Excerpt from Sing Them Home by Stephanie Kallos, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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Sing Them Home

By Stephanie Kallos

Sing Them Home
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  • Hardcover: Jan 2009,
    560 pages.
    Paperback: Sep 2009,
    560 pages.

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Chapter 1
The Mayor Ignores the Rules

For someone born and bred right here in the rainwater basin of the central great plains, Llewellyn Jones— the mayor and presumptive leader of Emlyn Springs, Nebraska—is showing a sad lack of common sense. His ladyfriend and bedfellow for the past twenty-five years, Alvina Closs, is flummoxed.

“Can’t you wait an hour?” she is saying. “You can still get in nine holes—maybe even eighteen—after it blows over.”

“I’ve got a tee time reserved,” he answers. “I’m expected.”

“We don’t live in Miami!” Alvina counters, shrilly. “It’s not as if there’s a crowd of people waiting to play. Why can’t you wait?”

“I’m going now, Viney,” he says. Just like that. No explanation. No compromise.

“You and your goddamned golf.”

He gives her a level, noncommittal look. “I’ll be home by happy hour,” he says. Then he turns around and walks up the stairs and toward the bedroom, his posture erect, his gait processional. If he thinks I’m going to follow him up there, Viney says to herself, molars clenched, he’s got another thing coming.

Plenty of others share Viney’s agitation. The smallest and least civilized townsfolk are the most distraught: the babies, all of them, even the easy ones, are confounding their mothers with uncharacteristic, colicky behavior. The babies have been fed and changed and burped and read to and sung to and walked and held but still they are out of sorts. They are determined to cry, naptime be damned. There are grumpy toddlers, too, throwing tantrums, caterwauling in unison. Family pets all over town are nervous and misbehaving—fluttering, howling, hissing, gnawing, mauling lace curtains, and mangling good leather shoes even though they know better. Premenstrual girls are arguing with their mothers, moping in front of the television, or daydreaming on polyester bedspreads behind violently slammed doors. Teenage boys contemplate their troubled complexions with dismay. Afternoon trysts are not going well. Noses tickle without relief. The carpenters in town curse and measure again, cut again, curse again, measure again. At the Williamses’ mansion, Miss Hazel’s most promising student strikes a C-sharp. Hazel cringes in the parlor; in the kitchen, her younger sister, Wauneeta, cringes, too. Downtown at the piano hospital, Blind Tom experiences a sudden unaccounted-for burst of tinnitus as he applies a cotton swab saturated with milk to a stained bit of ivory he found last week by the side of the road near Hallam. Next to the old train depot, the aged citizens encamped at the St. David’s Home for the Elderly are experiencing intestinal problems; not a one of them, not even Mr. Eustace Craven, whose bowels have emptied like clockwork for every one of his ninety-eight years, has had a decent BM all day.

And in the living room of the house that has been Llewellyn Jones’s primary place of residence for a quarter of a century, Viney turns her back on the mayor and plants herself at the picture window—arms folded, mouth adamantly stitched shut, brows lowering, wearing an expression that no one but her dearest friend has ever seen.

Viney rarely frowns. She does five minutes of facial exercises and acupressure every morning and makes an effort to keep her countenance (a word she routinely mispronounces as continence) relaxed and neutral. Time needn’t be the enemy. A person doesn’t have to spend a fortune on face-lifts and creams. Alvina Closs is seventy-four years old, almost seventy-five, but she looks at least ten years younger. Maybe even fifteen. She scrutinizes the ballooning clouds advancing from the south. The baby-blanket blue of the sky is darkening, graying. She can hear Llewellyn banging around in the bedroom, opening and closing bureau drawers. He must be changing into his shorts.

Excerpted from Sing Them Home by Stephanie Kallos. Copyright © 2009 by Stephanie Kallos. Excerpted by permission of Grove Press. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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