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  • Marshmallows for Breakfast
  • Written by Dorothy Koomson
  • Format: Trade Paperback | ISBN: 9780385341332
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  • Marshmallows for Breakfast
  • Written by Dorothy Koomson
  • Format: eBook | ISBN: 9780440338338
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Marshmallows for Breakfast

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Written by Dorothy KoomsonAuthor Alerts:  Random House will alert you to new works by Dorothy Koomson

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List Price: $9.99

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On Sale: January 27, 2009
Pages: 400 | ISBN: 978-0-440-33833-8
Published by : Delta Bantam Dell
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ABOUT THE BOOK ABOUT THE BOOK
ABOUT THE AUTHOR ABOUT THE AUTHOR
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READER'S GUIDE READER'S GUIDE
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fiction (12) alcoholism (5) rape (5) chick lit (5)
fiction (12) alcoholism (5) rape (5) chick lit (5)
Synopsis|Excerpt

Synopsis

Dorothy Koomson captivated readers with her international bestseller My Best Friend’s Girl. Now she dazzles us once again with a tale of love, friendship, and families—the choices that shatter them, the hope that saves them, and the little moments that happen in between.

Kendra Tamale is looking for a fresh start and a simple life when she rents a room from Kyle Gadsborough. But against her better judgment Kendra soon finds herself drawn into her new landlord’s household: a young father in way over his head, a beautiful mother out the door, and six-year-old twins, Summer and Jaxon, with hearts full of hurt. Kendra has plenty of issues of her own, but this family seems to need her so desperately that she’s soon falling in love—with Summer’s constant chatter, Jaxon’s soulful eyes, and the sugar-laden Saturday breakfasts she invents. But when a secret from Kendra’s past resurfaces and the children are taken away by their mother, the only way to fix things is to confess to the terrible mistake she made many years ago—and the choice she makes now could break more than one person’s heart.


From the Trade Paperback edition.

Excerpt

Chaper One


 You're black."

Surprisingly, I didn't scream, yelp or collapse into a quivering heap when I was confronted by an intruder in my home. I reeled back as my heart lurched to a stop; I stared at her with wide, shocked eyes, but I didn't scream.

It was early on a Saturday morning. I'd just stepped out of the shower and had been about to dash across my flat to the bedroom to get dressed when I'd found the intruder—intruders, actually—standing in the area outside the bathroom, staring at me. The intruder who spoke to me was about three feet tall, six years old with green eyes that were as dark and glossy as eucalyptus leaves, and shoulder-length black hair—one side bunched with a red elastic band, the other falling in waves to her shoulder. Beside her stood her male mirror image—he had shorter dark hair but was the same height, the same age and had the same green eyes.

The pair of them weren't dressed so much as "ensembled." Her pink skirt with ruffles at the bottom she wore over striped blue and white tights, and with a white, long-sleeved T-shirt under a faded orange vest. She had yellow socks bunched like legwarmers around her ankles, while red shoes with big yellow flowers on the front adorned her feet. He wore long blue trousers, one leg of which was tucked into one of his green socks. His white T-shirt was decorated with avant-garde artwork of felt-tip pen marks and grubby fingerprint streaks; one collar of his blue fleece zip-up jacket was folded inwards, hugging his shoulder.

Both of them wore clothes that were crumpled and creased, as though they'd slept in them.

As well as the dishevelled clothes, the twins also shared grey-white complexions with dark, blue-purple circles smoothed like smudges of dirt under their eyes. They looked like a pair of street urchins, battered and worn by the February cold, who'd wandered into the warmth of my flat. But they weren't street kids, I was pretty certain of that. They were my landlord's children. I'd only just moved into this flat and had yet to meet my landlord and his family because they'd been away overseas when I'd arrived from Australia. Obviously they were back.

The children openly explored me with their eyes, took in the clear plastic shower cap that covered my black hair, my cleansed and moisturized face, my damp neck and shoulders, the towel I'd wrapped around my torso and was currently clutching closed in a death grip, my knees peeking out from beneath my towel, and my water-spotted calves. Their gazes lingered on my feet, probably fascinated by my fluffy white slippers.

"You're black," the girl stated again, her voice clear and firm; she spoke with the honesty of a child and the confidence of an adult. She knew how to address people no matter how old they were. In her arms she carried a blue, floppy toy rabbit.

"So I'm told," I replied.

"I'm Summer," she said, confirming she was my landlord's daughter. She jerked a thumb at the boy. "He's Jaxon. We're twins." She looked me over again—from my shower cap to my feet—then whipped her eyes up to mine. Our gazes locked. She had me hypnotized, had my undivided attention for as long as she wanted. Her face, framed in that unusual way by her hair, was innocent and open, yet wise and private. A million insignificant and profound thoughts went on behind that face.

