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A Novel

Written by Anna QuindlenAuthor Alerts:  Random House will alert you to new works by Anna Quindlen

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List Price: $11.99

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On Sale: October 24, 2006
Pages: | ISBN: 978-1-58836-617-7
Published by : Random House Random House Group
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Synopsis|Excerpt

Synopsis

From Anna Quindlen, acclaimed author of Blessings, Black and Blue, and One True Thing, a superb novel about two sisters, the true meaning of success, and the qualities in life that matter most.

It’s an otherwise ordinary Monday when Meghan Fitzmaurice’s perfect life hits a wall. A household name as the host of Rise and Shine, the country’s highest-rated morning talk show, Meghan cuts to a commercial break–but not before she mutters two forbidden words into her open mike.

In an instant, it’s the end of an era, not only for Meghan, who is unaccustomed to dealing with adversity, but also for her younger sister, Bridget, a social worker in the Bronx who has always lived in Meghan’s long shadow. The effect of Meghan’s on-air truth telling reverberates through both their lives, affecting Meghan’s son, husband, friends, and fans, as well as Bridget’s perception of her sister, their complex childhood, and herself. What follows is a story about how, in very different ways, the Fitzmaurice women adapt, survive, and manage to bring the whole teeming world of New York to heel by dint of their smart mouths, quick wits, and the powerful connection between them that even the worst tragedy cannot shatter.


From the Hardcover edition.

Excerpt

From time to time some stranger will ask me how I can bear to live in New York City. Sometimes it happens when I am on vacation, passing the time in a buffet line filled with the sunburned and the semidrunk. Sometimes it comes up at a professional conference, drinking coffee in the corner of a hotel meeting room with a clutch of social workers, most of them wearing the dirndl skirts and dangling earrings of the socially conscious woman of a certain age. My aunt's friends will ask, although they live only a half hour north, up the Saw Mill Parkway, but in a state of bucolic isolation that might as well be Maine.

Even in New York itself I will sometimes hear the question, from the ld men on the Coney Island boardwalk who knew Irving Lefkowitz when he was a bar mitzvah boy and who, from their benches on the Brooklyn beach, envision the long and slender island of Manhattan as an urban Titanic, sinking beneath the weight of criminals, homosexuals, and atheists, sailing toward certain disaster.

"And you live there why, sweetheart?" one of them once asked me with an openmouthed squint, his neck thrust forward from the V of a ratty cardigan so that he looked like a Galápagos tortoise with a wool-Dacron argyle shell.

Sometimes, if I'm tired, I just shrug and say I like it here. Sometimes, if I'm in a foul mood or have had a bit too much to drink, which often amounts to the same thing, I will say I live in New York because it is the center of the universe.

Most of the time I say my sister lives here and I want to be near her, and her husband, who is like a brother to me, and her son, whom I covertly think of as at least partly my own. The old men like that answer. They make a humming sound of approbation and nod their mottled hairless heads. A good girl. A family person. They peer up at Irving. The next question will be about marriage. We flee to Nathan's for a hot dog.

I do like it here. It is the center of the universe.

And I do want to be near my sister, as I always have been. We have our rituals. Every Saturday morning, unless she is covering the Olympics, the Oscars, a disaster, or an inauguration, my sister and I go running together in the park and have breakfast either at her apartment or at the Greek diner down the street from mine. She will tell you she is forced to set a slower pace because I don't exercise enough. She sees this as evidence of my essential sloth. I see it as emblematic of our relationship. Our aunt Maureen says that I was a baby so plump and phlegmatic that the only reason I learned to walk was so I could follow my older sister. Some of my earliest memories are of wandering down a street of old Dutch Colonials and long-leafed pines, the backs of a covey of eight-year-old girls half a block in front of me, the demand from the one at their center carrying on the breeze: "Bridget! Go home! Go home now! You can't come!"

I'm always a little breathless when I run with Meghan on Saturday mornings. But I'm accustomed to it now. "Listen and learn," she has said to me since we were in high school, and I always have.

