St. John's Laurys Book Club

Reading books for enjoyment, perspective and discussion

Tentative ReStart September 3 Due to COVID-19 Shutdown

Meets the First Thursday of each month at 6:30pm
     Please use the West Entry Doors and follow the trail of books to the meeting room

Contact Brenda Frantz or Karen-Berry Frantz for more information.

 

September 3 Meeting
Unspeakable Things
by Jess Lourey

Inspired by a terrifying true story from the author’s hometown, a heart-pounding novel of suspense about a small Minnesota community where nothing is as quiet—or as safe—as it seems.

Cassie McDowell’s life in 1980s Minnesota seems perfectly wholesome. She lives on a farm, loves school, and has a crush on the nicest boy in class. Yes, there are her parents’ strange parties and their parade of deviant guests, but she’s grown accustomed to them.

All that changes when someone comes hunting in Lilydale.

One by one, local boys go missing. One by one, they return changed—violent, moody, and withdrawn. What happened to them becomes the stuff of shocking rumors. The accusations of who’s responsible grow just as wild, and dangerous town secrets start to surface. Then Cassie’s own sister undergoes the dark change. If she is to survive, Cassie must find her way in an adult world where every sin is justified, and only the truth is unforgivable.

 Unspeakable Things 350
 Jess Lourey 350

Jess Lourey writes about secrets. She is the bestselling Agatha, Anthony, and Lefty-nominated author of the critically-acclaimed Mira James mysteries, which have earned multiple starred reviews from Library Journal and Booklist, the latter calling her writing "a splendid mix of humor and suspense."

Jess also writes nonfiction, edge-of-your-seat YA adventure, magical realism, suspense novels, and thrillers. She is a tenured professor of creative writing and sociology, a recipient of The Loft's Excellence in Teaching fellowship, a Psychology Today blogger, and a TEDx presenter (check out her TEDx Talk for the surprising inspiration behind her first published novel). When not teaching, reading, or dorking out with her family in Minneapolis, you can find her dreaming of her next story.

I removed this epilogue from the novel because I wanted Cassie's future to be written by you after you'd walked through the fire with her. But if you want my version, here it is. MAJOR SPOILERS below. Please don't read until you've read the book.
---
I draw in a deep, ragged breath. “Let’s do this,” I tell my husband.

Lilydale has three funeral homes. We are parked behind the shabbiest. Only four other cars share the lot. I don’t recognize any of them.

Noah squeezes my hand. “You don’t have to go in.”

I smile at him, his sea-blue eyes, hair that's now more salt than pepper. We met in college. His parents are normal. He’s kind and as honest as a mirror. He’s also a fantastic father. He isn’t perfect, make no mistake. Sometimes he makes me so angry that I flip him off in the dark while lying in bed next to him. Still, he's a good man.

Our sons will be good men.

When Noah and I first married, he’d agreed we’d never have kids, and we stuck to that for nearly a decade. It had taken a lot of coaxing, but I’d come around. My precious babies. My two boys are teenagers now, but sometimes I still watch them sleep, smell their sweet innocence, about split in two with my love for them.

I cling to them too tightly, but now that you know my story, you understand.

“I actually do have to go in,” I tell Noah, aiming for funny. It’s still a comfortable place to hide, even after all these years. “I RSVP’d already.”

He sees right through this. “Cassie,” he says, unbuckling and turning to hold my face. “You don’t have to do this.”

Except that I do. This funeral is mandatory.

I have to verify that he's dead.

My attention is drawn to a man making his way slowly toward the funeral home with the help of a walker, bright yellow tennis balls protecting the legs. I note, as if from a great distance, that he reminds me of Sergeant Bauer. He’s the same height, except shrunk by age. Thirty-five years will do that to a person.

But maybe it isn’t Bauer. Maybe it’s someone who’d served with my dad. It could even be a friend he made in the last few decades. I couldn’t imagine Donny McDowell having a friend, a real one who didn't need fear to stay by his side, but I suppose we never truly know anyone but ourselves, and that's if we're lucky.

I toss Noah a reassuring smile. “We won’t stay for the service.”

