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  • Greetings from Somewhere Else
  • Written by Monica McInerney
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  • Written by Monica McInerney
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A Novel

Written by Monica McInerneyAuthor Alerts:  Random House will alert you to new works by Monica McInerney

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List Price: $9.99

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On Sale: July 07, 2009
Pages: 448 | ISBN: 978-0-345-51669-5
Published by : Ballantine Books Ballantine Group
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Tags for this book (powered by Library Thing)
fiction (14) ireland (9) chick lit (6) romance (5)
fiction (14) ireland (9) chick lit (6) romance (5)
Synopsis|Excerpt

Synopsis

Lainey Byrne is a master at controlled chaos, juggling her hectic, demanding job, her chef boyfriend with his crazy hours, and her roiling family with all its daily dramas. But her life truly threatens to spin out of control when her aunt May, who owns a B&B in Ireland, passes away. In order for the Byrnes to collect their inheritance, someone from the family must take over Aunt May’s business for a year. And apparently that someone is Lainey.

Between running a run-down, virtually guest-free B&B (without the slightest ability to cook or clean), worrying about her family from afar, adjusting to country life, and dealing with the complications of long-distance love, Lainey is in way over her head. But when a reunion with a (gorgeous) childhood friend sparks unexpected complications, Lainey realizes that fate may have another path for her–a direction she never imagined.

Excerpt

Chapter One



Stop the music please!” Lainey Byrne shouted, waving her arms as though she was fighting off a swarm of bees. The background music stopped with a screech. On the stage the ten dancers dressed in giant sausage costumes came to a wobbly halt.

Lainey quickly climbed the steps, looking for the lead dancer. It was hard to tell who was who when the entire troupe was dressed from head to toe in pink foam. “They look more like hot dogs than sausages,” the sound technician had muttered unkindly that morning. Or something ruder, Lainey had thought privately. But it was too late to get new costumes and she could hardly scorch each of them with a cigarette lighter to get authentic grill marks. The fabric was far too flammable.

She spoke loudly, hoping they could all hear her clearly through the foam. “Can I just remind you again how it’s supposed to go? You run on after the barbecue’s been lowered, not before. Otherwise half of you will get squashed, which isn’t exactly the look our client wants for his big event.”

There were a few muffled laughs. Lainey turned and nodded at the sound man, and the opening notes of the Beaut Barbecues jingle filled the East Melbourne venue once more. As she moved off the stage and into the middle of the room, Lainey winced again at the lyrics.

Oh, believe me, mate,

Sausages taste great

On a beaut Beaut Barbecue-oo-oo.

She’d tried to gently talk the managing director out of the jingle three months ago, when they’d first met to discuss the gala party celebrating his tenth year in the barbecue business. But it turned out his eight-year-old daughter had written the words and he wasn’t budging. Lainey wondered now if his eight-year-old daughter had come up with the idea of the dancing sausages as well. Or perhaps it had been his four-year-old son. Or his dog. Lainey just hoped none of today’s guests would think it had been Complete Event Management’s idea. Still, it was her job to give her clients what they wanted, and if Mr. Barbecue wanted dancing sausages, he was going to get dancing sausages.

Lainey’s mobile phone rang. She took a few steps back, keeping an eye on the stage. “Complete Event Management, Lainey Byrne speaking.”

“Lainey, have I rung at a bad time?”

It was her mother. “Ma, of course not. Is everything okay? Is Dad all right?” As Lainey spoke, the dancers moved to the front of the stage to pick up the first of their props. Lainey held her breath as one of the fatter sausages teetered a little too close to the edge.

“He’s grand. Well, no, not grand, no change there. This is a brand- new problem.”

“What’s happened?”

“It’s to do with his sister’s will.”

“The will? I thought that had all been sorted out. Don’t tell me she left the B&B to the cats’ home after all?” The sausages were now making waltzing movements, each holding a giant plastic bottle marked Tomato Sauce. At the launch later that day the bottles would be filled with red glitter. For now the sausages were just puffing air at each other.

“No, she did leave the B&B to your father. But we’ve just heard from her solicitor in Ireland. There’s a little bit of a hitch.”

