In January I did a review of Kathy Lynn Harris' new book, "A Good Kind of Knowing". This is such a heartwarming and heartbreaking book and I'm excited to offer you an excerpt here today.
Imagine if Maeve Binchy grew up in Texas and wrote an old-school Larry McMurtry novel. Think Hope Floats meets High Fidelity. That’s how critics are describing A Good Kind of Knowing—from the author of the highly acclaimed and number-one Amazon bestseller, Blue Straggler. A Good Kind of Knowing is a novel about the power of music and friendship, the relationship two-steps that go on in old Texas dancehalls, and the secret to finding just a little bit of common ground in a world full of distrust. Sera Taylor's store is the one place in Lakeville, Texas, where individuals from all walks of life share a universal love for music and a respect for the gypsy-like woman behind the antique glass counter. Readers get a taste of the unorthodox connection between Sera and Mack, a young local cowboy and musician, and Sera’s previously untested devotion to her husband Bill. They learn of her relationship with Ruby D., the vibrant but misguided mother of five; with Louie, the shy high school band director; with Beverly, the religious, upper-class socialite; with Antonio, a local bar owner striving to make a life for himself; with Tommy Lee, a rich and directionless gigolo; and with Wes, the only out-of-the closet gay man for miles. As Sera battles a serious illness, the characters must overcome long-held stereotypes to save Sera’s store, and in the end, large parts of themselves.
Morning clouds hung heavy and low, holding in for as long as they could the hint of relief the night air had offered. Before long, the white rays that seemed so benign behind the gray clouds would turn bright as fire and wrap all who dared to step outside in their unforgiving heat. It was summer, it was Texas—and not even Willie Nelson’s Christmas album would help today.
Sera popped Willie from her cassette player and flipped through the pile of tapes on the front seat of her mint-condition, 1958 Cadillac Eldorado. She hummed and rolled down her windows, waiting for the renovated air conditioning to kick in and cool her sweat-dampened forehead. A wave of aching nausea crept up on her, another one of many hitting without warning these days. Must be this God-awful heat, she thought. Or a stomach virus she just couldn’t shake. Either that or a post-hysterectomy birth fit for the tabloids was on the horizon.
“Monday ... Wednesday ... Sunday ... There you are.”
Sera pulled a homemade tape from the heap. The title scribbled in purple ink read “Friday - Aretha.” She slid in the tape and turned up the volume as she backed out of her narrow driveway. Aretha’s commentary on chains of fools floated out into the humid air, greeting a neighbor—the school teacher from one street over—as he walked his Dalmatian past Sera and Bill’s small blue house. Sera waved. The dog tugged on the leash toward a thick patch of grass.
With one hand lifting her unruly auburn hair off her neck, Sera turned the Caddy onto Lincoln Avenue, easing through an intersection with only a trace of a yield, much less a stop. She felt better.
It was early for most businesses in town. The streetlights still buzzed and the neon beer signs glowed in the windows of the Circle H convenience store.
So empty, this town in the mornings, Sera thought. Empty, and always the same. Lincoln was the town’s most traveled street, the one with three traffic lights in a row, and it was deserted except for a police car patrolling the first hours of the day shift. On down by the elementary school, a few walkers in Liz Claiborne pastel short sets peppered the city’s only park—three entire blocks of faded wooden seesaws, swingsets with squeaking chains and a lopsided, nowhere-near-safety-code merry-go-round. In the center of it all, a red brick pavilion had been built for hosting school picnics and birthday parties. And on either side of the pavilion, each equal distance from the middle of the park, stood two sets of drinking fountains—relics left over from a past no one bothered to forget in this Central Texas town.
Sera looked forward to Fridays at her shop, not only because of the receipts, which were good, but because it signaled the weekend’s beginning. It was, after all, the day just about everyone in Lakeville got paid and the day customers came from across a three-county area.
She grinned as she drove into the parking lot in front of the white, wood-framed store, avoiding potholes just off the city street. Mack’s rusting brown truck with square bales of hay piled in the back was parked by the front door, pulled across several faded parking lines. His black Labrador Retriever paced on top of the bales, and chunks of crusty, dried mud clung to the back fenders. Hank Williams’s voice streamed from the cab.
Crumbling gravel crunched under her tires as Sera pulled the Caddy in beside him. Mack leaned against the truck door.
That young man is nothing but legs, she thought.
His faded jeans and worn work boots looked out of place among the vivid yellow roses stubbornly growing where the parking lot ended. Mack no doubt had a gig tonight at a local dance hall or beer joint, probably at the Elks Lodge or over at the VFW hall. And he probably needed strings or picks or some other last-minute necessity.
He came around to open the Cadillac door, which let out its usual groan. “Morning, Sera. Need some help?”
She admired Mack’s manners. It was nice to be treated like a lady every now and then. Not that Bill didn’t open doors, carry in groceries, those husbandly sorts of things. But with Mack, it was different. Throw in intense eyes the color of a crisp blue sky and that slow drawl, and you’ve got a pretty damn good mix for a Lakeville boy. If she didn't know better, she'd swear he was an offspring of Robert Redford. He had this quiet, charming air about him. Sera chided him regularly about why some young groupie hadn’t snatched him up yet. Lord knows there were always plenty hanging out after his shows. Mack, of course, denied it all—just wasn’t his style to discuss such things.
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