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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"I'm Matt," the guy said as he stood up to shake Andrew's hand. Matt looked vaguely familiar. He had an androgynous haircut and bright blue eyes. A pretty boy, he might be called, if Andrew thought in such terms, which he generally did not. Matt looked like the kind of pop star who would appeal to shrieking preadolescent girls and their bored suburban mothers. He wore a wooden cross on a leather string around his neck. When Andrew shook hands with him, he felt something sharp in his palm and noticed that Matt wore a large thumb ring with some words inscribed on the metal.

"We're so glad you're here," Matt said. As he spoke he seemed to give Andrew a sympathetic, meaningful look.

"Oh. Thanks," Andrew said.

Matt smiled and sat down. Andrew glanced around. He wasn't sure where to sit.

A pretty girl was sitting next to Matt. She inched over, creating a small space between them. As Andrew began to sit down, Matt and the girl each took one of his arms in their hands and pulled, guiding him to the floor. He was more or less squished in between them. The girl shifted around until her leg was draped over his thigh. Matt turned his head toward John and discussed which song to sing next.

"Is that better?" she asked.

"What? Yes, this is fine," Andrew said. She had a thin body and soft brown eyes, light brown hair, and a very slight overbite. She rubbed her thumb inside her upper lip as she spoke; perhaps she was self-conscious about her teeth. She wore a blue T-shirt— thin, like her, and the material looked worn. He could see the little threads hanging off her sleeves; he could see the outline of her small breasts.

"I'm Carrie," she said.

"Andrew." He extended his hand. She shook it lightly, but her touch lingered a moment.

"You just graduated with Laura?" she asked.

"Yup. Where do you go to school?" She looked too young to have graduated.

"Windham. I'll be a junior, like Matt," she said.

"Cool. Thinking about college?"

"Not yet."

"Plenty of time."

"I'll be going on my mission first. Some kids do it after college, but I'd like to go before." Now her thumb was back at her mouth. She bit the tip of it and shifted her gaze toward one of the candles on the floor.

"Ah," Andrew said. He looked toward Laura, who was leafing through some sheet music.

The guitar started strumming with greater purpose, and John hummed a few notes. Matt joined in, trying to get in tune with him. Andrew bristled. Here it comes, he thought. Then he felt Carrie's hand and her wet little thumb on his arm.

"I heard you had quite an experience the other day," she said.

Andrew nodded but didn't speak. He wondered what Laura had told these people. Carrie smiled. She seemed like a good sport. He leaned forward and whispered conspiratorially, "Do I have to sing?"

"No," she whispered back.

Laura's prayer group started to sing.

In the darkness of the early morn,
You stood against the light.
Behind you, beside me,
It grew bright, it grew bright.

They were all good singers. Laura, whose voice was the most beautiful, was singing quietly, as though not to overwhelm the others. John sang the loudest, tossing his hair and weaving back and forth in time with the music. What a tool, Andrew thought. He tried to concentrate on the pleasure of Carrie's thigh on top of his own. He imagined it was Laura sitting next to him.

I close my eyes,
But you're still there
Inside me, beside me.
It's all right, it's all right.

Now Carrie was rocking side to side, her shoulder brushing up against him as she closed her eyes and sang.

Grace me with your love,

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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