"How weird is it that we were at the same dinner party last night?" she said one overcast March morning as we began to trot down the park drive in tandem, and I tried not to hear that long-ago plaint in her comment: Go home, Bridget! You can't come. It had indeed been strange to enter a vast living room, beige velvet and Impressionist paintings, and see her at one end nursing a glass of sparkling water. Our hostess had attempted to introduce us, since no one ever suspected Meghan and I were related. Then she had disappeared to hand off the bunch of anemones bound with ribbons I had given her at the door.

"God, flowers, Bridge?" my sister said, running around a stroller-size class of new mothers trying to trim their baby bodies. "I couldn't believe you brought flowers to a dinner party. That's the worst. With everything else you have to do when people are showing up, you have to stop to find a vase and fill a vase and cut the stems and then find a place for them and if they're blue, Jesus, I never know where to put them in our apartment, and then-"

"How is it possible that you can make bringing someone flowers sound like the Stations of the Cross?"

"Sometimes I just leave them on the kitchen counter and toss them with the leftovers." I knew this was not exactly true; Meghan had long had staff to toss the leftovers, and the people from Feeding Our People, the big society starvation charity, sent over a van to pick up the excess food from her larger dinner parties. "Just bring wine. Even if they don't want to use it they can put it away for cocktail parties. Or wait and send an orchid plant the next day. I don't know why, but every damn living room on the East Side has to have an orchid plant. I think they're creepy, like big white bugs. They don't look like flowers at all."

"I thought you loved them. You always have one on that chest under the windows."

"What can I tell you? I'm a slave to fashion."

We always see the same people when we run: the soap opera actor with the carefully tinted hair and heavily muscled legs, the small woman with the spiky gray hair who had the ropy muscles and sharp bones of a marathoner, the Chinese couple who wore identical fashionable warm-up suits and ran with a pair of borzois. One of our regular anorexics streaked past us, collarbone draped in the shroud of an extra-large Harvard sweatshirt. "You know that woman who does the financial news? Grace Shelton?" Meghan said.

"The one with that great haircut?"

"I don't understand why everyone says that. That haircut is not that great."

"Okay, fine. What's the point?"

"Someone told me that she doesn't eat anything except apples and Triscuits."

"That can't be true."

"Probably not, but you never know."

A runner in front of us turned and began to run backward. Meghan dipped her head so that the bill of her cap covered her face.

"I want to go back to the dinner gift issue," I said. "How much does an orchid plant cost?"

"A hundred and fifty dollars. You have to send the ones with two stems."

"Jesus Christ. That's a lot of money for a stranger who invites you to dinner."

"Accepted and acknowledged," Meghan said. Like the aunt who raised us, Meghan has a variety of expressions that she uses constantly and whose meaning is somewhat obscure on their face. This one has endured for decades. I think it was even beneath her yearbook picture. Once she told me it meant "I know but I don't care."

On the sidewalk, glittery with mica in the late winter sunlight, a solitary glove lay, palm up, as though pleading for spare change. Meghan barely broke stride as she lifted it and blew through the doors of her building. "Good morning, Ms. Fitzmaurice," the doorman said. The modern honorific was articulated plainly, a sound like a buzzing bee. The building staff know our Meghan.

"Can you see if someone dropped this?" she said, handing over the glove. "It's a shame this late in the season for somebody to find out they're one short."

"Of course," he replied.

"I'm such a good citizen," she muttered as we got into the elevator and Meghan took off the baseball cap that shaded her face so conveniently.

"Oh, get over yourself," I said.

"I am so over myself."

"As if."

We are creatures of habit, Meghan and I. At the diner we have western omelets and rye toast; at her house we have oatmeal and orange juice. This works fine because we live in the city of habit. New York is so often publicly associated with creativity and innovation that outsiders actually come to believe it. The truth is that behavior here is as codified as the Latin Mass. The dinner party the night before had been no exception. The dining room walls glazed red, the tone-on-tone tablecloths, the low centerpiece of roses and some strange carnivorous-looking tulips. The single man on one side of me. "I hear you're a social worker," he said as we both lifted our napkins and placed them on our laps, as so many had said before him.

