sure he means me.
Then he closes his hand over my head and gets a big fistful of hair. “I said TURN OFF THE TV.” I ignore him. I know how pissed this makes him, and I don’t care.
He cares. He pulls the chunk of hair he’s got in his fists and pulls hard. I feel myself being lifted up out of my seat by my hair. It hurts like hell. I scramble my legs underneath me and get purchase so I can lift myself up and take the pressure off my scalp. When I’m fully standing I turn around and face Geoff and see the rage in his face. I should back down, but I hate to be bullied. Besides, it’s just Jack Daniels on his breath. If it were tequila, I’d be more careful.
“Go back to sleep,” I tell him as forcefully as I can. Then I put my hand over his wrist and try to wrest his fist out of my hair so I can get back to my show.
He doesn’t move, but his grip gets tighter. “Seriously, Geoff,” I try again, hating the pleading tone in my voice. “The show’s almost over, and at the next commercial I’ll order some pizza for dinner.” Pizza, right? Who can be angry when tempted by pizza?
He releases my hair. Yes! But then he moves his hands to my shoulders and grabs me tight. “I was sleeping,” he hisses out at me, his foul breath making my face pinch up involuntarily. “You didn’t see me on the couch, right over there, sleeping?”
“Nope.” I say. “I didn’t even notice. Sorry!” I try to sit back down. Behind me, very, very softly, I hear the announcer introduce Carson Jansen-Smit and wish like hell I was looking at his pretty face instead of Geoff’s grimacing one.
“You noticed,” he accurately guesses. “You must have been trying to wake me up.”
“Why would I want to do a thing like that? Go back to sleep, asshole.” I don’t know why I say that, except that I mean it.
“I’m the asshole?” he asks. “I was just trying to get a little rest around here.” He moves around me, and I can tell he has every intention of turning off the TV.
“Don’t you turn that off,” I tell him. I step away from the beanbag chair and angle myself in front of the power button.
“Or what? Are you going to beat me up?” He shoves me out of the way and turns off the TV. The dream house shrinks to nothing. I elbow him right in the side and turn the TV back on.
“I was watching that!” I scream. Now I’m getting kind of pissed. What will happen if I miss the announcement? Will they give the house to someone else, if I don’t call a certain number on the screen within a certain time frame, just like on those radio show giveaways that I hear all day long at work?
“Too fucking bad.” He tells me. He’s going for the off switch again. I push him harder. He pushes me back. On the screen they’re panning over the kitchen, which is so shiny and yellow and bright. The appliances are space-aged. They zoom in on the TV fridge, and the sight of it all shiny and new gives me a boost. Soon I will be able to watch whatever I want, whenever I want, even if I want to watch it on a refrigerator.
“You better sit down right now, you stupid shithead,” I tell Geoff. “I’m not afraid of you just because you spent the day drinking and now you think you’re some big man.”
Geoff wheels around and hits me in the shoulder and I stumble back a little. It hurts but I’m not even thinking about it. I’m thinking about that house in Maine and how sweet living there is going to be. How I’m going to take off so fast and start a new life there, where no one knows anything about me. I wrestle my shoulders away from him, turn my face back to the TV even as he manhandles me.
It’s making him crazy that I’m not crying or fighting back. He grabs my arm hard and spins me around so my back is to the TV. “You listen to me when I talk, bitch.” Then he slaps my face. Open-handed. What a pussy he is. I tell him so, but in my mouth I taste blood.
They’re about to announce the winner. Behind me I can hear them discussing the drawing rules and talk about the certified public accountants that are there to make sure the selection is on the up and up. I feel dizzy. My nose is bleeding. I just want this asshole out of my face so I can watch the show. He’s yelling at me now and I can’t even hear the TV anymore. I look at the mug I’ve been holding all this time, the Jack and Coke in the hard pottery mug with the heart carved in the bottom. He’s going to hit me again if I don’t turn off the TV and apologize right now, he’s saying. He’s going to hit me until I am sorry. I’m going to miss the announcement.
“You hear me? Apologize to me right now!” he’s shouting. I hear faintly a drumroll on the TV.
“Fuck you,” I tell him. Then I spit in his face. Now he’s really mad. But it doesn’t matter. Because before he gets a chance to deliver another hit, I haul back my hand with the mug in it and bring it down hard on his head, crack, and watch the Jack and Coke go everywhere and a tiny stream of blood trickle down his head and watch his lights go right out and see him sink down on the floor. I hear his pained scream and then the sound of him hitting the ground but I’m turning away already. My eyes are back on the television, where Carson Jansen-Smit is holding a piece of paper, an envelope with the name of the winner on it.
Carson is beaming like an idiot. “The winner of the grand prize, the fully furnished dream house in Christmas Cove, Maine, worth more than one million dollars, is . . .”
He pauses and I chant my name in my head. Say my name, Carson Jansen-Smit, you gorgeous moron you.
The drumroll stops. They zoom in on Carson’s face. His lips form the words. “The winner is . . . Janine Brown of Cedar Falls, Iowa!” Confetti goes flying all around his head and a banner drops down in front of the house that reads CONGRATULATIONS JANINE and I blink my eyes hard and then start to shake and cry and scream all at once, and then I start to do a little jig right in front of the TV, careful even in my jubilation not to stomp on poor Geoff lying there unconscious and bloody on the floor.
“OH MY GOD!” I scream and start waving my fists in the air even though it makes my shoulder burn like hell to move it. “OH MY GOD!!!” I say again. I’m bleeding a little on my shirt but it doesn’t matter. I’m very, very happy, and not happy for Janine “Janey” Brown, the bridal seamstress who lives across town and is right this moment staring open-mouthed at her aunt Midge’s flat-screen TV with a mouthful of salmon in danger of plopping right out onto the floor in front of her. I have—as of this moment—never met that Janine Brown of Cedar Falls, Iowa. I don’t know she exists. She is not why I am happy.
I am happy because her name is my name too.