Deborah Rodriguez is the author of the international bestsellers The Little Coffee Shop of Kabul and Return to the Little Coffee Shop of Kabul, and a new novel, Island on the Edge of the World. She currently lives in Mazatlán, Mexico, where she owns Tippy Toes salon and spa.
Today, we have an extract from Chapter 2 of Island on the Edge of the World (the November pick for Penguin Australia’s Love Between the Pages Book Club) – read on!
“I’ll be fine. Stop worrying so much.”
“I’m not worrying, Charlie. I’m just helping. Oh, and take my pashmina, the peachy one. It will go with everything.”
“I’m not going on a cruise, Bibi. I hardly think what goes with what will matter.”
“Well, a little color never hurts any situation, that’s what I always say.” Bea forced a smile in Charlie’s direction. In truth, she was worried. After finally seeing success with her most recent attempt at convincing Charlie to try to reconnect with her mother, she didn’t want it to backfire. It had taken a long couple of weeks, filled with Bea’s increasingly vivid tales of nocturnal visions, under- scored with a few tears, to get Charlie to cave in and agree to go down to Haiti herself to check on April. Bea had glowed with satisfaction at her victory, then had almost immediately become concerned about what Charlie might face once she got there. The last thing the girl needed was to be knocked off her feet, yet again. For Bea, her granddaughter smoothing and folding her clothes on the bed between them brought back memories of the first time Charlie left her. That was the day her heart had truly
broken in two.
“Why don’t you leave the girl with me?” she had begged her daughter, during a standoff in this very room. The suitcases were already by the door.
“At least let her finish out the school year here.”
April had shaken her head firmly as she checked the empty bureau drawers one last time.
“It’s your choice to go live in the godforsaken jungle with that man, not hers,” Bea pleaded.
Still her daughter didn’t answer.
“What, now you’re not speaking to me?” Bea asked.
April spun toward her mother. “Charity is my daughter, not yours. And ‘that man’ is my husband. And it’s my husband’s calling that we go. And it’s my duty to support him. And that’s all I have to say about it. Done. Finished.”
Bea hated the name Charity. The girl had been Charlie to her ever since she was born. And she’d cringed at the word “husband”. April had been married to Jim for less than a month, and had known him for three, at most. He’d set his sights on her one afternoon at the coffee shop in town and never let go, reeling her in with sappy compliments, stopping by the salon with hot chocolate and flowers, the type of attention a single mother of a five-year-old wasn’t used to. Next came an invitation to his church up in Seaside. April soon started attending two or three times a week, twice on Sundays. Bea had no objection to religion, though she leaned toward a more personally curated brand of spirituality herself. It would have been one thing if the guy had simply been one of those Jesus freaks who used to gather by the dozen down at the beach, with their puka-shell necklaces and ponytails and their charming thoughts about peace and love and living in harmony. But there was something that felt a bit dark about Jim’s devotion, both to April and to the church. Something that made Bea worry her daughter was diving in way too deep, way too fast.
“You barely know the man, April. Take your time to sort things out. Don’t drag the baby with you. It’s not fair to her. He doesn’t even know Charlie. Hell, he doesn’t even know you! At least get to know each other on familiar ground.”
April shook her head again. “This is bigger than Charity, Mom. It’s bigger than me, and bigger than you. Jim has been called on by God.” She shoved the last empty drawer shut.
“Since when did God become the one telling you how to raise your child? What the hell are you going to do when you’re four thousand miles away in the middle of nowhere and have no one to turn to for support if things get rough? The girl needs her family, April. Charlie needs me.”
What had she done, Bea thought, to make her daughter so vulnerable to this smooth-talker’s bullshit? She’d always allowed April her freedom, but her past rebellions were never anything like this. A missionary’s wife? In the jungle? God help us all.
“Despite what you so obviously think, Mom, Jim is a good man. God spoke to him and told him we were to be a family, that I was to be Jim’s wife. Just like you have your crazy dreams, God speaks to Jim. You’d never understand.” She turned her back on her mother and began to check the closet.
“I understand that you’ve gone nuts, is what I understand. Why else would you want to drop that innocent baby down in the middle of a jungle, in a place you know nothing of, with a man you’ve barely spent ten minutes with?”
April slammed the closet door with a force that seemed to rattle the whole old wooden house. “You can’t stop me, Mom! It’s God’s will.”
“So it’s His will that you take this child away from her own grandmother, the woman who’s practically raised her? All of a sudden you’re hearing what God has to say so clearly? Or is that Jim’s voice in your ears?”
“What don’t you get?” her daughter yelled. “For the first time in my life I have a chance to do something that matters, to be part of something bigger than myself. And all you can do is try to manipulate me into staying here in this stupid salon, on my feet all day, making nice to women who whine about stupid little problems that no one in their right mind would give a damn about. You want me stuck here, clipping and curling and sweeping for the rest of my life, just like you? Well, you know what? I don’t want to be like you. I want to do something important with my life.”
April’s words had hurt. Of course Bea had dreamed of something more for her daughter, but she was also proud of her profession, and enjoyed her life behind the chair. But it was April who got herself pregnant right out of high school, with a boy from up north who, shortly after, wrapped his motor-cycle around a telephone pole. It had given the town plenty to gossip about at the time. But Bea hadn’t given a damn about any of that, because then there was Charlie. The only thing she did regret was that her daughter hadn’t had more of a chance, early on, to find herself, to become the person she wanted to be, before becoming a mother.
That last conversation had not ended well. More slammed doors, both of them yelling and crying. They never did have a proper goodbye. And Bea regretted the row every single day of her life.
— Island on the Edge of the World, out now from Penguin.
Island on the Edge of the World
From the author of the international bestseller The Little Coffee Shop of Kabul, comes a captivating story set in the colourful but chaotic land of Haiti, as four very different women work together to find a lost child.
Haiti. A poor country rich in courage, strength and love. As these four women are about to discover. Charlie, the rootless daughter of American missionaries, now working as a hairdresser in Northern California. But the repercussions of a traumatic childhood far from home have left her struggling...