Hitches came in sizes? “What do you mean a little bit?”

“It’s too complicated to talk about on the phone. I think it’s better if we discuss it as a family. Can you call over tonight? If you and Adam ?don’t have any plans, that is.”

“No, he’s working seven nights a week at the moment. Of course I’ll come over.”

“Thanks, love. I’m asking the boys to drop by as well.”

The boys? Her younger brothers were hardly that. Brendan was nearly thirty, Declan twenty-five and Hugh nineteen. Lainey mentally ran through her appointments for the day. The barbecue party was from noon until three, then she had two meetings and a client briefing back at the office. “Around eight-ish then—sorry, Ma, can you hold on a sec?” She shouted over the music again as the sausages put down their sauce bottles and picked up giant barbecue tongs. “That’s when the managing director comes in and you form a guard of honor with your tongs, okay? That’s it, great. Sorry about that, Ma.”

“I ?don’t think I’ll ask what you’re up to.”

Lainey laughed. “You ?wouldn’t believe it if I told you. I’ll see you tonight then. Love to Dad.” She put her mobile away and turned her full attention back to the stage. The sausages were now brandishing the barbecue tongs as though they were samurai swords. It was hard to keep a straight face—she’d been picturing this event in her head for weeks now and it had looked nothing like the chaos in front of her. She stopped the music with another wave of her hands. “All right, from the top again please.”

• • •

It was past seven by the time Lainey drove out of the office parking lot and through the Melbourne city center streets. Out of habit, she put on the language CD that she kept in the car. She listened to French language CDs while she jogged, and German CDs while she drove. Adam found it very funny. “You do realize you’ll only ever be able to speak German when you’re sitting in a car?” he’d remarked when he first noticed her system.

She listened for a few moments, repeating the words until the woman’s breathy tones finally got to her. Stopping at the Flinders Street traffic lights, she put in a new CD, a bargain basement KC and the Sunshine Band greatest hits collection. She’d bought it for her brother Declan as a joke and then discovered she liked it too much herself. She wound down the window of the car, the tiny breeze it let in giving her little relief from the muggy late-January heat. The air- conditioning had broken down again and it was like driving around in a portable oven. A portable kettle barbecue, even. She certainly knew enough about barbecues now to understand how being in one would feel. “It was all fabulous, just how I imagined it,” Mr. Beaut Barbecues had gushed as Lainey said goodbye that afternoon. “See you in ten years for our next big anniversary, sweetheart.” Over my dead body, sweetheart, she’d thought as she nodded and smiled and tried to ignore his hand doing its best to grope at her behind. She’d had quite enough of Mr. and Mrs. Barbecue and all the little Barbecues for one lifetime.

She finished singing an enthusiastic, badly out-of-tune version of “Shake Your Booty” just as she came off the freeway. She was the first to admit she had an appalling singing voice. “No offense, Lain,” Declan had said once, “but your singing sounds like a mating cat. Like a cat being slaughtered when it’s mating, in fact.” On the spur-of-the-moment, she made a detour to the local shopping center to pick up a few treats to save her mother having to cook. A proper daughter would bring homemade casseroles, she knew, but her cooking skills were basic and her cooking time nonexistent. She also knew her parents loved these ready-made meals in packs, even

if the food inside never looked anything like the picture on the box— restaurant meal on the front, gray splodge on the inside, from what Lainey had seen.

The clock on the dashboard clicked over to 8:00 p.m. as she parked in front of the house. Mr. and Mrs. Byrne’s red brick bungalow in Box Hill was the sixth house the family had lived in since they’d arrived from Ireland seventeen years ago. Of the four children, only her youngest brother Hugh had a bedroom in this house these days and even he was barely there, spending most nights at friends’ houses. She took care not to stop under the jacaranda tree that had burst into bloom just before Christmas and was now showering blue flowers all over the street. There was no sign of her brothers’ cars—she was first, as usual. She walked through the open front door, down the hallway to the kitchen and put the meals away in the fridge.

“Hello, Lainey. Oh, thanks a million, your father loves those. Shut the fridge door, would you? I ?don’t want the flies getting in there.” Mrs. Byrne specialized in greeting-and-command combinations. “I like your haircut, by the way. I ?wouldn’t have thought hair that short would work with a biggish nose like yours, but it looks very well.”