Summer shrugged her small, bony shoulders, breaking eye contact as she gave a slight nod of her head. "You're quite pretty," she said.

"Erm . . . Thank you, I think," I said.

Jaxon leaned across to Summer, cupped his hand around his mouth and began whispering in her ear. He talked for a few seconds and when he stopped, she nodded. Jaxon straightened up. "You're not as pretty as my mumma," Summer informed me.

Guessing this was his contribution, I glanced at Jaxon. He stared defiantly back at me, daring me to argue. He obviously wasn't much of a talker, but he knew how to get his point across. "Oh, OK," I said.

"Summer! Jaxon!" a male adult voice shouted from the bottom of the stairs, near the front door of my flat, causing my heart to lurch again.

"What are you doing up there?" the voice continued as footsteps began up the stairs. This was probably my landlord, Kyle Gadsborough, running up to join his children as they watched me with no clothes on. Before I could plan an escape, could work out if I'd be able to fling myself back into the bathroom, Mr. Gadsborough appeared.

He took up the area at the top of the stairs because he was a tall man, over six foot at a guess. He was slightly older than me, thirty-six, maybe thirty-seven, with a solid but trim body. He was dressed in loose, navy-blue jeans and a creased white T-shirt under a gun-metal-grey jacket. His black hair was cropped close to his head; his eyes were as large as his children's but brown. He had a shadow of stubble on his face and, like his children, he was the kind of pale that looked like he was fighting off sleep.

My landlord came to a halt at the top of the stairs, heaved a sigh and rolled his eyes at his children. "I told you," he said, "she's not here—probably out shopping or something." When they didn't respond to him and instead continued to stare at me, he obviously wondered what they were looking at and glanced in the direction they were focused on. He gave me a brief "hello" nod before turning back to the kids. He stopped. I saw the moment his brain registered that he'd seen a person in that quick glance to his right. He turned back towards me, surprise and confusion on his face. "Oh, you are here," he said. "Sorry, we—" His voice halted as he realized he was in the presence of a virtually naked woman. One who wasn't his wife. His grey-white, sleep-deprived face exploded with color and two bright stripes of red burned a scarlet trail across his face.

"Oh-h-h," he stammered. "Oh, um, I, um . . ." He started to back away, forgot he was standing at the top of the stairs, missed the top step, and slip-tripped backwards. For a moment, a fraction of a second, Mr. Gadsborough seemed to hover midair, then his body began its fall down the wooden staircase. My already racing heart went to my throat as I watched him, waited for him to tumble out of sight, but at the last moment his hand snapped out and caught hold of the white banister railing and managed to keep himself upright. Once steady on his feet, he ran down a few more steps until all we could see from where we stood were the soft bristles that sat in uneven swirls on the top of his head. He faced the wall so he wasn't even vaguely looking in my direction.

"Come on, kids, we've got to go," he said to the wall. "Now. NOW!" And his footsteps pelted down the rest of the stairs and out the door as though the devil was on his heels.

Summer, who, like Jaxon and I, had been watching Mr. Gadsborough, turned back to me. "We've got to go," she said seriously, her tone adding, But we'll be back.

"OK," I replied to both the spoken and the unspoken statements.

Summer started down the stairs first; through the gaps in the banisters I saw her move carefully down each step until she disappeared from view. Jaxon started down after her, but before putting his foot onto the second step, he stopped, turned and threw a look at me. You don't fool me, that look said. I can see right through you.

I drew back a little at its intensity.

Only one other person had looked at me like that in all my life. And that was an age ago. The look had unsettled me then, but now it almost knocked me over. How could a six-year-old boy look at me as if I were an open book?

I blinked at him, wondering if he was going to say something. But no. His work done, his look thrown, Jaxon turned and trooped down the stairs after his sister and father.

OK, I thought, as the door clicked shut behind Jaxon, I have to get out of here. Right now.

Chapter Two


Before I did anything else, I propped a dining chair under the handle of the bedroom door.

I was taking no risks with this: if I was going to take my towel off to get dressed, then I wanted a several-minute warning in the event of anyone from the Gadsborough family showing up again.

Double-checking that the chair was secure before I dropped the towel, I picked up the bottle of body lotion sitting on the bedside table and squeezed a large creamy-white dollop into the palm of my hand. I moisturized my body in record time—thirty seconds, tops—then grabbed my black bra from the bed and fastened it on. I shoved my legs into my knickers and pulled them on, then I tugged on my white, long-sleeved T-shirt and buttoned on my jeans. It took me less than two minutes to get dressed, and as I did so, I kept my eyes fixed on the doorway, just in case.


Seven days ago I was in Australia.

That still spun me out a little, made me look around checking my surroundings like a mole seeing the light aboveground for the first time. I'd be constantly reminding myself that the bare trees, the cool temperature, the fresh bracing air meant I was in Britain. I was back in the land of my birth. Back home. Seven days ago I was living a very different life in Sydney. I had an apartment near the city center, and I was communications officer for a large media company.

