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  • 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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On Sale: June 24, 2008
Pages: | ISBN: 978-0-345-50714-3
Published by : Ballantine Books Ballantine Group
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Synopsis|Excerpt

Synopsis

“Sparkling . . . it’s all systems go for a wonderful romance . . . a charming story told with large doses of love and humour.”
–The Australian Women’s Weekly

Eva Kennedy is in a rut. After seven years of working at her uncle’s Dublin delicatessen, her artistic aspirations have slipped by the wayside and her latest relationship has fizzled. Whatever happened to the Eva who was going to be someone? Hoping to shake things up and find inspiration, Eva takes a break and ventures to Melbourne, Australia, to visit her old friend Lainey, who, for fun, gives her an exciting new identity. Eva is now exotic and adventurous and . . . not herself.

Joseph Wheeler is a successful London designer. Unfortunately his firm is thriving at such a high level that he doesn’t have time to actually design anymore. And his love life is nonexistent.

In Australia on business, Joseph meets Eva, and the sparks fly–even as Eva is stuck pretending to be someone she’s not. Little does she know that Joseph has some secrets of his own. . . .

When what starts as a holiday fling quickly blossoms into something more, Joseph and Eva discover that romance can turn life upside down and inside out at the bottom of the world.

“The perfect holiday romp . . . A fresh and fun read that will win the attention of its readers for its warm and bubbly tone.”
–Irish Tattler

“There is a huge ‘aaahh’ factor in [Upside Down Inside Out].”
–Irish Examiner

“Refreshing . . . tongue-in-cheek fun.”
–The Sun-Herald (Australia)

Excerpt

Chapter 1

Dublin, Ireland

Eva Kennedy had just stepped into the cold March air when a watermelon rolled across the footpath in front of her.

“Sorry ’bout that, Eva love,” a middle-aged woman called over. “It’s been trying to make a run for it all day, that one.”

Eva picked up the runaway fruit and passed it across to Brenda, who was surrounded by the remnants of her fruit and vegetable stall. There were boxes of cabbages and oranges piled high on the Camden Street footpath around her. Brenda’s son was dismantling the stall itself, loading the wooden trays into a van parked illegally beside the footpath, its interior light throwing out a dim glow.

“Howya, Eva,” Sean called from the back of the van. “Any chance of a pint together tonight?”

“No chance at all, Sean. Haven’t you given up on me yet?”

“Never. You’ve my heart broken, you know.”

Eva just laughed at him. Not even fourteen years old and he was already full of cheek.

She had just started pulling down the delicatessen’s security shutter when she heard someone calling her name. It was Mrs. Gallagher, one of her favorite customers, walking quickly down Camden Street and waving a shopping list like a small white flag.

“Eva, I’m so sorry,” she said breathlessly as she reached her side. “I just couldn’t get away from work before now. Am I too late?”

“Of course not, Mrs. Gallagher. I wasn’t going home yet anyway.” She pushed the shutter all the way up again and opened the front door, the bell giving its little ring as they walked in. The shop was warm, the air fragrant with the mingled smells of fresh bread, coffee, cheese, and spices.

Mrs. Gallagher gave an appreciative sniff. “Thank you for this, Eva. I’ve friends coming over for dinner and I promised them some of your wonderful cheese.”

“It’s no problem at all.” Eva went in behind the counter, tied on an apron again and pulled on some gloves. “Ambrose and I are having a quick meeting after work in any case.”

“Now, that’s the sort of meeting I’d like to have. I can just imagine what you two talk about. ‘What do you think of this cheese, Eva?’ ‘Is this olive oil good enough?’ ‘Are these chocolates chocolatey enough?’ ”

Eva laughed at the envious look on Mrs. Gallagher’s face. “That’s about it, actually. Now, which cheese were you after? We’ve your favorite here, this crumbly farmhouse one, or perhaps you’d like to try this new one? A smoked cheddar, from a small producer near Cork that Ambrose heard about. It’s something special, I have to say.”

Mrs. Gallagher took a taste, then smacked her lips in pleasure. “Oh yes, I’ll have a good wedge of that, Eva, thank you. Where is Ambrose, by the way?”

“In the Bermuda Triangle.”

“Where?”

“Our storeroom. It doesn’t seem to matter how many times we reorganize it, things just disappear in there, never to be seen again.”

“Sounds just like my filing cabinet at work. And tell me, how will Ambrose cope without you while you’re off gallivanting in New York with that young man of yours?”

