"Be warned: do not start this novel if you anticipate any pressing obligations - a need to sleep, say - or without a handful of tissues within arms reach. Flaherty's Crossing is a compelling and imaginative story, not just about death but about life and emotional growth, a broken woman's journey towards learning to trust again. Beautifully written, heart wrenching yet inspirational, this is a 'must read' for anyone who has loved and lost." - Elizabeth Joy Arnold, USA Today bestselling author of Pieces of My Sister's Life
Kate Flaherty's estranged father dies whispering a secret - one that may destroy what is left of her family or save it. Only one person can lead Kate to the truth - the man who just died. But following the clues he left requires accepting the possibility of life after death and reexamining the prejudices on which she built her life.
The tires on her car squealed, their traction briefly slipping around the sharp corner. Kate tapped the brakes. The vanilla-scented pine tree freshener swung like a frantic pendulum from the rear view mirror. She glanced at the speedometer and realized her angst had weighted her foot on the gas pedal. Her heart pounded as her eyes averted from the edge of the winding road where a guardrail was needed but lacking.
On a dark Sunday night, with only an occasional car zooming by in the opposite direction, how long would it take for someone to discover she'd plunged down the side of the mountain? How long before Drew would even notice she was missing?
Drew...shoot. She'd meant to leave him a note, but Doris's call had sent her mind whirling. Glimpsing her watch, she realized how late it was.
She fumbled through her purse with her free hand. Her sudden desire to keep her eyes glued to the road hindered her ability to find her cell phone amidst the wadded receipts and other clutter of her life. For a moment, she imagined living without sight, attempting to search for an object using only the sense of touch. The thought was horrendous: an existence without vision? Without art? To never study the beautiful chaos of Jackson Pollock's drip paintings, or the vibrancy of Rauschenberg's masterpieces? It was unthinkable.
For so many years she'd dreamt of the day she would take Drew to see those ingenious works of art in person. Not in a local museum, but somewhere more magical, like Europe, where art and life were one. Together she and Drew would nibble on crepes, tour the Parisian halls of the Musée Picasso, dance in the Latin Quarter; they'd conquer the spiraling steps of the Duomo, inhaling romance from the Tuscan air like a steaming cappuccino. They'd ride the train to Amsterdam, home of the Van Gogh Museum, and giggle like children at the "colorful" world of the Red Light District.
Now, of course, Kate knew better. It was an imaginary trip she'd grown to accept would never happen. Instead, she'd found a way to live out her dreams on a fresh canvas with its endless possibilities. No words were necessary to express a feeling when a stroke of paint could say it all. And alone in her studio, like the wardrobe entrance to Narnia, she could lose herself in a world where plane tickets weren't needed for passage.
Just as the road straightened, her fingers found the phone at the bottom of her purse. She pulled it out and pressed 2 on the keypad to speed dial the house.
Ringing, ringing. Drew's voice on the answering machine: "Hi, you've reached the home of Drew Coleman and Kate Flaherty..."
Kate had appreciated her husband's understanding when she wanted to keep her maiden name due to her blossoming career. Tonight though, something about hearing him state their names separately only underscored the fact they'd become little more than roommates. Her spirit sank a notch.
"Sorry you missed us," he continued. "Please leave a message, or you can connect to our cell phones by pressing one for Drew or two for Kate. Thanks."
A long silence. Then a beep.
"Hi, it's me," she said. "I got a call today about my father. His health...he isn't doing well." How was she going to explain this? She'd never told Drew her father's "cured" status hadn't lasted, hoped somehow she'd never have to. But after the message he'd left, she had no choice. "I thought you'd be home by now. Just...call me when you get this."
Where could he be? His flight should have landed hours ago.
Impatience increased her speed. She drove through the little town of Hoodsport so quickly that if she'd blinked, she would have missed it. For the next few miles, the scattered remains of Fourth of July stands and unkempt yards filled with rusted vehicles speckled both sides of the highway. On her left, the florescent sign of the Lucky Dog Casino promoted huge jackpot winnings, reminding her that for others happiness was a mere pull on a slot machine away.
When she came around the next bend, a bright orange sign jumped in front of her car.
She stomped on the brakes and veered off the main highway like a criminal in a high-speed police chase, barely missing a lineup of red flares and orange cones from a broken down semi. Her pulse raced as she straightened the wheel.
