Excerpt from The Favor by Nora Murphy, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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The Favor

A Novel

by Nora Murphy

The Favor by Nora Murphy X
The Favor by Nora Murphy
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  • Published:
    May 2022, 288 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Norah Piehl
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NOW
FRIDAY, MAY 3

Leah

The key is to go to a few different stores. I used to always go to Jerry's Liquors on Bonifant Avenue. I was a regular. Too regular. Jerry's mouth started to form a thin line when I'd come in. I could see the conflict on his face. He was glad for the business, but judgmental about the frequency of my visits.

Don't make this hard on me, his face seemed to say. Don't make me feel bad for you.

Jerry, like so many others, didn't want to be bothered with sympathy.

Now, I don't go to Jerry's anymore. I have five other stores I frequent, all within a fifteen-mile radius of my house. They all think I'm a regular. A devoted and loyal customer.

They're all right.

Typically, I stop by each one once a week. One store per day, Monday through Friday. I like to go in the early afternoon. Always after three, but usually before four.

My favorite store is Pine View Liquors on Main Street. My Friday store. It's a little bit bougie, amid the boutiques selling clothing of the type I used to wear in my former life, and restaurants serving tapas and crepes, and houseware shops displaying accent chairs to be admired but not sat upon, and teakettles to be visible in the background of Instagram posts but never used, and candles to be sniffed but not lit on fire.

In addition to beer and wine and liquor, Pine View sells bags of kettle chips that shimmer with oil, colorful artisanal sodas, and specialty chocolates stuffed with PB&J, salted caramel, and cookie butter. I always load a few such items into my basket to distract the cashier from the fact that I'm a five-foot-four woman purchasing seven hundred and fifty milliliters of Grey Goose vodka, just as I do nearly every Friday.

It was in Pine View Liquors that I first saw her.

It was like looking at myself, nine months ago.

Her jeans were neither light nor dark, just blue. They grazed her ankles and the hems were frayed purposefully, rather than from wear. I knew, because I have the same ones. A flowing white blouse rested at the level of her narrow hips. She was wearing taupe espadrille wedges—closed toe, it was only May, not quite open-toe shoe season in Maryland. But her fingernails were a shiny coral hue and I could only assume her toenails matched. Her deliberately golden blond hair was loosely wavy, as if she had braided it when wet the night before.

This morning, she woke up, undid the braid, sprayed dry shampoo at the roots and hair spray at the ends and tousled them, for a beachy-looking effect. I could almost see her doing it. She may have wound a few sections around a curling iron for several seconds to enhance the definition of the waves, for a more polished look.

That's what I used to do.

Her mouth was twisted in concentration as she inspected the wall of white wine. The sunlight filtered in through the abundant windows on the front wall of the store, reflecting off the silky-looking yellow liquid filling the bottles, and casting a warm glow across her pretty face. The shelves of wine are in the front of the store, near the windows, while the bottles of liquor and the people who buy them, people like me, are relegated to the back.

Finally, she selected two bottles—one Riesling and one sauvignon blanc—and carefully placed them into her red plastic basket, which already held a six-pack of beer. An option for those who like something sweet, and an option for those who don't. But what about everyone in between?

I stood frozen at the edge of the aisle, watching her, but she paid me no mind until she turned away from the shelves. She moved out of the aisle, smiling slightly at me as she passed, the way strangers in close proximity do when they don't feel threatened by the presence of the other person.

I took her place in the aisle, still fragrant from her presence, and added the same two bottles of wine to my own red plastic basket, even though I'm not usually a wine drinker. Not anymore.

Excerpted from The Favor by Nora Murphy. Copyright © 2022 by Nora Murphy. Excerpted by permission of Minotaur 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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