Excerpt from All the Ugly and Wonderful Things by Bryn Greenwood, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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All the Ugly and Wonderful Things

A Novel

by Bryn Greenwood

All the Ugly and Wonderful Things by Bryn Greenwood X
All the Ugly and Wonderful Things by Bryn Greenwood
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  • First Published:
    Aug 2016, 352 pages
    Paperback:
    Oct 2017, 432 pages

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Print Excerpt


My mother got out of the car and ran across the library parking lot. She looked so ferocious, loping toward me in her nightgown and coat, that I expected a blow. Punishment. Instead, she jerked me into her arms and pressed me to her chest.

After that, I had to tell everything. About the late night wandering. Not the stars. That was still my secret. Mom screamed and Dad yelled.

"I know you mean well, Brenda. You want to help her. I get that. But when her behavior starts endangering our children, it's time to choose. We can't keep her. She's out of control."

The police came to make a report, to get a picture, to put out a bulletin. The neighbors turned out to look for Wavy, but at dawn she returned on her own.

I woke to more yelling and screaming. That afternoon, Grandma came to get Wavy.

"It's a horrible idea. A stupid idea," Mom said. I marveled that she could talk to Grandma like that. It didn't seem possible to get away with saying something like that to your mother. "You can't keep an eye on her all the time. You can't stay up all night."

"What would be the point? I suppose she will do a little wandering. From what I remember, you and Val did some wandering when you were kids."

"That was different. We were teenagers and it was a safer time."

"Pfft," Grandma said.

"Think of your health, Helen," Dad said.

"You haven't been as strong since the chemo, Mom."

Grandma blew out a big puff of air, the same way she used to exhale cigarette smoke, and shook her head. "Tell me your solution. Foster care? Send her to live with strangers?"

"We'll keep her," Mom said.

"No, we won't." Dad stood up and blocked my view, so I'll never know what look passed between him and Mom, but when he went to the counter to pour himself more coffee, Mom nodded.

"She might as well come home with me today," Grandma said.

I sat on Wavy's bed while Grandma packed her suitcase. There wasn't much to pack. A dozen dresses that had survived the Great Unraveling. Some socks and underwear. The hairbrush that she sometimes let me run through her silky, fine hair. The last thing into the suitcase was Dust Bunny, the baby doll.

Grandma put it in the suitcase. Wavy took it out. Mom put it in. Wavy took it out. It was the only toy Wavy had. "Nothing belongs to you," she told me once when Leslie and I fought over a favorite Barbie that later disappeared.

Wavy took Dust Bunny out of the suitcase and handed it to me. A gift? Then it was time for her to go. Grandma hugged us all, while Wavy stood near the door. Mom tried to hug her, too, but she skittered away, slipping past my mother to hug me. Not close enough for our bodies to touch, she rested her hands on my shoulders, and sniffed my hair. When she released me, she ran out the front door.

"You see how it is," Mom said.

"She's her own girl. You were, too." Grandma smiled and picked up Wavy's bag.

After Thanksgiving, I found the real gift Wavy had left me in the closet under the stairs. When Mom pulled out the boxes of Christmas decorations, I crawled in to sweep up loose tinsel and a broken ornament. Tucked in the very back was the stolen book: Salome.

Excerpted from All the Ugly and Wonderful Things by Bryn Greenwood. Copyright © 2016 by Bryn Greenwood. Excerpted by permission of Thomas Dunne Books. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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