Bauer/not Bauer has slipped inside with the help of a funeral home worker. No one else seems interested in attending my dad's funeral. Makes sense. He wasted his whole goddamned life. All those brains, all that talent, all those opportunities to be loved. He kicked it all to the ground, stole its lunch money, and looked for the next mark. If you're going to fail, go big or go home, I guess.

Reporters would certainly have followed if they knew I’d be here. Or maybe not. I published under a pseudonym. I am not impossible to track down, but it’d be a hassle. The story of the Lilydale Devil in the Dirt Basement had rocked the country, first in the news and then when my novel was published, but now it’s grown cold.

A heart attack in his sleep, Sephie’s text had said. Dad didn’t suffer. Almost a shame.

Noah’s face is pinched (I know that look; he wants to say something but is too worried about me. See? A good man.), but he nods and steps out of the car. He paces around and holds my door for me, taking my hand in his.

I suck in air like a drowning woman. I’m only here so I can see Sephie, really see her without dad’s shadow distorting her, feeding off her. She stopped returning my calls a few years ago, when my insistence that she move in with me got too much. When I see her, I’m going to bundle her up, and I’m going to remind her who she is a buck-toothed girl full of giggles and dreams and pure innocence sweet like honey and I’m going to break her out of Lilydale.

It’s almost an ache I want it so bad.

By the way, that night in the hospital? I spilled everything to Officer Kent. Mom knew I would, she must have, and that’s why she walked out without a fight and closed the door behind her.

It wasn’t lost on me that she’d left that heavy load for me to bear alone.

Bauer and dad ended up in jail for dealing. Three years each.

I even told Officer Kent what dad was doing to Sephie and was about to do to me. Dad, Mom, and Sephie denied it. I knew why Dad did, but I never understood why Mom and Sephie wouldn’t come clean. Or maybe I did and didn’t want to admit it.

In any case, Mom got custody of me and Sephie. The three of us moved to Kimball, 30 miles up the road. Mom remarried so quick you would’ve thought it was a contest. She was happy with that second life, on the surface at least. Cooked everyone great food, traveled. You'd try to get her to sink below that surface, though, talk about what happened, and she'd come at you like a wolverine. I understand her not wanting to venture into the deep dark below, I really do. It's where the monsters live. But it's also where the door to freedom is. Mom and I are down to an annual phone call. It's hard to be with someone who wants to pretend over the stuff that really gouged you.

I kept Gabriel’s necklace in my velvet-lined jewelry box along with my other childhood treasures. That box traveled with me to college, then to Noah and my first apartment. It sat next to me while I drafted my novel, the one that made me famous. Like I said, I left out the part about the necklace when I wrote the book. I wanted to keep that piece to myself. Instead, I structured the narrative so it seemed like I’d convinced Bauer to search Goblin’s house again based on the clicking noise Goblin made when he was agitated, the same noise the boys heard when they were attacked.

People bought it.

Life went on.

Even for Gary Godlin, who was sent to prison, where he still is and will be until the day he dies. Minnesota has a civil commitment program to make sure monsters like him never walk the streets, even after they serve their time. I heard someone made a documentary about him. I never watched it. How could I? And besides, there was nothing there to learn. He’d been bitten, and it turned him into a werewolf. Then, he’d tried to turn other boys into werewolves so he wouldn't be alone, just as Frank'd said.

Gabriel’s mom was the one who should have gotten a documentary. She’d created a national child abduction reporting system that connected every database in the country, making it quicker to locate lost children. Her boy was taken from her, and she’d turned that pain into something good, mothering the whole world. Thinking of what Gabriel had missed out on made me sad all over again every time I thought of him, which was still a dozen times a day. I’d considered writing Mrs. Wellstone a letter to let her know I’d named my youngest after him, and that he was fourteen now—older than her Gabriel’d ever gotten—and just as kind.

I’d never worked up the nerve.

I hadn’t seen my dad since that night at Goblin’s, never called, never emailed.

He returned the favor.

