Excerpt from All the Major Constellations by Pratima Cranse, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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All the Major Constellations

by Pratima Cranse

All the Major Constellations by Pratima Cranse X
All the Major Constellations by Pratima Cranse
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    Nov 2015, 336 pages

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Donna Chavez
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All The Major Constellations

THE LIGHTS WERE DIM in the windows of Laura's house. She'd told him to come over at eight. He wondered if her par¬ents had gone out and if they were going to be alone. Then he remembered that Laura had lots of little brothers and sisters. She had older siblings too, who were at college or out of the country. Andrew couldn't keep track of her family—in fact, he'd never really tried. All he knew was that none of them were attractive. Laura was a genetic miracle among them.

As he drew closer to the house he saw that several cars were parked outside on the street. He could hear voices and the sound of laughter. Someone was strumming a guitar. Andrew stopped, rolled his eyes, and gazed heavenward.

"Really?" he said to the sky. There was nothing Andrew hated so much as an acoustic guitar-led sing-along, a rather inconvenient dislike if you grew up in Vermont. He realized even before he rang the doorbell that this was some of kind of Friday-night youth prayer group jamboree. He had not been prepared for this.

A guy about his age or older answered the door. He was taller than Andrew, who at six two was fairly tall himself. The guy had a friendly smile and a crushing handshake. His fingers seemed to wrap around Andrew's wrist like snakes.

"You must be Andy," he said.

"Andrew."

"Nice to meet you. We're so glad you came. I'm John."

"What's up?" Andrew said.

"Come on in, my brother." John opened the door wider and gestured for Andrew to enter. John had a large tattoo of a blue cross running down one of his arms. He was muscular, Andrew noted, and his longish blond hair reached just above his shoulders. A born-again surfer dude.

He was led through a small kitchen. The countertops were worn and wooden. There was no food out, but it smelled like tomato sauce and garlic bread. A pile of clean dishes was neatly stacked in the drying rack. Pots, pans, and woven baskets hung from hooks in the ceiling. A cool breeze gently rustled the warm air. As Andrew looked around, he felt a kind of sick longing that made his hands tremble. Not longing for Laura, exactly, but for something else—her kitchen, her dishes.

"You hungry? There's plenty of food left," John said.

"I ate. Thanks." Andrew was intrigued. Did that mean that John had been invited to dinner sometime earlier and Andrew had not? Something about John's manner suggested he was overly familiar with the house: guiding Andrew around, showing him where to put his shoes, offering him food. Andrew looked sideways at John and again noted how strong he looked and the easy, athletic grace with which he moved. John reminded him of Brian. Andrew felt himself hardening his heart against this surfer dude Jesus freak with the freakishly large hands.

He followed John into the den, where eight or nine kids about Andrew's age lay draped over the couches and one another. Laura was on the floor. Another girl who Andrew recognized from school was seated above Laura on one of the couches. Laura's head was in this girl's lap. The girl stroked Laura's hair as she chatted with a goateed guy on the couch.

Andrew felt John's hand lightly graze the small of his back, and it made him jump. John smiled at him and then brought his hand up Andrew's back and clapped him on the shoulder.

"Everyone, this is Andrew," John said.

Andrew was greeted with a chorus of Hey! and What's up? Laura smiled at him but said nothing. John sat beside her and took up the guitar. The room was dimly lit by a few candles. Beanbags and pillows were scattered about.

"Come sit here, Andrew," said a guy's voice from a corner of the room. Andrew felt uncomfortable as he walked over. Laura had not yet said anything to him, and he didn't want to go bounding up to her like an overeager puppy.

Excerpted from All the Major Constellations by Pratima Cranse. Copyright © 2015 by Pratima Cranse. Excerpted by permission of Viking. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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