“My cousin Meg is coming up from Ennis to help out. She’s just finished a course at the Ardmahon House cooking school and really wants the work experience.”

“Oh, that’s a marvelous place, apparently. I’ll have to ask her for some recipe tips. Now, let me think, can I have some of that camembert? And some of the blue vein as well, while you’re there.”

Eva had just taken out the wheel of camembert when she heard the front doorbell ring. She looked up, her smile fading slightly at the sight of a red-faced elderly woman. Mrs. Lacey. The Terror of Camden Street.

“I know it’s after six, but you’re still here, so of course you can serve me,” Mrs. Lacey said loudly as she rummaged in her bag. “It’s ridiculous the hours you shop people keep. You should be suiting us, your paying customers, not yourselves, if you ask me, Eva.”

Yes, Mrs. Lacey. And may I say how especially toadlike you look today. A pound of our finest dried flies, was it? Or some of this pond slime flown in fresh from Galway this morning? Perhaps you’d just like to flick that long toady tongue of yours over the counter here and serve yourself?

“I’ll be with you in just one minute, Mrs. Lacey. Just as soon as I finish looking after Mrs. Gallagher here.”

Mrs. Lacey stared at the other woman as if she had magically appeared out of nowhere. “But I’m in a hurry. Where’s that uncle of yours? Surely he can serve me?”

What a good idea, Eva thought. She called over her shoulder. “Ambrose, I wonder could you give me a hand out here for a moment?”

A tall, gray-haired man emerged from the storeroom and took in the situation at a glance. “Mrs. Gallagher, how are you? I see Eva is looking after you. So, Mrs. Lacey, I have the privilege of looking after you. What a pleasure to see you. You’re looking so well, too.”

Ambrose caught Eva’s eye and gave her the quickest of winks.

Five minutes later, Eva followed both women out to make sure the Closed sign was firmly in place and the security shutter pulled right down. A gust of icy wind rushed in at her. She shivered. The end of March and it was still freezing. It was supposed to be spring, surely. What had her friend Lainey been boasting about on the phone from Australia the day before? Autumn in Melbourne and she was still going to the beach to swim at weekends. Eva wondered sometimes if Lainey just made these things up to make her jealous.

“You managed to see dear Mrs. Lacey safely off the premises, then?” Ambrose asked as she came back in.

“Oh, now the truth comes out! ‘Mrs. Lacey, what a pleasure to see you. You’re looking so well, too.’ You’re a silver-tongued devil, Ambrose Kennedy.”

“Years of practice, Evie. And haven’t I always told you about the first law of shopkeeping? You can think what you like as long as you keep a smile on your face.”

“Mrs. Lacey’s a law unto herself, if you ask me. I don’t suppose we could install a moat to keep her out, could we? That security shutter’s useless.”

“No, I’m fairly certain she can swim. Now, are you still all right to stay back for a quick meeting? I won’t keep you too long, I promise.”

“It’s fine, I’m in no hurry.”

She’d been surprised when Ambrose asked her to stay back tonight. Their last catch-up meeting had been just three weeks ago. Still, maybe some problem had come up and he thought it better to discuss it with her before she went on holiday.

Eva enjoyed their meetings. They were a chance to compare notes on which products were selling well, which ones weren’t, what requests they’d had. A laugh about some of the worst customers, generally Mrs. Lacey. A moan about suppliers. A general chat about the shop’s comings and goings. She suspected the meetings helped ease Ambrose’s loneliness too. Since his wife, Sheila, had died suddenly of a heart attack four years before, Ambrose had stayed living in the flat above the shop on his own. It had been a very hard few years for him.

She made a pot of coffee and took out several freshly baked ginger biscuits from a glass jar on the counter. Then she settled herself on a chair at the edge of the storeroom, waiting while Ambrose put a folder of papers back on the shelf above his desk.

“You look very serious,” she said as he turned toward her. “Don’t tell me our olive-oil man has run off with the butcher’s wife? Just as we beat him down on price and all?”

“No, oil’s well that ends well there,” he said, smiling at his own joke. He took a biscuit and sat down opposite her. “Tell me, Evie, how long have you been with me now? Six years? Or is it seven?”

Ambrose in reminiscence mode? She was surprised. “Seven years all up. Those three years part-time while I was studying, and it’s been nearly four years full-time now.”

He nodded slowly. “Do you ever miss the painting, Evie? Miss being at art school?”