Lainey ?didn’t blink at the mixture of compliment and insult—her mother had long specialized in them too. “Thanks, Ma.” She gave her mother a quick kiss on the cheek. With the same tall, very slim build, the same dark-brown hair, they were sometimes mistaken for sisters. “Where’s Dad?”

“Playing water polo. Where do you think he is? In bed, of course.”

Lainey ignored the sharp tone. “Has he been up today at all?”

“No, for a few minutes yesterday. But the way he carried on about it you’d think he wanted me to hang banners and streamers around the house in celebration. He said he’d get up tonight to see you all, but there’s been no movement yet.”

“I’ll go and say hello.” She walked through the living room to her parents’ bedroom. No, not her parents’ bedroom, she corrected herself. Her father’s bedroom. He had moved into one of the spare bedrooms several months previously, as a trial to see if he could sleep better without her mother beside him. The trial continued, still waiting on positive results, perhaps.

As she walked down the hall, she imagined what she’d like to see in her father’s room.

She knocked softly on the door. “Hi, Dad.”

“Lainey! How are you?” Her father was sitting up on his fully made bed, a book in his hands, newspapers spread all around him. She was delighted to see him taking such an interest in the outside world again.

He smiled at her. “How are you, pet? I love the haircut. Sit down now and tell me, what havoc have you been wreaking out in the world today?”

She knocked softly on the door. “Hi, Dad.”

No answer.

“It’s me, Lainey, your favorite daughter.”

“My only daughter.” His Irish accent was loud in the dark room.

She came in and sat on the edge of the bed, her eyes slowly adjusting to the dim light. The curtains were drawn. She could just make out his face, the bedcovers drawn up to his neck. “Just checking you remembered me. How are you?”

“In bits, still. Why, have you been praying for a miracle cure?”

“Burning candles for you every night, you know that.” She kept up a jovial tone. “Can I bring you anything? A cup of tea? A cold drink?”

“A new life would be nice.”

Her mother had been right, he was in very bad form. She changed the subject. “Ma said there’s a bit of a problem with May’s will?”

“Of course there is. How long is it since anything ran smoothly in this family?”

Lainey tried to stay cheerful. “Nothing we ?can’t sort out, I bet. What about I get you a cup of tea while we’re waiting for the others to arrive?”

There was a long sigh. “Thanks, love, that’d be great. Tell Peg I’ll be out as soon as I can.”

Back in the kitchen, Lainey filled the kettle and tried to shake off her sudden gloom. “Honestly, the sooner he gets his own chat show the better, ?don’t you think?”

Mrs. Byrne ?didn’t smile. Lainey looked closer at her. “Are you all right? Have you been crying?”

“No, of course I haven’t. It’s hayfever.”

“In the middle of the city? Imported hay, is it?”

“No, we’ve had a rough day, that’s all. Here, look.”

Lainey took the letter, immediately noting the insurance company logo. Since her father’s accident on the building site there had been piles of correspondence bearing this logo. She scanned the latest.

re: Gerald Patrick Byrne

In regard to your claim for compensation following your recent workplace accident, please be advised we require additional proof of your injuries and incapacitation. However, please note this evidence may or may not have any bearing on your claim, which is still under consideration . . .

Lainey gave up reading midway. She’d seen enough of these sorts of letters already. She felt like inviting one of the insurance people to come and look at the mark that slab of concrete had left on her father’s back. “Ma, why ?won’t you let me take over? I’d get in there and sort them out so quickly—”

“Because your father wants to handle it his way, for some reason. And you know what he’s like with people in authority. He’s never been able to stand up to them. I’ll tell you who else wrote to us today— the physiotherapist. She says your father’s been cancelling too many appointments at the last minute, she’s going to have to start charging us soon. What am I supposed to do? I ?can’t make him go. He’s a grown man, isn’t he? Though I ?don’t know any more, half the time he’s like a bold child, sulking and skulking in there . . .”

