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392 pages, Hardcover
First published May 17, 2011
”His mind was flooded.“I’ll Be There” is a powerful and unsettling read, particularly throughout the early descriptions of Sam and his younger brother Riddle’s life on the road with their mentally unstable father, Clarence.
He’d seen pictures of New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina, and that’s how he felt. His life was now underwater and, even if the tide somehow receded, everything that he had was now damaged beyond repair.”
She could not really sing.
That was just a fact.
But it was also a fact that she was riveting. She was raw and exposed and not really hitting the notes right. But she was singing to him.
He wasn't imagining it.
The girl with the long brown hair had her small hands held tight at her sides and, maybe because of how bad she was, or because she was staring right at him and seemed to be singing right to him, he couldn't look away.
She was saying she'd be there.
But no one was ever there. That's the way it was. Who was she to tell him such a thing?
It was intimate and suddenly painful.
Not just for her.
But now for him.
Sam watched her flee.
He understood completely.
Hadn't he spent his whole life running? The girl with the off-key voice and the glossy sheet of brown hair and the watery eyes was now gone.
The choir continued, seamlessly moving on to another song. But Sam was up on his feet as well. He didn't care that the big wooden doors made noise. He pushed down on the brass bar and was outside.
In moments he was around the back of the church and standing next to the girl who was in some kind of distress. He put one hand on her shoulder. Her eyes were all watery. He didn't want her to cry. If she cried, he might cry. Why would they go to that place?
But he'd learned how to make emotions go away. He was an expert at that. So why was he back here behind the church right now? He was supposed to be invisible. Right?
And then he found himself saying:
"You're going to be okay. Really . . . It's all right. . . ."
He was comforting her. The girl who couldn't sing and who had been so exposed. Her choir robe parted, and she shook it off and he could see she had on black pants that fit over her perfect little legs and a crisp white shirt that clung to her now small, sweaty body.
Sam suddenly wanted to scoop her up and maybe get on a motorcycle and drive away with her. Except he didn't know how to ride a motorcycle, but he'd seen that in a movie once on TV and the guy was wearing a military uniform and the girl knew him and she wanted to be scooped up.
And then, as she stared at him, it was all too much. She abruptly turned away.
And that's when her breakfast of toast, eggs, and bacon made its second appearance of the morning.
Because this girl didn't know him and, if she did, she would never want to have anything to do with him. This girl had taken once long, intense look at him and that, combined with her singing, had made her sick. He reached out and instinctively took hold of her long hair to keep it from the next retch.
He wished he had a rag or a towel or something she could use to wipe off her mouth. But he didn't and then the side door of the church suddenly opened and a woman was standing there. She said:
"Emily, are you all right?"
Sam dropped his hands and released her hair and stepped away and it was over.
He turned on his heel and took off, moving fast but without running.
Away from her.
"She had a son. His name was Jared. But when the man on the phone had said they'd found a boy in the Manti-La Sal National Forest, and he'd said he was her son, she knew that this was also now true."