That was best case, of course. At the home of one donor to the women's shelter where I work, two men who were equity traders spent an entire dinner talking to each other about the market within spitting distance-literally-of my face, bent so close above my dinner that I couldn't reach my bread plate. At the duplex apartment of a woman who worked with my brother-in-law at Sensenbrenner Lamott, I'd turned to the man on my left and asked, "How do you know Amelia?" and watched his face crumble and tears run into his beard. Everyone at the table ignored the display as he talked of his wife, who had been our hostess's college roommate and who had left him for a well-connected lesbian who lived in London. With very little help from me he worked his way through their college years, marriage, apartment renovation, career changes, and the dinner party (of course) where he himself had been the lesbian's dinner partner, the hostess having mistaken her for a more conventional single woman. He had invited the woman to their home for brunch because the two shared an interest in Fiesta ware, an interest his wife had never, in his words, "given a tinker's damn about." ("Oh, God, he's gay himself," Meghan had said at our next breakfast. "What kind of straight man even knows what Fiesta ware is?") In the face of his grief and rage, the table had fallen silent except for the torrent of words from one stay-at-home mother, who was doing a monologue about her child's learning disabilities.

It wasn't always that bad, of course. I once dated a professor at NYU for almost a year after I met him at a dinner party given by a woman who'd graduated from Smith and whom I met at an alumnae phonathon. I developed a firm friendship with a lighting tech who works on Broadway shows, an Irish expat named Jack who was seated next to me at a neighbor's annual Fourth of July potluck.

That was a good dinner, excellent company, excellent food. There were figs with goat cheese stuffed inside, and pumpkin bisque, and rack of lamb with broccoli rabe. The men all run together in my head, all the lawyers/filmmakers/academics/brokers/editors with whom I've been paired. But I almost always remember the food, even the bad food. There was a lot of that in the early days, before all around me grew rich while I moved from a studio to a bigger studio to a small one-bedroom to a one-bedroom with a window in the kitchen, that window that will be presented by brokers to apartment supplicants as though it were a fresco by Michelangelo. As, by Manhattan standards, it is.

For some of us the kitchen with the window means we have finally arrived at some precarious level of prosperity. For others it was a momentary triumph, a way station between the first book proposal and the third bestseller, the summer associate's job and the partnership, the husband who teaches comparative lit at Columbia and the one who runs the big brokerage house. One moment a kitchen with a blessed window, the next a kitchen with two imported dishwashers, two glass-fronted fridges, terra-cotta floors, stainless countertops, an extra-deep sink, a tap over the restaurant range for the pasta pots, designed in consultation with the caterers because they use it more than the homeowners. The kitchen is always hidden in the back of the apartment, away from the pricey views of Central Park and the master bedroom with the cherry chest at the foot of the bed that holds the television, which rises up out of the chest at the touch of a bedside button. It's funny how everyone feels they need to hide the TVs and the food, since both are the things they talk about most often. Meghan's kitchen has a flat-screen television, although Meghan hates to watch TV when she is not working.

"Where's Evan?" I mumbled with my mouth full.

"Evan? Evan who? Oh, you mean my husband? That is his name, isn't it? Evan."

"I'm sorry I asked," I said.

"Evan is at the office. The office here, not the office in London or the one in Tokyo, although God knows he's spent enough time in both in the last six months. When he's in New York, he usually comes home when I'm already asleep. I turn over and look and say to myself, Yep, that's him. Every dinner party now, he says, I'm exhausted, can you go without me? And people accuse me of being a workaholic. Which reminds me: Where the hell do the guys keep the Tupperware?"

Only the team of Robert and John, who made the meals, served the meals, and cleaned up after the meals, had a clue where anything was stored in Meghan and Evan's kitchen. Except for Leo, my nephew, he of the take-out Chinese and late-night ramen noodles, of the endless bowls of Count Chocula and the ice cream eaten straight from the container. He'd shown me where the Tupperware was one night when we'd eaten enough rice pudding to kill us both.

"In the square cabinet over the wine fridge," I said.

Another reason not to bring flowers: the lady of the house doesn't know where the vases are kept. If she had to find the vacuum cleaner or the Windex, the world would stop on its axis.

"Why do you need Tupperware?" I asked.

"We're doing a Tupperware party on the air on Monday morning, and apparently I'm going to have to do something called burping the Tupperware. We talked ad nauseam about whether it would be better if it was clear that I didn't know what the hell burping the Tupperware meant or if I burped it convincingly. With authority, I think they said. I opted for authority."

"Of course you did. On the other hand, it's hard to figure how anyone can look authoritative with Tupperware. I mean-Tupperware. Who cares?"