Five days ago, cramped, exhausted and buzzing slightly from the sugar high, a _twenty-four-hour sweets binge, I'd wandered out of immigration and customs at Heathrow airport and into the arrivals area. Ignoring the people who ran into each other's arms, reunited and happy, returned and being collected, I'd made my way out to the taxi queue. No one was meeting me because few people knew I was back. My parents lived in Ghana, my sister lived in Italy and my two brothers lived in Spain and Canada. My family was scattered across the world and I couldn't impose on any friends to come pick me up.

I had all my carryable worldly goods in a backpack and two suitcases. My papers I'd posted to myself the day before I left so they'd arrive at some point. I'd queued up for a taxi at the airport and asked for an address in Brockingham on the Kent-_London borders.

As the taxi cruised along the motorway, heading for the knot of traffic that was London, I knew the Gadsboroughs, my new landlords, wouldn't be there. Kyle Gadsborough had told me that his family needed to go to New York, and while it wasn't ideal that they wouldn't be there to greet me, there was nothing either of us could do—they needed to be in America, I needed to be in England.

To pick up the keys I had to go to the next-door neighbor's house. She'd opened the door to me and I'd drawn back a little. She had hair that sat like a brown meringue on her head, violently plucked eyebrows and a mouth so wrinkled with fault lines it looked as though it was on the verge of caving in on itself.

She hadn't wanted to hand over the keys. She'd asked to see my passport and a copy of the rental agreement. Once I'd complied she'd asked to see another form of ID. I'd shown her my British credit card. Knowing she couldn't delay any longer, she'd said she'd put her shoes on and come over with me. That'd been it for me. After twenty-four hours on a flight and spending £150 on a taxi, my patience, which had already been stretched, was now paper thin. I'd held out my hand for the keys. Reluctantly she'd dropped them into my palm.

The entrance to my flat, Mr. Gadsborough had told me, was on the right of the house behind high, ornate iron gates. After unlocking the gate, I'd wheeled my luggage along the stone path and the side of the white house. The back opened up to a large, grass courtyard surrounded by large, slate-grey flagstones. Opposite the main house stood my flat.

Mr. Gadsborough was an architect and had designed and rebuilt the flat that sat above a former garage as a self-contained studio for his wife. It was white on the outside, with a row of six large picture windows that looked over the courtyard and three skylights embedded in the slanted roof. At the center of the building, where the entrance to the garage had been, was the blue front door.

As I'd approached it, it had felt like my flat, even though I'd only seen the pictures that Mr. Gadsborough had e-mailed me. It felt like the place where I could start again. Leaving Sydney had been a decision made in haste. I had no idea where I was going to live, no family in England I could impose upon, so I'd spent hours trawling the Net until I'd seen the ad for this place. After a few conversations with the owner, when we'd gone through the process of couriering contracts back and forth, and transferring money, it was mine. All mine. I'd felt a calmness flow through me when Mr. Gadsborough told me I could rent the flat. I had somewhere to live, somewhere to hide.

I'd wheeled my _metal-grey suitcases around the grey flag-stone path to my flat. The navy-blue front door had a brass knocker. Behind the door would be stairs that led up to what would become my space.

The chill of the place had come rushing down the stairs to greet me as I'd swung open the door. It was cool outside, but colder inside—the absence of someone in the house had left its mark.

I'd stared up at the wooden stairs with a gentle turn at the top—there was no way I'd make it up in one go. Leaving my suitcases on the doorstep, I'd climbed the stairs.

I'd shed my rucksack and bag, then pelted back down and bumped one of my suitcases up the stairs, pelted back and bumped up the other one. After shutting the door behind me I'd stopped. It seemed to be the first time in weeks I'd done that, stopped. I'd stopped and allowed the stillness that came from a place that hadn't been inhabited for a while to descend upon me. I'd closed my eyes, inhaled the sensation of motionlessness deep into my lungs, then exhaled it. Pushed it out to join the quiet around me. This was what tranquillity felt like. This was what I wanted when I'd boarded the plane for home.

I'd opened my eyes and for the first time properly took in the room. The entire flat was about forty feet long, most of it open plan. To my right was the living area with a sofa, the television and a coffee table. Beside the sofa was the doorway that led to the bedroom. To my left was the small and round dining table with three chairs. Beyond that, at the far end was the kitchen with a whole wall of glass that let light flood in. Beside it, the door that led to the bathroom. The entire flat, apart from the bathroom, had stripped wood floorboards, topped with brightly colored rugs that sat like islands at equally spaced points along the floor.

On the dining table stood a box of chocolates tied up in a pink bow, a piece of white card propped up against it. I'd picked up the note.

Welcome to your new home, Kendra.

From the Gadsborough family.