Quick, Lainey thought, ?don’t let her get upset. Make her think of something else. “Is there something I can do in the meantime? Before the money comes through from the B&B sale? Handcuff myself to the railing in front of the insurance company, perhaps?”

That brought a faint smile. “No, it’s far too hot at the moment. In the autumn perhaps.”

“I could go on a hunger strike.”

“You’re skinny enough as it is.”

“Seriously, there must be something I can do.”

“Perhaps there is.”

Lainey waited.

Mrs. Byrne shook her head. “Wait till the other three get here.”

“You’ve collected the whole set? Well done.”

“Well, Declan said yes. And Bren said yes. But Hugh . . .”

The back door opened to admit a tall, brown-haired man with a bag slung over his shoulder. “Saintly mother figure, greetings. Laineyovich, glorious being, ahoy to you too. Hideous haircut, by the way, you look like a boy. No offense, of course.”

Lainey smiled serenely at her middle brother. “None taken, of course. How are you, Declanski? Still tunneling your way through the education system?”

“The work is hard, but yes, the rewards are endless. And how is your world of frivolous product launches and rampant commercialism? Shallow as ever?”
Monica McInerney|Author Q&A

About Monica McInerney

Monica McInerney - Greetings from Somewhere Else

Photo © Michael Boyny

Monica McInerney is the author of the international bestseller The Alphabet Sisters. She lives in Ireland.

Author Q&A

A Conversation with Monica McInerney 


Random House Reader’s Circle: You feature families who have migrated from Ireland to Australia (or vice versa) in several of your novels. Can you talk a bit about the large migration of Irish to Australia?

 Monica McInerney: Australia and Ireland have a long and rich shared history, with something like one in five Australians claiming Irish heritage. Thousands of the first white settlers in the nineteenth century were Irish convicts; Irish people emigrated to escape the famine and poverty in the 1840s, and to seek their fortune in the gold rush of the 1850s. More recently, it’s been a combination of economic reasons and the call of the wild– there’s something exotic and romantic about Australia for Irish people, as there is something romantic and mystical about Ireland for most Australians. My own greatgrandparents on my mother’s and my father’s side emigrated to South Australia in the 1840s, both from County Clare. Looking back through our family tree it’s obvious from the surnames how the Irish community stuck together–my ancestors all have names such as Hogan, Canny, Fitzgerald and O’Brien. I laughed to myself when I first moved to Ireland with my Irish husband nearly twenty years ago, all the trouble my ancestors took to go to Australia, two months on a ship, and there I was turning it around with a flight lasting less than a day. 

RHRC: Nuggets of Irish history are sprinkled throughout Greetings from Somewhere Else, as Lainey does research for her plans for the B&B. Did you do much research for this novel, or did you grow up knowing a lot about Ireland’s past? 

MM:
I grew up with a basic knowledge of Irish history, key dates and names, for example, but it’s living in Ireland that has expanded my knowledge. History is such a part of everyday life here, the political situation constantly evolving in regard to Northern Ireland, the streets full of statues of greats from Irish history and literature such as Daniel O’Connell, James Joyce, Oscar Wilde. 

When I first moved here with my Irish husband in 1991, we lived in County Meath, very close to the Hill of Tara and it became–and still is–one of my favorite places in Ireland. We spent many hours there, roaming across the fields, imagining how it might have looked, talking to local people about it, reading books of legends. Lainey’s reaction to Tara in Greetings from Somewhere Else is very close to mine. At first glance, Tara seems quite ordinary, but then your imagination takes over and you can feel and almost hear its history. 

RHRC: There are so many delicious meals described in Greetings from Somewhere Else, and food is often a vivid presence in your books. What importance does it have in your non-writing life? 

MM:
Food and books are two of the great loves of my life, so it is such a treat to bring them together in my writing. I love to cook, to eat out, to eat in, to shop, to visit markets, to read recipe books. I’m the world’s messiest cook, which I suspect stems from the fact that when I was growing up in a big rowdy family of nine there was a rule that whoever cooked didn’t have to do the dishes. So I volunteered, got hooked, began to cook elaborate meals for my family, three-course meals sometimes, all in the safe knowledge that I didn’t have to clear up afterward. My poor in-laws found it out to their cost too–I offered to cook a big Asian banquet the first year I moved to Ireland. I used every single dish, pot and pan in the kitchen. It took my brother-in-law and sister-in-law three hours–seriously–to clean up from a meal that took us all less than twenty minutes to eat. 