My sister gave me a long level look, her lip slightly raised on one side. "Maybe you're preaching to the converted here?"

"Hey, who am I to talk? I spent yesterday trying to break up a bootleg sneaker ring that apparently is being fronted by two of the women living in our shelter. The precinct was nice about it, but they said either we could shut down the Nike Air operation or they could shut us down."


From the Hardcover edition.
Anna Quindlen|Author Q&A

About Anna Quindlen

Anna Quindlen - Rise and Shine
Anna Quindlen is a novelist and journalist whose work has appeared on fiction, nonfiction, and self-help bestseller lists. She is the author of seven novels: Object Lessons, One True Thing, Black and Blue, Blessings, Rise and Shine, Every Last One, and Still Life with Bread Crumbs. Her memoir Lots of Candles, Plenty of Cake, published in 2012, was a number one New York Times bestseller. Her book A Short Guide to a Happy Life has sold more than a million copies. While a columnist at The New York Times she won the Pulitzer Prize and published two collections, Living Out Loud and Thinking Out Loud. Her Newsweek columns were collected in Loud and Clear.

Author Q&A

A Conversation with Anna Quindlen


Readers Circle: We love the premise of Rise and Shine — two sisters, New York City, and two very different career trajectories. In dreaming up this novel, what came to you first: the sisters, the setting, or Megan's on-air slip? And how did your storyline evolve from there?

Anna Quindlen: I always begin a novel with a theme.  Black and Blue, for instance, began with the theme of identity, Blessings with the theme of redemption.  Rise and Shine grew out of constant thoughts about the disconnect in modern American life between appearance and reality.  The more I thought about that disconnect, about how we've all come to believe that what looks good is good, the more I thought I should write about someone famous.  That's where the dissonance is greatest, it seems to me, and the public interest weirdest.  And then I thought that the story would be best told by someone on the outside looking in.  (Yes, I have read "Gatsby."  Many many times.)   That's where the idea of the sisters eventually came into play: one the doer, the other the watcher.  And over time I realized that in doing that I had given the story, which is essentially a comedy of manners, greater resonance than it might have had otherwise.  I find that I almost always make the right decisions for purely accidental reasons.

RC: Bridget and Meghan's relationship seems to strike a realistic chord with readers — they are each other's number one fan and critic. Do you have a sister of your own, or any siblings? Did your experiences with them help shape Bridget and Meghan’s relationship? How?

AQ: I have a sister and three brothers, who fall between us on the birth order ladder.  My sister and I agree that our relationship bears little resemblance to that of Bridget and Meghan.  I am not that controlling, and she is not that compliant.  Perhaps the one aspect of their relationship that is taken from our lives has to do with our jobs.  My sister is a public school teacher.  She makes far far less money than I do, and gets almost no public attention for her work.  Yet I believe what she does is infinitely more important and more difficult than what I do.  And certainly that mirrors Meghan's feelings about Bridget's job as a social worker. 

RC: Do you believe in the birth-order convention, that the eldest child is a natural leader, who strives to please others and can be controlling, while the younger child is charming, but irresponsible, and looks to others for guidance and discipline? Did the study of birth order influence you in writing about the Fitzmaurice sisters? Does birth-order ring true in your own experience, or, do you think it's a bogus label?

AQ: Well, I recently got an email from a very irate reader complaining that I was perpetuating birth order stereotypes in a way I would never dare do about gender, sexual orientation, and the like.  So I'm more equivocal about answering these questions now!  But my experience, as both the eldest in a large family and the mother of three, is that certain birth order conventions frequently apply.  But maybe it's more useful, and illuminating, to put it the way Aunt Maureen puts it in the novel: that successive children fill the spaces not already occupied.  So if extrovert, or leader, or wild child, or whatever is already taken by one of your siblings, you may feel compelled--or free--to shape your identity otherwise.  That's certainly what happened with the Fitzmaurice sisters.  

RC: Do you share any qualities and/or characteristics with Meghan? Bridget?

AQ: I am like both Meghan and Bridget.  For years I had the sort of laser focus that Meghan had, and I have some of her rather cynical attitudes about the affluent around her.  But, like Bridget, I have always been interested in trying to do something about the situation of the poor and disenfranchised in New York and the rest of America, in my case through the columns I've written. 

