Friday, February 21, 2020

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Willa's Grove by Laura Munson - Book Tour + Giveaway



Willa’s Grove

Laura Munson


Genre: Women’s Fiction

Publisher: Blackstone Publishing

Date of Publication: March 3rd, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9826-0524-7

Number of pages: 304 pages

Cover Artist: Alenka Linaschke


Tagline: Four women. One week. One question.

Book Description:

In this powerful and inspiring novel, three women, from coast to coast and in between, open their mailboxes to the same intriguing invitation. Although leading entirely different lives, each has found herself at a similar, jarring crossroads. Right when these women thought they’d be comfortably settling into middle age, their carefully curated futures have turned out to be dead ends. The sender of the invitation is Willa Silvester, who is reeling from the untimely death of her beloved husband and the reality that she must say goodbye to the small mountain town they founded together. Yet as Willa mourns her losses, an impossible question keeps staring her in the face: So now what?

Struggling to find the answer alone, fiercely independent Willa eventually calls a childhood friend who happens to be in her own world of hurt—and that’s where the idea sparks. They decide to host a weeklong interlude from life, and invite two other friends facing their own quandaries. Soon the four women converge at Willa’s Montana homestead, a place where they can learn from nature and one another as they contemplate their second acts together in the rugged wilderness of big sky country.





Excerpt:

CHAPTER 1
The Women


On a typical day

in their typical lives, three women went to their mailboxes and found — amid
junk mail and bills and shiny flyers for unshiny things — an invitation, sealed
with a bold W pressed into sage-green wax.

They had been

waiting for this invitation. They longed for it as much as they feared it.
Because to break this seal was to release a behemoth of a question — a question
so impossible that they had almost stopped asking it.

Each hesitated,

looked around, and in respective order, thought, Sweet Jesus, What the hell,
Here goes nothing, and slid her finger under the seal, revealing a thick
handmade note card, pressed with silvery leaves.

Words winked up

at them. Words that might, if given the chance, change everything.

They swallowed

hard and pulled out the card. Inside, nestled with a wild bird feather, were
the following words:

You are invited

to the rest of your life. You know you can't go on like this. Not for one more
day. You need an interlude.

* * *


Imagine this: You are in a farmhouse in Montana,

wrapped in a soft blanket, sitting by a warm woodstove. There is a cup of tea
in your hand, just the way you like it. There are women surrounding you who
need this just as badly as you do. We all have the same question. The question
is: So now what? Come to Montana and find out ...

Love, Willa (You don't have to do this alone.)


Each woman held

the invitation to her heart, drew in a deep breath before letting out an
exhausted sigh that echoed from Connecticut to Wisconsin to California and back
to Montana, and went inside to call a dear friend.

CHAPTER 2
The Invitation


Willa walked

into the Mercantile, her plaid flannel pajama bottoms tucked into her mud
boots, her duct-taped parka zipped up to her chin. It was a cold late-April
morning and it had taken her all week to get the courage to take the steps she
now took. Past Earl and Wink, the farrier brothers getting their coffee before
rounds, past Tally Hansen setting out her Morning Buns on parchment paper atop
the cracked glass counter, past Syd the Dog Man and his daily, "I can't
resist," growling about his type 2 diabetes, and ending with Marilyn at
the post office counter, admiring the latest stamps just in.


"Morning,

Marilyn. I need some stamps, please," said Willa, her hands firmly in her
pockets.

Marilyn eyed

Willa like this was a test. "US Flag, Endangered Species, or Wild and
Scenic Rivers?" "Wild and Scenic Rivers, of course," said Willa,
adding, "I hear the Upper Missouri is one of them. And the Flathead too.
Read it in the Great Falls Tribune." This was a test she longed to pass.
These days, she didn't have it in her to be any more misunderstood than she
already was.

Marilyn glared

over her reading glasses and pushed a pane of stamps forward.

