Excerpt from Seven Days of Us by Francesca Hornak, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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Seven Days of Us

A Novel

by Francesca Hornak

Seven Days of Us by Francesca Hornak X
Seven Days of Us by Francesca Hornak
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  • First Published:
    Oct 2017, 368 pages
    Paperback:
    Oct 2018, 400 pages

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To: Andrew Birch andrew.birch@the-worldmag.co.uk
Date: Sat, Dec 17, 2016 at 4:08 p.m.
Subject: Hello

Dear Andrew,

I understand that this message may come as something of a shock, but I wanted to connect because I believe you are my birth father. My late birth mother was a Lebanese woman named Leila Deeba, who I imagine you met as a reporter in Beirut, 1980. She had me adopted soon after I was born, and I was raised by my adoptive parents in Iowa. I now live in Los Angeles, where I produce documentaries, primarily on health and well-being. I will be in Britain over the holiday season, researching a project, and I would very much like to meet you, if you'd feel comfortable with that.

Yours,

Jesse

PS: I'm a big fan of your columns!

"Are you all right?" said Emma, coming into his study. "You look like you've seen a ghost."

"Really?" said Andrew. "I'm fine. Just fine." His laptop was facing away from her, but he shut it anyway. "I've just filed my column. And how are you?" Andrew had always been surprised by his own ability to sound composed, even genial, when his mind was reeling.

"Fab!" said Emma. "I look forward to reading it. I'm just nipping out to John Lewis. I need to get some last things. Well, not last, but some more things for, um, Olivia's stocking. And I, I should get some more wrapping paper . . . " She tailed off, looking over his head at the clock. Andrew registered that his wife was speaking too quickly. But shock was still pounding through his body. She said something about what time she'd be back, and left. Andrew sat, reading the e-mail over and over again. Here it was, the voice he had been half dreading, half expecting. He thought back to that sultry night in Beirut, 1980, the one he had tried to convince himself had never happened. And then he thought of the strange little letter that Leila Deeba had written him, eighteen months ago, which had been forwarded from The World's offices. He still had it, hidden from Emma. "My late birth mother was . . ." So the glorious, firm-bodied woman he had fucked between hotel sheets was dead. He stood up and stared out of the rain-flecked window. "Frosty the Snowman" came floating up from the basement kitchen. How had he reached an age when a woman he had slept with could be dead—and it wasn't even remarkable? It was a bleak train of thought, and he forced himself back to the present. What, if anything, ought he to reply to this man? And, more to the point, what on earth was he going to tell Emma?



Emma

Dr. Singer's Practice, 3rd Floor, 68 Harley Street, 4:59 p.m.

Dr. Singer's waiting room, high above Harley Street, seemed to have been designed to cushion the blow of bad news. Everything was soft, carpeted, beige. There was always a plate of untouched biscuits by the tea and coffee, and piles of soothingly trashy magazines. Looking at a spread of a soap star's wedding, Emma wondered whether OK! was kept afloat by private doctors and their creepy diagnoses. Don't hope, Emma, she kept telling herself. Ever since childhood she had made the same bargain with fate. If she wanted one outcome, she had to make herself expect the opposite—to really, truly expect it. Then, the other outcome would come true (the one you'd wanted all along). It was like paying insurance—prepare for the worst, and all will be well. Of course, when her daughters were afraid she told them to "hope for the best" and "cross that bridge when you come to it." That was what mothers were supposed to say. Although only Phoebe confided in her, these days. If Olivia had any worries, she hadn't shared them for years. Perhaps, thought Emma, she could draw her older daughter out over the quarantine.

"Mrs. Birch?" said the receptionist with the cartoonish lips (did she drop by the cosmetic surgeon on the ground floor during her lunch breaks?). "Dr. Singer's ready for you." Emma walked into his room. It was a grim combination of heavy, mahogany furniture and medical equipment. Behind the curtain she knew there lay a narrow couch covered by a roll of blue paper, where she'd first shown Dr. Singer the hazelnut-sized lump in her right armpit.

Excerpted from Seven Days of Us by Francesca Hornak. Copyright © 2017 by Francesca Hornak. Excerpted by permission of Berkley 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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