RHRC: Which contemporary writers do you enjoy reading? What’s the last great book you read, and why did you love it? 

MM:
I’ve a long list of favorite contemporary writers, including Garrison Keillor, Laurie Graham, Tim Winton, Helen Garner, Neil Gaiman, Adriana Trigiani, John le Carré, Kristan Higgins, Meg Rosoff, Stephenie Meyer . . . My current favorite book is The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows. I’ve recommended it to many friends and sent it as presents to my mother and sisters too. It’s the story of the islanders of Guernsey and their relationship with a sparky, funny, and wonderful writer who corresponds with them in the years following World War II. On the surface it is a funny, cozy, heartwarming tale of a complicated group of people, but there is so much else to it: hard and stark tales of life during wartime and beautiful depictions of resilience in the face of difficult choices. 

RHRC: Your novels provide such a wonderful escape for many readers–is this one of the reasons why you like writing fiction? Have you ever written nonfiction or wanted to? 

MM:
Everything I love about writing comes from what I love about reading. When I pick up a book, I love that feeling of losing myself in other worlds, and when I am writing my novels, I love that same feeling. It’s wonderful for me to hear that readers of my books get swept up in the same way I do when I’m writing the story. I love the feeling that anything is possible when I am writing fiction. I can send my characters to the moon if I want to (though some of them might be alarmed to find themselves there). Through my characters, I’ve managed to live so many different lives, experience different emotions, explore my own feelings toward many different situations. It’s akin to being on a psychologist’s couch sometimes–I write how I think a character will react and then I need to take a step back, and realize, no, that’s how I would react, not this fictional person. Fiction writing means a constant exploration of personality and cause and effect and I find that fascinating. Lately I’ve written quite a lot of nonfiction, articles about my real-life experiences with aunts and how that led to The Faraday Girls, stories about my childhood as part of a big family of railway children. I’m finding that a great experience too, a different way of delving into my own memories and emotions. 

RHRC: How much interaction do you have with book clubs, and how have your experiences with them been? Are you part of one yourself? 

MM:
I love talking to book clubs and have done several great chats with clubs in the United States through the Random House Author Chat program, me here in Dublin, sometimes in the middle of the night, the book club gathered around a table in places like California or Long Island. It’s fascinating and also nerve-racking to listen to your own book being discussed, because of course not every word is going to be positive. So far I’ve been very fortunate. Perhaps they were more frank after I’d hung up. 

I’m in a book club here in Dublin, with male and female members, and it has added so much to my reading and writing life. I’ve been introduced to books I would not otherwise have read, revisited classics like Wuthering Heights and Rudyard Kipling’s Captains Courageous and also participated in many lively discussions. We’re all quite serious about it. Yes, we meet over wine and food, but the chat is always quickly directed to the book in question. It’s also been helpful for me as a writer to hear a book being discussed in such detail, to realize that there isn’t a book in the world that is universally loved and also to hear all the different reasons people read, what they look for in plot, character, setting, how your mood at the time you are reading can affect your experience of a book. 

RHRC: You were a book publicist in your past life. How has that experience influenced your career as a writer? 

MM:
It was an invaluable experience to me, in some ways like doing a writing course by osmosis. I met and talked to many different writers, from different countries and all genres, and heard them speak about their methods. When I started writing fiction myself, I was able to draw on those memories, to remind myself that the ups and downs I was going through were normal. I also know from experience that publicity tours and reviews and speaking engagements are all a great help to spread the word about the book. I’m lucky in that I love that side of being a writer. I’m social by nature, so after a year locked away in my office with my fictional characters, I’m always very eager to get out and about and meet real people. 

RHRC: You’ve been on book tours all over the world. How do you think readers in different countries vary? Do you find audiences generally want the same thing in a novel, or is there a range across cultures? 