Willa produced

three envelopes of the handmade stationery she'd been saving, pressed with
slivers of sage leaves from her garden, added a river stamp to each, and put
her lips to the wax seal, sending them off with a kiss. I hope I chose the
right words, she thought as she slid them into the slot marked not local. Not
local was used most often, local only seldomly, word of mouth and the Community
Bulletin Board being what they were in Willa, Montana. Willa, Montana, with its
very own zip code. Population: thirty-five. Well, thirty-three now that her
sons were at college. Thirty-two since Jack's heart attack last September. And
soon to be thirty-one.

"That'll be

six dollars and sixty cents," said Marilyn, glancing over Willa's shoulder.
"Hey, Earl."

"Hey,

Marilyn."

Willa recognized

the familiar leathery voice, but no Hey, Willa followed. There hadn't been any
Hey, Willas lately. There had been times in her life when she'd wished she was
invisible. But as a forty-six-year-old widow in the rural Montana town she
loved madly and deeply, and perhaps unreasonably, this wasn't one of them.

She gambled a

smile at Earl, whom she'd never known not to be up for at least a morning
headline or a carnal joke. He looked past her at Marilyn. Willa could feel
Marilyn's scowl between her shoulder blades, as if she was branding not local
into her skin. She put a ten on the counter and Marilyn pushed her change
toward her like chess pieces.

Willa took the

change and her stamps, pausing, waiting for some sort of peace offering, but
none came. So she offered her own version and dropped the money into the
spare-a-dime jar, and looked at Tally, who stared into her pastry display. Even
Tally. Willa lingered, looking at her, trying to find words, but none came.

Then she went to

the door she'd passed through a million times with a million Hey, Willas and
stopped short, the sting of it too much. She turned and looked at each of them.
Really looked, even if they wouldn't look at her.

"We never

dreamed of leaving, you know." She fought back tears. "It's my home
too." She didn't say, I have no other choice. Because Montanans found
choices where most people couldn't fathom them. And stood by them.

The hard fact,

as far as this beautiful adopted oddball family of hers knew — this pack which
for decades had lived and breathed and grieved as an undeniable unified western
front — as far as their Montana-ness could fathom: Willa Silvester was choosing
to leave them for no good reason. Except for perhaps grief. And grief wasn't
enough of a reason. She could barely admit the real reason, even to herself.

So, no. No one

met her eye to eye, or even eye to boot.

Willa sighed.

"Well, if you see some strangers here before too long, they're my
friends."

Still nothing.

Not even the cock of a head. That was the nail in the casket. Willa, Montana,
loved its visitors.


Then Willa did

what she'd been dreading for weeks: She pulled a cardboard sign out from under
her parka. She found a lone tack on the Community Bulletin Board — full of its
usual lost dogs and give-away puppies and fifth wheels for barter for chainsaws
and snow tires and all the important currency of a town of thirty-five — and
pushed it through the poster and into the old dry cork.


TOWN FOR AUCTION

WILLA, MONTANA (1 SQUARE MILE)


THE HOMESTEAD:

(HOUSE AND INN, BARN AND CORRAL, GARDEN, ORCHARD, BEE BOXES, CHICKEN COOP)


THE MERCANTILE:

(POST OFFICE, STORE, BAKERY, SALOON, GAS PUMP, PAY PHONE)


MAY 19TH, 3:00

P.M. IN THE MERCANTILE PARKING LOT *** LOCALS ONLY: GOODBYE PARTY TO FOLLOW (UP
AT WILLA'S)


There it was in

writing on the Mercantile Community Bulletin Board, where everything she'd
wanted to communicate with the town over the years had been attached by a tack
into this exact cork — her twin boys' birth announcement, the annual Harvest
Cider Party in the orchard, summer movie nights at the barn, the Fourth of July
parade and fireworks down Main Street (the only street), town meetings at the
Merc, new batches of microbrew and honey, forest-fire alerts, hand-me-downs,
the Free Library, the Christmas Swap, Hunter Safety classes, Meals on Wheels
(and hooves) for the ill, the old, the lonely. And there had been thank-you
notes for any number of services offered in kind to the town by its denizens:
knife sharpening, lawn mowing, hay hauling, fence mending, gun repair. And then
her most recent posts: her boys' college announcements, Jack's memorial
service, their horses and mules to give away.

