"Lovable" is the way Entertainment Weekly described Susan Wilson's debut novel, and Library Journal raved, "Beauty is wonderful...a little gem." Now the acclaimed author delivers a stunning new tale of passion, loss, and remembrance as the paths of a World War II wife and a handsome stranger cross in the little New England town known as Hawke's Cove.
The year is 1944. After the loss of her first child, Evangeline Worth returns to her beloved grandmothers farm in Hawke's Cove. Once the enchanting place of her youth, this small coastal town is now a sanctuary for her solitude. With her husband, John, across the Atlantic on the war front, Vangie does the best she can to put her life, and heart, back together. All of that changes one day when a man appears on her doorstep searching for work.
Joe Green looks able enough, and though she wanders why he isn't in the service, Vangie takes him in on instinct. As a rich friendship develops between them, the Army informs Vangie that John is MIA. At the same time, rumors in town circulate about a downed Hellcat plane and its missing pilot. Smoothing away each other's loneliness, Vangie and Joe fed their relationship deepening into a forbidden passion. Then John is suddenly found alive, and the lovers separate -- but cannot bear to sever their bond.
In 1993, Vangie's son Charlie lands a plum reporting assignment: to unlock the puzzle of the recently dredged-up Hellcat in Hawke's Cove. To investigate the fifty-year-old mystery, he heads to Hawke's Cove, where he meets respected local Joe Green and his daughter, Maggie. As a romantic relationship blossoms between Charlie and Maggie, Vangie and Joe realize that they must open up the past -- and the secrets they'd buried along with it.
A mesmerizing tale of joy and sorrow, misbegotten dreams and desires, Hawke's Cove is peopled with characters who are at once mysterious and unabashedly revealing. With a rare capacity for love and forgiveness, they draw us into their lives through their most private journals, letters, and inner thoughts. Susan Wilson's tenderly crafted love story is guaranteed to leave readers with an intense desire to explore their own hearts.
Chapter One: Charlie -- 1993
Charlie Worth leaned back in his ergonomically correct desk chair and shot a wad of paper at the wastebasket with an over-the-shoulder hook shot. He missed, and the crumpled memo joined a flock of others surrounding the metal can. This presidential-vacation thing was getting out of hand. Priscilla the Killer kept coming up with more and more stupid angles to write about, and this one was worse than the suggestion about interviewing people in Kennebunkport to see if they could give the people of Great Harbor any good advice vis-ŕ-vis presidents on vacation.
Charlie was determined to be the only feature writer not camping out in Great Harbor for the proposed visit. Besides, he kept pointing out to any who would listen, the Clintons would probably choose the Vineyard. Heck of a lot better golf to be had there than anywhere near this hole-in-the-wall vacation destination. Now, if the Clintons did go to the Vineyard, maybe he'd tag along. At thirty-nine, there were few places Charlie hadn't been to during his journalistic career: Beirut, Saint Petersburg when it had been Leningrad, and London as a correspondent for the Globe. He'd been to most every Caribbean island, Belize, and rugged Alaskan camps while he'd done a five-year stint as a travel writer. This feature-writer thing, though, was alternately fun and boring. Craving a settled existence, Charlie had given up the travel for the post, sacrificing adventure for a stable home with a garden he could enjoy through all of its seasons. After eighteen months, though, Charlie found himself daydreaming of chucking the whole security thing and following in the footsteps of the great travel writers, immersing himself in some rare culture, then writing a whiz-bang best-selling memoir.
But even as he played with the notion, Charlie knew that one thing kept him close to home. The same thing that had brought him back to the paper and a desk with a once-a-week byline. His aging parents.
Charlie got up and stretched, reaching for the ceiling. On the way down, he rubbed his hands across his middle in the hope that it had gone away. Leaning over the keyboard, he sent a quick E-mail to his buddy Dave in Sports to get a racquetball date set up. Conscience momentarily salved, he headed towards the coffeepot. As luck would have it, Priscilla St. Lorraine was on her way to his cubicle and caught him before he could take a quick right towards the men's room, which, so far, she hadn't yet invaded.
"Charlie, have I got a story for you!"
"How nice." Charlie smiled, recalling that, in the rarefied code of southern women, "How nice" meant "Fuck you."
Priscilla launched into her story idea, something about an old plane wreck discovered in the waters off Great Harbor during the routine aerial survey prior to the potential visit by the president and his family. It was only when Priscilla told him where the plane had been barged that Charlie's interest was piqued a little.
When Charlie was little, maybe eight or nine, he and his older sisters had found a Jumping-Jacks shoe box filled with uncatalogued photos. Most of the photos had quasi-familiar adults in them, people they called by the honorific Aunt or Uncle. Uncle Jack, who was Daddy's partner, and his wife, Aunt Joan, dressed up in party clothes, martini glasses held up to toast some New Year long ago. There were pictures of their parents, looking odd in their old-fashioned hairstyles and out-of-date clothes. Charlie couldn't reconcile his father with this boy with thick blond hair.
Three or four of the pictures had an ocean background. One, a very old sepia print, was of a young woman in a hat, a small terrier standing near her, a barn behind her, the doors half open.
"That's Gran the first year she lived at Hawke's Cove." Vangie had come upon her children, the scattered pictures surrounding them on the worn oriental carpet. "What are you kids up to here?" Vangie sat down beside Charlie and began gathering up the photos. As she collected them, she began to tell Amanda, Julie, and Charlie who was who and what occasion each photo captured. Charlie vividly remembered the feel of her thick, still-auburn braid touching his cheek as she reached past him to pick out one photo. A thin, bearded man stood holding one end of a line of fish. A crew-cut, heavier-set man stood at the other. They both wore pleased grins.
"Who's these guys?" Charlie asked.
"Who are these guys." The correction purely reflexive. "That's Ernie Dubee." She tapped the crew-cut man's face. "He was our police chief in Hawke's Cove."
"Who is this one?" Charlie touched the face of the other man with his small forefinger.
"That's Joe. Joe Green. He worked for me on the farm in Hawke's Cove." There was something in her voice that made all three children look at her just in time to see a small, private smile tease her lips.
His mother reached into the cluster of old photos and picked up another one. Charlie leaned against her arm and looked at a picture of a man standing near the barn, a small, pleased smile on his face. "Is that Joe Green too?"
In the way of childhood memories, it was distinct in his mind that his mother only nodded and put the photo in her apron pocket.
That was the first time Charlie would hear about Hawke's Cove and the time his mother spent there during the war.
"So, Mom, what do you remember about Hawke's Cove?"
Evangeline Worth smiled spontaneously at the name. "I remember how the air smelled in the morning, the feel of the wet grass on my bare feet. I remember how brilliant..."
"Mom, I asked you, not Evangeline Worth, 'Poet to the People.' Just tell me."
"Tell you what? Stories? You've heard all of them."
"No. Actually, I need to know if you remember a specific incident. A plane crash."
Vangie was glad this conversation was taking place on the phone. That way the sudden shaking in her hands wouldn't frighten Charlie into thinking she'd developed a tremor. "What plane crash?"
She knew, even before Charlie began to tell her. She knew that the Hellcat had been found. As he told her about the presidential vacation and the sonar survey, she felt her mind wander back over half a century. Her mouth twitched in a little self-derisive smile. After this long, which secret needed the most safekeeping? Did it really matter anymore where Joe had come from? What mattered was only that he'd come and her life had been sweetened.