I found out through Sephie that once dad was released from prison, he spun in circles, like a turtle with two left feet. Sephie checked up on him but also kept a safe distance, almost seemed to be breaking free. But by her early thirties, she grew tired of hopping from one guy to the next, crashing and burning any friendship that required her to trust someone, taking care of everyone but herself with her nursing job. So, she moved back home with Dad. That became her life, the two of them living in that old farmhouse. It killed me, but I knew I couldn't pry her out of there, not while Donny McDowell was still alive.

Instead, I started sending her money and begged her to move in with me, Noah and the kids, kept at that until she stopped taking my calls.

I looked up Evie and Frank about a decade after mom had moved us to Kimball. Evie owned a flower shop in Lilydale. There were too many Frank Gomez’s to track down mine, but I think he landed fine. That kid had guts and heart, just like Evie. I’d heard that Connelly had stuck around, though he stopped teaching. I wished he’d gotten himself the hell out of Dodge. He deserved so much better than Lilydale could give him.

Me, I raise my boys, I love my husband and thank god for my friends, I laugh and travel and sometimes forget, and I write my books.

Sephie likes that I turned out to be a writer, though she thinks every one of my books is about her and our family. She might be right. People are weird like that. Take me. I still watch the sun rise every day in my dad's honor.

Never miss one.

I’m coming for you, Sephie.

  

*
*
by *
   
 

 

 

 

Past Readings

September 2020 Unspeakable Things by Jess Lourey
No Meetings Due to COVID-19 Closure
May 2020 Dear Edward by Ann Napolitano
April/May 2020 Every Fifteen Minutes by Lisa Scottoline
March 2020 When We Believed in Mermaids by Barbara O'Neal
February 2020 The Orhpans Tale by Pam Jenoff
January 2020 What Was Mine by Helen Kleinroth
December 2019 Mr. Dickens and His Carol by Samantha Silva
November 2019 The Code Girls by Liza Mundy
October 2019 The Tattooist of Auschwitz by Heather Morris
September 2019 What the Wind Knows by Amy Hanson
August 2019 Nineteen Minutes by Jodi Picoult
July 2019 Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens
June 2019 Educated by Tara Westover
May 2019 Defending Jacob by William Landay
April 2019 The Last Mrs. Parrish by Liv Constantine
March 2019 The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah
February 2019 The Extraordinary Life of Sam Hell by Robert Dugoni
January 2019 Animal Farm / 1984 by George Orwell
December 2018 The Christmas Train by David Baldacci
November 2018 Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy, Translation by Aylmer & Louise Maude
October 2018 Lilac Girls by Martha Hall Kelly
September 2018 The Boys In The Boat by Daniel James Brown
August 2018 The Woman In Cabin 10 by Ruth Ware
July 2018 Small Great Things by Jodi Picoult
June 2018 The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead
May 2018 Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman
April 2018 My Day by Eleanor Roosevelt
March 2018 Redemption Road by John Hart
February 2018 No Exit by Taylor Adams
January 2018 Before We Were Yours by Lisa Wingate
December 2017 The Divine Romance by Gene Edwards
November 2017 Magic Hour by Kristen Hannah
October 2017 The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck
September 2017 The Silent Wife by Kerry Fisher
August 2017 Still Summer by Jacquelyn Mitchard
July 2017 The Glass Castle: A Memoir by Jeanette Walls
June 2017 Marrow: A Love Story by Elizabeth Lesser
May 2017 The Red Tent by Anita Diamant
April 2017 The Lake House by Kate Morton
March 2017 The Thirteenth Tale by Dianne Setterfield
February 2017 The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins
January 2017 A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith
December 2016 Skipping Christmas by John Grisham
November 2016 My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She's Sorry by Fredrik Backman
October 2016 Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese
September 2016 Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford
August 2016 Me Before You by Jojo Moyes
July 2016  The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah
June 2016  The Fault In Our Stars by John Green
May 2016  The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd
April 2016  Forgiven by Terri Roberts and Jeanette Windle
March 2016 The Shell Seekers by Rosamunde Pilcher
February 2016 Go Set A Watchman by Harper Lee
 January 2016  The Storyteller by Jodi Picoult

 

 Meeting
.
by