“Well, sometimes, I suppose. The painting more than the study, of course.”

“And that cover band you used to sing with? Is that still going, do you know?”

“It is, yes.” She often saw the band’s name in gig listings in the newspapers. When she’d sung with them, they’d done mostly private parties and weddings. Now they seemed to be playing at lots of pubs around town.

“And do you regret having to give that up as well?”

“I did miss it at first,” she answered, even more puzzled. It wasn’t like Ambrose to ask questions like these. “But I couldn’t work here full-time and do that too, I knew that.”

Ambrose shifted in his chair. She noticed then he didn’t have the orders sheet in front of him as he usually did. She realized this wasn’t a normal catch-up meeting.

“Eva, I need to discuss something with you and I’ve decided it’s best to do it before you go on holiday with Dermot.”

It was bad news, she knew it. She had a memory flash of him wincing as he came down the stairs several weeks earlier. “Are you sick, Ambrose? Is that what you want to tell me? Oh dear God, what is it?”

“Oh dear God yourself, not that,” he said, laughing at her expression. “Haven’t I always told you? I’m healthy as a young trout.”

Eva was relieved to hear it. “Young trout? Sixty-four if you’re a day, Ambrose. You’re a fine old salmon, ready to be smoked, if you ask me.”

He smiled at her. “No, I’m not sick at all, Eva. Not in health. What I am sick of is work. Sick of early starts, late finishes. I want to retire, Evie.”

“Retire?”

“I’m getting too old for this now. I don’t want to spend what’s left of my life behind a counter. I want to stop working, it’s as simple as that. Stop working and go traveling again. Visit all the places that Sheila and I used to love visiting together. And start enjoying eating food again, not just selling it.”

She was completely shocked. “But what about the shop?”

He looked steadily at her. “I want to give it to you.”

“Give it? To me? You can’t possibly.”

He laughed. “Yes, I can.”

“But why don’t you sell it, Ambrose? This building would be worth a fortune these days.”

“What do I need a fortune for? I’ve got all the money I need. I’ve got somewhere to live. Besides, the last thing I want is some stranger taking over the business and making a bags of it, ruining all the hard work we’ve put into it. Evie, you’re the closest thing to a daughter I have. I want to give it to you.”

“But I don’t know the first thing about managing a shop.”

“Of course you do. You’ve been working with me for years. You’re so good with the customers, the window displays, everything. I’m sure you know just as much if not more about food than I do now. And I’ve never forgotten that you put your own life on hold for me four years ago.”

Eva felt the familiar stab of guilt. He still thought that. Because she’d never told him the truth. “Ambrose, stop that, please. You’re making me sound like a martyr. You pay me, this isn’t a charity. And I love working here.”

“Oh, I know you do. But the fact is you went full-time to help me out after Sheila died. And thank God you did. I couldn’t see a day in front of me back then and I don’t think I could have kept the place running if it hadn’t been for you.”

He held up his hand to stop her interrupting. “Please, hear me out. I’ve been selfish, I know. Once things settled down for me again, I should have suggested you go back to your studies, back to your music. I could have advertised for someone else to help me. But I liked having you here. And when you didn’t mention your art or your singing, I didn’t either.

“It would make me very happy if you took over the shop. It would make me proud, too. And this isn’t just a spur-of-the-moment decision. Sheila and I often talked about it. How you were the sort of daughter we would love to have had. How we could both see you running this place, modernizing it, making it your own one day. But it has to be solely your decision this time, nothing to do with me or what I might want. It has to be something that you really want to do, not something you’re doing out of family loyalty.”

Eva felt the panic rise in her. Of course I can’t do it. This is your shop. I’ve only ever been your assistant. I can’t do it on my own. I wouldn’t know where to start. The customers would leave and never come back. I’d ruin everything. “Ambrose, I can’t—”

“Eva, you can. I’m your uncle, yes, but I’m also a businessman. I know you can do it. You just have to realize that too.” He softened. “I’m not expecting an answer from you now. I thought you could use this holiday with Dermot to think it all over. To decide if you want it. What you’d do with the shop if it was yours. How you’d refurbish it, modernize it, whatever you wanted. I don’t want it to stay as some sort of museum piece. I’ve seen what’s happening along Camden Street these days, new places opening, the old places changing. But I’m too old to be a part of it, Evie. I don’t want to be a part of it. But I’d give you all the help you needed, of course, financially and practically. To get you started.”