RC: There are several interesting male characters in the book: Irving, the gritty cop, Edward, the smooth operator, Evan, the seemingly reliable yet duplicitous husband, and Leo, the upbeat, loveable young man. Who is your favorite among them, if you can pick one? And what qualities do you find most (or least) attractive in men in general?

AQ: Most female readers of a certain age seem to fall hard for Irving Lefkowitz. I can totally understand that; we've had it up to here with the sensitive man, and Irving is pure retro.  He also really really likes women, and he really likes Bridget.  I assume the reader shares that sentiment; I certainly do.  But if I had to pick just one male character in the book as my personal favorite, it would be Leo.  Some critics have suggested that he's too good to be true, but I've met a fair number of teenage boys like him: smart, self-deprecating, truly inclined to do the right thing.  Obviously one of the reasons I love him so is that he's based, in part, on both my sons. 

RC: Your portrait of New York is loving, yet you see the city–and its residents–for what they are. What do you love about the city? What do you hate? Can you ever imagine leaving New York, or is it home to you?

AQ: I made New York City a major character in this book because I thought it would make my task as a novelist easier.  I've covered New York for more than 35 years as a reporter and columnist, and I know from long experience that it's a story teller's dream.  It's so polyglot, so vivid, so sharply drawn, that writing about it is as easy as finding a cab outside the Carlyle (or finding crack on certain corners in certain parts of the Bronx).  But like any great character, part of its greatness, part of its power, is in its manifest flaws.  New York is a city where it's particularly hard to be poor, not only because everything costs twice as much as it does elsewhere but because over-the-top affluence is part of its identity.  Yet it's a city, as the novel makes clear, where affluence and want exist almost side by side.   I hate the ways in which the rich are too often blind to their own conspicuous consumption.  With what some East Side women spend on Botox and fillers a year, they could put a kid through parochial school, which could change a life completely.   What I love is the flip side of that: that there is such enormous generosity.  And I love other things, too, of course.  I love that you can always get a decent Ethiopian meal.  I like the places in Central Park in which you can feel as if you're on top of a mountain, not in the middle of town.  I like the way the subway can take you to the beach in a half hour, then back to the roar and glare of Times Square.  New York is just more alive than any place else I've ever been.  People never really leave.  I can't tell you how often in promoting this book, in Atlanta or Orlando or Minneapolis, someone has said to me, "I'm a New Yorker."  They may have lived elsewhere for most of their life.  But they're still New Yorkers. 

RC: Meghan goes off the radar in Jamaica. What do you do to “go dark” and have time for yourself to get away and regroup?

AQ: We have a house that's in the middle of nowhere in Pennsylvania.  I spend the entire summer there.  It's a good place to write because there's really nothing else to do.  After the third time rowing across the pond in the canoe, I think, well, hell, and I go inside and work.  Occasionally there will be a bear or eagle sighting to break up my day.  But it's pretty easy for me to be off the grid in Manhattan, too.  I'm not visually identifiable as Meghan is, so I don't get much attention in the city.  New Yorkers are so accustomed to the truly famous that they are very cool about it.  Usually they just smile.  It's interesting for me to go to cities that have a small clutch of well-known writers.  In those places they are a BIG DEAL.  Here no one cares. 

RC: Have you ever had a career-defining moment, either positive (like Meghan's first big scoop), or negative, like Meghan’s on-air gaff? How did you grow from it?

AQ: I had one fairly substantial setback as a reporter when I was much younger.  There was the perception that I had blown a major major story, although the truth was much more complicated than that.  But, like Meghan, I came to understand rather quickly that the truth was less important than the spin. The perception was that I had certain glaring deficits as a reporter, chief being that I could write a pretty feature but was a washout with hard news.  Over the space of several days I tried to scope out assignments that could exorcise that perception if I filled them in a satisfactory fashion.  In this way I became a member of the New York Times City Hall bureau for two years.  It wasn't my dream job, but after two years of Council hearings, budget reports, and the like, many of which ended up on page one, there was no longer the sense that I couldn't do hard news. 

RC: CNN anchor Kyra Phillips’ left her microphone on as she chatted in the ladies room. What did you think of this story, which broke the same week Rise and Shine went on sale? Did you imagine such a thing could happen as you wrote the book?