A sweet and unexpected gesture that told me they were good people. Normal, kind. I'd felt that every time I'd spoken to Mr. Gadsborough. They were decent and friendly.

Friendly. That had caused a trickle of anxiety to run through me. Their potential friendliness could be a problem, I'd thought, as I'd put down the note and stared at the chocolates. I needed to be left alone for a while. I felt like a fugitive, running away from Australia, and I needed solitude now that I was home. A place where I could spend time on my own, licking the wounds that had made me leave Sydney; get myself together. Get stronger as I eased myself back into being around people again.

My biggest fear as I'd fingered the cellophane covering of the chocolates was that they wouldn't leave me alone long enough for me to start rebuilding my life. That they wouldn't leave me alone, full stop.
Dorothy Koomson

About Dorothy Koomson

Dorothy Koomson - Marshmallows for Breakfast

Photo © Niall McDiarmid

Dorothy Koomson is a journalist as well as a novelist, and she currently lives in England, where she is at work on her next novel.

Praise

Praise

“A riveting read from start to finish…Incredibly moving and intelligently written.” —Woman, UK, “Book of the Week”

“A touching and engaging story of what happens when love demands that you open the Pandora’s box of the past.” —Good Housekeeping, UK

“Koomson keeps readers captivated with measured disclosures and the promise of renewal.”—Publishers Weekly
Reader's Guide|Discussion Questions

About the Book

When Kendra Tamale returns to her native England after a long absence, she is looking for a fresh start and a simple life. She arrives at her new home–a room she has rented online from a kind man named Kyle Gadsborough–with few expectations. But things soon turn out to be much more complicated than she ever imagined. Against her better judgment, Kendra finds herself drawn into her new landlord’s household: a young and somewhat hapless father in way over his head, a mysterious and absent mother, and six-year-old twins, Summer and Jaxon, with small hearts full of hurt. Soon it becomes clear that Summer and Jaxon have connected to her in a way they don’t with anyone else. But when a terrible secret from Kendra’s past resurfaces, and the children are taken away by their mother, the only way to fix things is to make a choice that could break more than one person’s heart.

The following questions are intended to enhance your discussion of this engaging novel.

Discussion Guides

1. What was your first impression of Kendra as a character? How did your understanding of her motivations and personality evolve throughout the novel? Did you have any ideas about her early on that were later proven to be either true or false?

2. Against her will, Kendra is drawn into the Gadsborough family crisis almost immediately. Were you surprised by her actions and reactions that first Saturday morning and beyond? What would you have done in her situation?

3. Throughout the novel, the nightmares in Kendra’s past are alluded to: did you guess what they were before they were revealed? Once you knew the full story, did it change your view of Kendra? What effects did these experiences have on her?

4. Consider the conversation Kendra and Kyle have about ideals and child-rearing (starting on page 116). What do you make of each of their perspectives? Why does each feel the way they do? Do you agree with one or the other, or is the truth somewhere in the middle? If you have children, have your ideas about being a parent changed over the years? Does ideology give way to practicality?

5. Why do you think Kendra reacts so strongly to Kyle’s kiss? Was she really surprised by it, or was her reaction coming from somewhere else? Did you see either the kiss or the Kendra’s anger coming?

6. Throughout Marshmallows for Breakfast, we see people who are otherwise very close keeping secrets from each other. What do you think the author was trying to say about the role of secrets in friendships? Look closely at how the secrets in this novel are revealed, and to whom. What does each secret mean to the person keeping it? What does it mean to the ultimate confidante?

7. How did you feel about Ashlyn? Could you forgive her for the mistakes she made with regard to her marriage and children? Did you think she was a good person at heart? Do you believe she will stay sober?

8. At several points in the novel, the narrative shifts from Kendra’s perspective into someone else’s. What did this add to your reading experience? Was there anyone you would have liked to hear from that you did not?

9. What drives Kendra’s relationship with Will? Do you think they are a good match?

10. Each chapter is named for a breakfast–from the traditional to the fanciful. Take a look at which chapters carry which names–what are some that stand out to you, and why? Did you feel like each chapter carried an appropriate heading?

11. Have you ever known someone like Janene? Did her cruelty take you by surprise? What did you think of Kendra’s reactions to her? Would you have handled her differently?

12. On page 344, Kendra refers to Kyle as “the father of my children”. What does this statement mean to her? Do you think it’s an accurate description of their relationship?

13. Why does it take Kendra so long to open the letter from Will?

14. How did you expect Kyle and Kendra to wind up at the end of the book? In what ways would they be a good couple and in what ways do you think they might be better off with someone else?

15. What themes are suggested by the title Marshmallows for Breakfast?


  • Marshmallows for Breakfast by Dorothy Koomson
  • January 27, 2009
  • Fiction
  • Delta
  • $12.00
  • 9780385341332

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