He was watching her carefully. “Or perhaps you’ll decide you don’t want it at all. That you’d rather go back to art school. Finish your degree. Start singing again. Pick up where you left off four years ago.”

Eva blinked. But that’s worse. I can’t go back to art school either . . .

Ambrose took in her shellshocked expression. “Oh, Evie, I’ve surprised you a bit, haven’t I?”

She managed to laugh. “Well, yes, that’s one word for it.”

He made a sudden decision. “A week’s thinking time isn’t really long enough, is it? Take another week off, Eva, after you get back from New York. You deserve it, you work very hard. I’m sure Meg would be happy with the extra work experience too. Have two weeks off and give it all plenty of thought.”

“Ambrose, are you sure about this? Really? I mean . . .”

“Yes, I’m sure. Completely sure. About all of it. The extra week off. The shop. Everything.” He stood up and rubbed his hands together. “There it is now. All out in the open. Give it lots of thought, Evie, won’t you? And when you get back from your holidays, we can sit down and hear what you’ve decided to do, can’t we?”

She looked out into the shop, his words still sink- ing in. She knew every single inch of it—the long glass counter, filled each day with cheeses, meats, smoked fish, olives, and dips. The shelves crammed with exotic oils, vinegars, chutneys, and sauces. The baskets of fresh crusty bread. The handmade chocolates. The coffee, spices, biscuits, pasta . . .

“Evie? We can hear your decision then, can’t we?”

“Yes,” she said, dazed. Oh God. She certainly hoped so.
Monica McInerney|Author Q&A

About Monica McInerney

Monica McInerney - Upside Down Inside Out

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: What was the writing experience like for Upside Down Inside Out? Have your methods or approaches regarding writing changed over the years?

Monica McInerney: With Upside Down Inside Out, I decided I wanted to follow two main characters, letting the reader in on both of their lives, watching them grow closer and closer, even as their lives and lies got more mixed up. I wrote it as it unfolds for the reader– layer on layer, switching back and forth between Eva and Joseph’s stories, and not sure myself until the end how and when Eva would tell the truth about herself, and also how she would learn the truth about Joseph.

I still like to write that way, learning about the characters and their stories as I go along so no, I don’t think my writing methods have changed all that much from one book to the other. I’m also still just as interested in the layers of secrets and misunderstandings we humans surround ourselves with. I find secrets, lies, mishaps, and misunderstandings make such wonderful material for fiction, especially set against a backdrop of a complicated family or a growing romance.

RHRC: Eva and Lainey, while both delightful, compelling characters, are very different from each other. Do you see yourself in either of them? Or do your characters tend to be pure invention?

MM: My characters’ emotions are definitely autobiographical. I’ve experienced all that Eva and Lainey go through: fear, happiness, jealousy, frustration, anger, love, hurt, misunderstandings, etc., but the actual events they go through in the novel are pure invention.

RHRC: One of this novel’s main themes is seeking happiness–through work, love, travel, friendship–and it’s inspiring how both Eva and Joseph change their lives throughout the course of the narrative. Do you think it’s as possible in real life?

MM: I do. I love the endless possibility of life, how one small step can set many other events in motion, how taking what seems like a big risk can sometimes bring so many wonderful and unexpected returns.

RHRC: You so deftly and accurately portray the tension and jealousy Eva occasionally feels toward Lainey. Why do you think friendships between women are often so complicated?

MM: Women invest a great deal in their friends, I think–particularly as young women, when we are still learning how we feel about so many big issues–career, relationships, families–while at the same time forming our own personalities. We “trial” many of our bigger feelings on our friends, wanting and expecting 100 percent loyalty and support and understanding alongside the fun and the laughter and the big nights out. That can mean wonderful, close relationships, but the stronger the bonds, the higher the expectations–and sometimes the bigger the disappointment if it all goes wrong.

RHRC: You wonderfully evoke Ireland and Australia in the book, and are obviously able to do so because you’ve lived in both places. Is there one country you prefer over the other? What are your favorite haunts in each? Why is travel such an integral part of so many of your books?