AQ: I always say that if you can imagine it, it can happen.  While several interviewers were skeptical about Meghan blurting out an obscenity into a "hot mike," I was certain such a thing was possible.  Of course, after the CNN blooper, interviewers kept asking me whether I'd had it in mind when I wrote the book.  Illustrating the simple fact that even well-connected reporters don't understand the nine-month lag time between finishing a novel, and publishing one. 

Discussion Questions

Discussion Guides

1. Rise and Shine centers on the unique bond of sisterhood—potentially one of the most supportive, competitive, and difficult relationships in life. Describe Bridget and Meghan’s relationship and how each woman views her sister, and herself. What roles do they each play? Does this portrait of sisterhood reflect your own relationship with a sibling, or perhaps with a close friend? Do you identify with one of the Fitzmaurice sisters more than the other?

2. Meghan’s audacious on-air slip, and its repercussions, incites the novel’s forward action. How would you judge the seasoned anchorwoman’s mistake? Was she wrong to let her personal opinion and emotions show? Do you believe that the network’s reaction was justified? Finally, what do you think of the public’s response to Meghan’s fall from grace?

3. Describe Anna Quindlen’s portrait of New York City. Is the Big Apple “unequivocally the center of the universe,” as some New Yorkers believe? Compare Bridget and Tequila’s experiences at the shelter with Meghan’s worldview from the Upper East Side. How does Quindlen attempt to capture all sides of the city?

4. Describe Meghan and Bridget’s conflicting perceptions and memories of their mother. How does the loss of their mother shape the Fitzgerald sisters’ lives and ways of relating to each other? What role does Aunt Maureen play?

5. Is Evan justified in leaving Meghan, or do you agree with Bridget, that there must have been another woman in the picture right from the start? What factors led to the failure of their relationship? How does Bridget deal with the breakup? Meghan?

6. Meghan retreats to Jamaica to escape the turmoil in her life and, in doing so, detaches from her old persona and responsibilities. What did you think of this episode? Was Meghan being selfish by isolating herself? How did it affect Leo? Bridget? Or was this period in Meghan’s life necessary and inevitable? Finally, discuss the outcome of the trip. Does Meghan sustain this growth of character when she reenters the real world? How about Bridget?

7. What attracts Bridget to Irving Lefkowitz? Describe Irving’s attitude toward children and his reaction to Bridget’s unexpected news. Will this relationship work for Bridget? Why or why not?

8. Bridget’s daily experience in New York City is marked by relationships with “familiar strangers.” What does she mean by this? Are there “familiar strangers” in your own life?

9. Discuss Meghan’s role in apprehending the shooter in the Tubman projects; was her involvement self-serving, or was she defending her son and the safety of others? What were her true motivations, and how were her actions perceived? Do you agree with Meghan’s decision to take matters into her own hands?

10. Quindlen writes in the first person, from Bridget’s perspective. What effect does this narrative viewpoint have on the story? How would the book be different if it were told from Meghan’s point of view?

11. In the last few pages of the novel, Quindlen writes, “Does someone have to break so someone else can be whole?” (p. 268). Who in Rise and Shine breaks, and who has been made whole? Is there more than one way to think about this question?

12. The dust jacket for Rise and Shine shows a beautiful butterfly, a symbol of metamorphosis. How does the concept of change apply to the characters in the novel? Consider, especially, Meghan and Bridget, Evan, Leo, Irving, Tequila, and Princess Margaret. Have you undergone similar changes in your own life? Finally, how did your opinion of the Fitzmaurice sisters, and your assessment of their relative strengths and weaknesses, evolve over the course of the novel?

13. What do you think defines a “successful” life? According to your definition, who is the most successful character in Rise and Shine? Does success equal happiness? How does that concept play out in the novel, and what do Bridget and Meghan come to understand by the end?

14. Does Rise and Shine have a happy ending? What new directions and challenges face the Fitzmaurice sisters, Leo, Irving, and the others?

Anna Quindlen

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Anna Quindlen - Rise and Shine
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  • Rise and Shine by Anna Quindlen
  • April 24, 2007
  • Fiction - Literary
  • Random House Trade Paperbacks
  • $14.95
  • 9780812977813

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