Published April 16, 2019
Dreams of Falling
Available in Hardcover and Trade Paperback
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New York Times bestselling author Karen White crafts evocative relationships in this contemporary women’s fiction novel, set in the Lowcountry of South Carolina, about lifelong friends who share a devastating secret.
On the banks of the North Santee River stands a moss-draped oak that was once entrusted with the dreams of three young girls. Into the tree’s trunk, they placed their greatest hopes, written on ribbons, for safekeeping–including the most important one: Friends forever, come what may.But life can waylay the best of intentions….
Nine years ago, a humiliated Larkin Lanier fled Georgetown, South Carolina, knowing she could never go back. But when she finds out that her mother has disappeared, she realizes she has no choice but to return to the place she both loves and dreads–and to the family and friends who never stopped wishing for her to come home.
Ivy, Larkin’s mother, is discovered badly injured and unconscious in the burned-out wreckage of her ancestral plantation home. No one knows why Ivy was there, but as Larkin digs for answers, she uncovers secrets kept for nearly fifty years–whispers of love, sacrifice, and betrayal–that lead back to three girls on the brink of womanhood who found their friendship tested in the most heartbreaking ways.
“White’s lovely tale of enduring friendships brings coastal South Carolina to life and examines the redemptive powers of love and loss.” —Publishers Weekly
“Southern Fried Fiction at its tear-jerking finest…[t]he author’s amazing empathic ability to decipher the human condition through her storytelling amazes once again.” —4 1/2 stars TOP PICK, RT Book Reviews
“Another perfectly crafted gem of a novel by an author with a genuine flair for originality and narrative storytelling, Karen White’s “Dreams Of Falling” is an extraordinarily entertaining and highly recommended addition to community library Contemporary General Fiction collections.” —Midwest Book Review
“This wonderfully woven novel has it all – intrigue, romance, echoes of lingering regrets – and the pages are brimming with compelling characters. Dreams of Falling is the best kind of novel – it’s a past-and-present love story expertly wrapped in mystery. Karen White never fails to deliver.” —Susan Meissner, bestselling author of As Bright as Heaven
“Three lifelong best friends. One dark secret that will reverberate for generations to come. Told in multiple timelines of the present and the past, this is Southern fiction at its best. A novel about dreams, friendship, and family, Dreams of Falling will make you long for home.” —Popsugar
“A multi-generational novel of friendship, second chances, betrayal, and long-held secrets…a poignant piece of Southern fiction.” —Historical Novel Society
“…this Southern story from White keeps readers guessing… Told through flashbacks and alternating voices, this entwined tale of love and forgiveness will please the author’s many fans.” —Library Journal
“A recipe of for a summer chick-lit best-seller.” —Wilmington Star-News
“…[F]ull of drama, mystery and passion in degrees that make the pages vibrate with intensity…storytelling of the first order.” —Jackie K. Cooper
“Dreams of Falling is a delicious stew of memorable characters, superb prose, evocative settings both present and past, thoughtful insights, and a plot that slowly simmers its way to a surprising and satisfying ending.” —Historical Novel Society
“Atmospheric and rich, White’s writing is an indulgent pleasure to read. She is certainly no stranger to crafting fast-paced, emotionally charged women’s fiction…she has mastered the compulsively readable rhythm that makes for compelling storytelling. She’s also an expert at interweaving time periods, perspectives and genres. Offering a blend of women’s fiction, romance, mystery and a touch of historical fiction, Dreams of Falling dips in and out of time, subplots and characters’ consciousness with grace and fluidity. It showcases White’s skill at building a cast of emotionally rich characters, as she juggles the fears and desires of five strong-willed women, all at the brink of revelation and disaster. Her keen emotional insights and warm authorial voice invite the reader into her stories the way one might welcome home a long-lost daughter.” —Shelf Awareness
Epigraph: Caol Ait: Thin Places. Gaelic for where this world and the next are said to be too close. According to legend, heaven and earth are only three feet apart, but in thin places that distance is even closer. Carrowmore, in County Sligo, Ireland, is one of many such thin places found throughout the world, a place where time stands still and the secular world brushes against the sacred.
Georgetown, South Carolina
I think I am dead. Yet I smell the blooming evening primrose and hear the throaty chirps and creaky rattles of the purple martins flitting home across the marsh. I see their sleek iridescent bodies gliding against the blood-red sunset sky, through the blackened Corinthian columns and crumbling chimneys of Carrowmore. The house is named after a legendary thin place, far away in Ireland. I can hear Ceecee’s voice again in my head, telling me what the name means, and why I should stay away. But like most things Ceecee has ever told me, I didn’t listen.
Carrowmore and I are both in ruins now, with wrinkles in our plaster and faults in our foundations. It’s oddly fitting that I should die in this house. I almost died here once before, when I was a little girl. I wonder if the house has been waiting for its second chance.
The thrum of Ellis’s 1966 Mustang rumbles in the distance. If I could move, I’d run out the front door and down the walk before he can honk the horn and irritate Daddy. There’s nothing Daddy dislikes more than Ellis’s long hair and that car.
But I can’t move. All I remember is stepping on a soft spot in the old wooden floor, then hearing the splintering of ancient, rotten wood. Now I’m lying here, broken in so many pieces.
My brain reminds me that Ellis has been gone forty years. His precious car sold before he shipped out to Fort Gordon in 1969. Still, the acrid scent of exhaust wafts over me, and I wonder with an odd hopefulness if it’s Ellis, coming for me after all this time.
There’s something soft and silky crumpled in my fist. My fingers must have held tight when I first felt the ancient floor give way beneath my feet.
A hair ribbon. I’d pulled it from Larkin’s dresser drawer. My sweet baby girl. The daughter who’d always desperately wanted to be just like me. Almost as desperately as I wanted her to be different. I wanted her to be happy. Not that Larkin is a girl anymore. She’s too old for ribbons, but I kept everything in her room just the same as she left it, hoping one day she’d come home for good. Decide it was time to forgive all of us. To forgive herself.
I remember now using a black marker to write down the length of the ribbon, the letters bold and big, shouting my anger with silent strokes. But that’s the only clear memory I have. I can’t feel that anger anymore. Nor remember the reason for it. I must have driven here, but I don’t remember. Just me writing on that ribbon, and then here, falling. My brain is playing tricks on me, recalling things from long ago with the clarity of hindsight yet leaving what happened only thirty minutes ago in a dark closet behind a locked door.
Bright pops of air explode inside my skull. Streaks of light like shooting stars flit past my line of vision. I think they’re the purple martins of my past, constant as the moon and stars in my memories. And then the pain comes, white-hot and precise, settling at the base of my head, then traveling upwards, a large hand slowly constricting my brain.
Then darkness covers me like a mask, and everything fades away. Except for the engine fumes of an old car, and the raucous chirp of a thousand martins coming home to roost.