MM: I’m very glad, and fortunate, that I can think of both Australia and Ireland as “my” countries, though for the past six years, practically speaking, Ireland has been home. Poor Ireland gets bad press for its weather, but I have to confess it’s one of the things I love most about living here. I am a cold-weather girl, and the longer I’m away from Australia, the harder I find the heat there. I love many things about both places– the space and the light of Australia, the history and quirkiness of Ireland. My favorite places in each constantly change–I love the mood and the liveliness of Melbourne, the ancient and beautiful Flinders Ranges of South Australia, and the big, empty beaches you can find all around Australia. In Ireland, I especially love the wildness of County Donegal and also the unexpected treats of the Phoenix Park, with its open fields, deer, chestnut trees, and squirrels, right in the center of Dublin.
All of my books have a strong focus on travel because I know from firsthand experience how it can change your life. I love the adventure and uncertainty of it, in real life and in fiction–taking a person out of their normal life and dropping them into new surroundings immediately creates all sorts of dramatic possibilities.

RHRC: This novel has a sequel: Spin the Bottle. Did you write Upside Down Inside Out intending to follow some of the same characters in the next book, or was that a decision you made later? Do you ever consider borrowing characters from your previous novels for any of your future books?

MM: About two-thirds of the way through writing Upside Down Inside Out, I decided that my next novel (which would become Spin the Bottle) would be a sequel. I found Lainey so intriguing that I wanted to know more about her. I also wanted to explore the Irish emigrants’ experience, how it feels to return home after years away from Ireland. Lainey and her family were the perfect candidates.

I haven’t used any other recurring characters in my books since then, though wine from the Clare Valley (my hometown) does pop up in most of my books, even in just a passing reference.

RHRC: Do you plan out the entire plots of your novels before you begin writing? Or do they get figured out as you go along? Is this difficult if you have a logistically complex story such as Upside Down?

MM: I have the scaffolding, or the skeleton, in place in my mind when I start writing, but once I start I’m often surprised by the twists and turns that appear and the directions in which the characters go, physically and emotionally. I felt like a puppeteer with Upside Down sometimes, making Eva and Joe do one thing first, and then head in another direction soon after. It’s a very enjoyable feeling.

RHRC: Reading your novels is like an escape: Readers can travel and fall in love vicariously. Is that your intent when you set out to write a novel, or does it vary for each book? What do you most want your readers to come away with after finishing Upside Down Inside Out?

MM: I hope my readers feel like they’re right there with my characters, traveling, having adventures, making mistakes, falling in love, experiencing all the twists and roundabouts of life. It’s how I love to feel when I’m reading a book and it’s something I try hard to make happen with my own stories. I hope readers close the covers on Upside Down and feel like they’ve been on that journey with Eva and Joseph, and know that despite all the misunderstandings and mishaps, the two of them will be okay and that there’s been a rich and satisfying end to their story. And of course, if my readers really want to find out what happens next, they can also read Spin the Bottle!

RHRC: Are you working on a new book?

MM: Yes, I’m in the early “thinking” stage of my next novel. It means I’m doing lots of daydreaming about plots, collecting possible names for characters, deciding on locations, and soon the research and writing will begin too.

Discussion Questions

Discussion Guides

1. Whom do you relate to more–Eva or Lainey? Who do you think you’d be better friends with?

2. Why do you think it was so difficult for Eva and Joseph to reveal their true identities to each other? Have you ever been in a similar situation?

3. In our modern society, people are working increasingly longer hours until they have no semblance of a normal life, like Joseph does. Why do you think this is so? What inspired Joseph to change his life?

4. Why does Eva put up with people she’d rather not be around, like Dermot and Greg? Is she just too nice, or does she sell herself short? Where do you think her self-doubt stems from?

5. “Pretending to be Niamh made [Eva] feel different. It was like slipping on a confidence cloak, an invisible shield between her and the rest of the world” (page 196). Have you ever wanted to assume a new identity? If so, why, and under what circumstances?

6. Is Eva’s jealousy and suspicion of Lainey justified?

7. Travel is a main component of this novel, and acts as an opportunity for second chances. What is it about being in a new place that makes people shed their skins and act differently? What is the most enlightening travel experience you’ve ever had?

8. How do you think Joseph’s estrangement from his father has affected him? Do you blame his parents for not telling him the truth all this time?

9. Eva finally comes clean about her identity to Joseph, and is able to be her true self–but do you think she changed at all over the course of the trip regardless?

10. When Joseph finds out his father is an artist, his own artistic tendencies suddenly make sense. Do you think artistic talent is genetically inherited? What tendencies have been passed down to you from your family?

11. How does this novel compare to other books by Monica McInerney that you’ve read?

12. What did you take away from Upside Down Inside Out? Were you transported? Satisfied? Inspired?


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