In a matter of

weeks, this twenty-year chapter of her life would be over. And she had
absolutely no idea what she was going to do next. The only thing she was sure
of was that she was leaving. And that her heart had splintered into too many
pieces to count, never mind put back together. So now what? It was anybody's
guess.

Willa couldn't

bear to look at any of them then. Instead, she closed the old, time-tested door
behind her and walked past the gas pump, wondering if it would go dry now.
Whether the phone booth would get disconnected. The eci cooler left empty.
(Earl was dyslexic.) They'll finally fix that, Willa thought. Or not.

She stopped and

stared out over the womanly foothills that rubbed up against the masculine
mountains of the Lewis and Clark National Forest, the friction of the two
holding this town in place. She had always thought if the hills didn't push
back, those mountains would have swept the whole valley west, right into the
Missouri River. She wasn't pushing any more. She couldn't.

She picked up a

rusty nail from the parking lot, rolling it between her fingers. Then she
pressed it into her thumb, but not for blood, holding it there, imagining the
invitation she really wanted — the invitation to return to everything that came
before the desolate day last fall that had rewritten her history. Pull yourself
together, Willa. The women are coming.


She pitched the

rusty nail into the trash can, got in her truck, and drove home, trying not to
look at the homemade signs attached to every single highway mile marker along
the way:


PLEASE DON'T BUY

OUR TOWN. PLEASE DON'T BUY OUR TOWN. PLEASE DON'T BUY OUR TOWN.



Willa, Montana,

did sympathy to perfection. Change, not so well. Abandonment, not at all.

She pulled onto

her road and cut the engine. She could hear his voice telling her for the
hundredth time that the truck was a '74 Ford pickup —"F-100, Forest
Service green, with the first SuperCab. For our family," beaming like an
about-to-be father of twins. She caught herself smiling in the side mirror and
imagined herself on the passenger side, pregnant, holding his hand, so proud of
this land and how they cared for it. And this family of four that was about to
be.

She looked at

her meadow, cupped by the ridge behind it and Bison Butte in the close
distance, and imagined it fractured. House, house, house, house, house. Maybe a
mill. Maybe a silver mine. Maybe shopping outlets. A cell phone tower. Natural
gas rig mats. A power line slicing it right down the middle.

"I'm sorry,

Jack," she whispered, and swiped the tears from her cheeks. But she was
practical before she was romantic, and a mother first and foremost. Her boys
needed her to move on, even though they didn't understand that yet. They'd
swallowed it like the bitter pill that it was. "You gotta do what you
gotta do," Sam had said. Ned had nodded and looked at Bison Butte.

Willa put her

hands in her pockets and felt the thank-you note she'd toiled over. She hadn't
had the guts to tack it to the Community Board. It could never say enough and
it could never say it right. Because it wasn't enough and it wasn't right, and
it never would be. She read it now:

Wherever we all

end up, I wish us all love, peace, joy, and the beauty of this place to live in
us always. Thank you for being who you have been to my family. And to Willa,
MT. I am so sorry that I have to move on. I'll love you all forever. Willa.

She crumpled it

up and put it back in her pocket.

To the

white-tailed deer who grazed in the meadow, she said a stern, "Absolutely
... no ... woe ... is ... me." It might just be herself and three Not
Local women in her home the night of the nineteenth, but at least there would be
a proper goodbye to Willa Homestead. Willa, Montana, would be a vision in her
rearview mirror on her way out of town on the road to So Now What.


About the Author:


LAURA MUNSON is the bestselling author of This Is Not The Story You Think It Is, which chronicles her journey through her own midlife crossroads. Drawing from the striking response to her memoir, the essay version of it in the New York Times “Modern Love” column, and her speaking events at women’s conferences across the US, Laura founded the acclaimed Haven Writing Retreats and Workshops. After watching hundreds of people find their unique and essential voices under the big sky of Montana she calls home, Laura created Willa, the invitation, the friends, and the town to share what she has learned with people globally. Her work has been published and featured in many media outlets throughout the world. Visit the author’s website: LauraMunsonAuthor.com.








2 comments:

  1. I love the sample of the book. Strong women coming together to help and heal each other in hard times makes for a book I'd love to read.

    ReplyDelete