Where the heck was this taking her?
A small white highway sign answered in unsympathetic black letters - 106.
She huffed at the inconvenient route, one she hadn't taken in years. Cracking the window, she took a deep, sobering breath. In came the smell of damp fir from the trees stippling the sides of the remote road.
For twenty minutes, not one vehicle followed her or passed in the oncoming lane. Street lamps became rarer, each yellow light shining dimmer than the last. A drive never felt so long.
As her car jounced over the rough highway lining the Puget Sound, a layer of fog lifting from the dark waters swallowed the beams of her headlights. The ocean welcomed her back with its hazy abyss. The sounds of undulating static evidenced waves crashing on the shore. A crisp breeze brushed against her face, delivering a trace of salt to her tongue.
She tried to remember how many years it had been since she'd spent time near the sea. Crabbing, fishing, water skiing: all her happiest memories with her dad had taken place by the water. As well as the most terrifying day of her life.
Kate closed the window. She turned on the radio and flipped through the channels, all crackling between towers. A political debate. Advice for the lovelorn. The brain-itching chorus of "Gypsy Soul." She clicked it off.
Her wheels screeched as she flew around another curve and onto the connecting highway. She released her foot from the gas pedal but, resisting the instinct to use the brakes, she shoved her foot back down to accelerate. Perhaps her way of defying death, or a desperate search for control.
She lifted her phone and called home again, only to hear the same message on the machine.
Where was he?
Suddenly, Drew's words came back to her: "Maybe we need to take a break."
They'd had plenty of arguments in the past, but never before had he mentioned separating. What if he viewed her unexplained absence tonight as blatant apathy?
Apprehension raised her blood pressure, burned the tips of her ears.
She speed dialed Drew's lifeline: his cell phone. It went straight to voicemail: "You've reached Drew Coleman with Milton, Sidis, and Stricklen. I'll be out of town until Monday. If this is an urgent matter, you can reach my assistant at..."
As Kate anxiously waited for the beep, she noted darkness in Drew's voice, a seriousness that had replaced the fun-loving spirit she'd fallen in love with.
"Drew, I'm on my way home," she said. "I'm heading back from my father's. I'll explain when I see you. Anyway, there was a detour. I just took highway sixteen off one-o-six, so I shouldn't be more than forty minutes away..."
The glow of her headlights bounced off something ahead.
It was an animal. A deer. Standing sideways in her lane.
Kate dropped the phone. "No, no, no!" she yelled, jamming the brake pedal to the floor. She yanked back on the steering wheel as if pulling a B-52 out of a nosedive.
In exaggerated slow motion, the deer turned its head toward her. No fear in its eyes. No attempt to move. Either at peace with its fate or unwavering in its defiance.
The car's beams elongated the creature's shadow across the road, the distance between them vanishing. There wasn't time to stop--they were going to collide.
Kate screamed, swerving into the hole of blackness off the edge of the highway. Every muscle in her body clenched, preparing for impact.
Professional Reviews A movie in the making...
"There are plenty of love stories that can whisk us away from the less-than-perfect reality of our lives. "Flaherty's Crossing" not only entertains, enlightens and inspires, but returns us to Earth with a new appreciation for those we love and what we have. I am delighted to have the privilege of adapting Kaylin McFarren's impressive first novel for the screen."
• KATHY SLEVIN, Screenwriter, Los Angeles, California
"One crushing truth often leads one to more. "Flaherty's Crossing" is the story of Kate Flaherty as she tries to come to terms the truths that surround her life that she has often ignored. With her father revealing facts about her mother, a car accident sending her into soul searching, Kate's first response is to run away from it all, only to find running never changes anything. "Flaherty's Crossing" is a powerful and inspiring read, highly recommended."
• MIDWEST BOOK REVIEW, Oregon, WI USA
"Flaherty's Crossing" by Kaylin McFarren is a beautiful story. The author does an incredible job of presenting the story in vivid detail. We are taken into the minds and hearts of the characters. As you read, you will feel the same anguish that they each felt in dealing with their own issues. In your heart, you will also feel their love and their hope for a better future. Even though it is a fictional story, it made me reflect on my own life, and how I shouldn't wait until it is too late to let people that I love know how I feel, or to apologize if I need to. This is a novel that is written with exceptional quality. Readers will truly enjoy this story"