MM:
What surprises me is how little they vary. I love to see how curious readers in each country are about people in other countries. My books are usually set in several different countries, and I’ve been lucky enough to meet readers in most of those countries. The great thing is when an Irish reader tells me they love reading about Australia and feel they’ve been there through the pages of my book, or an Australian says that about Ireland, or an American reader about both Ireland and Australia. I think most readers are seeking the same experience in books–a chance to step into another life, to experience a wide range of emotions, to be challenged and entertained, and that is international. 

RHRC: You’ve now written two novels featuring the delightful heroines Eva and Lainey. Do you think they’ll ever appear in any of your future novels? And what are you working on now? 

MM:
They may well. I’d like to come back and see how they are all getting on in ten years’ time. 

 In terms of my new book, I’m in the early chapters, planning research trips, reading many books on subjects that I’ll be covering and also doing lots of walking and daydreaming. It’s one of my favorite parts of the writing process, when everything is possible. My head is full of characters and ideas and it’s a matter of choosing which ones I want to live with for the next year or so. 

Praise

Praise

“A heartwarming, romantic and funny story about love, family and relationships.”—Irish Independent

“Disarmingly funny . . . compassionate, clever . . . [Monica] McInerney’ s story and plot resonate with a Maeve Binchy kind of generosity of spirit.”—The Age, Australia

“McInerney uses richly drawn characters, witty dialogue, and the beauty of the Irish countryside to tell the story of a woman-in-control made to let go and let things happen, thus allowing her to rediscover her heritage and her own true passions.” – Booklist

“If you’re looking for a breezy, late-summer addition to your library, pick up a copy of Monica McInerney’s novel, Greetings from Somewhere Else. A combination of an easy to follow main storyline combined with compelling subplots and a likable main character make it a quintessential beach book.” –MostlyFiction Reviews
 
Discussion Questions

Discussion Guides

1. Lainey assumes the position as caretaker in her family–with three distracted brothers, a hapless father, and a mother at her wit’s end, she thinks of herself as the one who holds them all together. Have you found that in large families there is always someone in this role? Do you think she should feel as accountable as she does for her family’s ability to function?

 2. How do you feel about Lainey’s decision regarding Adam when she moves to Ireland? Do you think she made the right choice? In your opinion, do long-distance relationships ever work? 

3. Why do you suppose Lainey has such a type A personality and needs to control everything? How does she change in terms of her rigidity over the course of the novel, and what accounts for her transformation? 

4. Lainey and Eva are best friends, yet have such different personalities. What are the defining dynamics of their relationship, and how does their friendship work so well? In your own experience, are you more drawn to people who are similar to or different from you? 

5. What is your perception of Aunt May and the decision she makes in her will? Is she selfish or eccentric, or does she have the best intentions at heart? 

6. Lainey trades her office job for a vastly different one when she runs the B&B . . . and comes to enjoy the experience. When have you been pleasantly surprised after entering an experience you dreaded? 

7. Lainey has the unsettling experience of questioning her mother’s loyalty to her father, making a discovery that changes her childhood perceptions about her parents. Can you remember the first time you realized your parents were complicated adults with lives of their own? 

8. Discuss the theme of risk in this novel. Does it generally pay off for McInerney’s characters? How do you think Lainey’s life would have turned out if one of her brothers had gone to Ireland instead? 

9. Eva is very candid about Lainey’s faults, providing a wake-up call for her friend. Have you ever had anyone do the same for you? How did your reaction compare to Lainey’s? 

10. There is a rich sense of setting and Irish history in this novel, and as a result the reader is immersed in a dif- ferent culture. What other books have you read that have had a similar “armchair travel” effect? 

11. On page 188, Lainey states, “Evie, things happen as a result of your actions, by putting your mind to it, not through fate or some preordained life plan.” Do you agree with her or Evie, who earnestly asks, “But don’t you ever think things happen for a reason?” 

12. There are many thematic messages–about family, friends, romance, and living life in general–to come away with after reading Greetings from Somewhere Else. Which resonates with you most?  


  • Greetings from Somewhere Else by Monica McInerney
  • July 07, 2009
  • Fiction - Contemporary Women
  • Ballantine Books
  • $14.00
  • 9780345506382

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