Ruth is the fiercely protective mother of almost-four-year-old Fern. Together they visit a remote family cottage belonging to Stef, the woman who has been Ruth's best friend — and Ruth's husband's best friend — for years. Stef is everything Ruth is not — confident, loud, carefree — and someone Ruth cannot seem to escape. While Fern runs wild with Stef's older twins and dockside drinks flow freely among the adults, they're joined by Stef's neighbour Marvin, a man whose frantic pursuit of fun is only matched by his side comments about his absent wife. As day moves into night and darkness settles over the woods, the edges between these friends and a stranger sharpen until a lingering suspicion becomes an undeniable threat. (From Harper Perennial)
Jessica Westhead is the author of the novel Pulpy & Midge and the short story collections And Also Sharks and Things Not to Do.
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From the book
Here she is, alone by the water with her only child. It's the middle of the day and the sun is very bright. Her daughter is lying on her towel on the sand beside her.
If she wants to, she can reach out and grab a small, smooth foot, skim her fingers across the slippery material of the pink-and purple bathing suit with the cartoon pony on the front.
She could do that and reassure herself that her little girl is okay, she's right here.
She's where she is supposed to be.
But what happens when she takes her hand away and closes her eyes? Her child disappears. It's that easy. One minute her daughter is there, smiling on the beach on a beautiful summer day. And then she's gone.
Sweat rolls down Ruth's back, and Fern asks her, "What's wrong, Mommy?"
"Nothing's wrong, honey." Ruth squints at the diamonds of sunlight spiking off the lake. "We're just waiting for our friends."
From Worry by Jessica Westhead ©2019. Published by HarperCollins.