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Kristin Hannah

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About the Author

Kristin Hannah is the #1 New York Times bestselling author of many acclaimed novels, including The Nightingale. She and her husband live in the Pacific Northwest and Hawaii.

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Author Essay

Of all the books I’ve written, I can honestly say that Between Sisters was the most fun. I think it’s because of the powerful emotions that connect sisters to each other. No one can make you laugh more quickly or break your heart as easily. How can you ever get "one up" on the girl who remembers how you looked in eighth grade when you still wore braces and sported a unibrow? My sister still teases me about the dress I wore to the Junior Prom (she remembers it, of course, because she was hanging out the bedroom window singing, Here Comes The Bride, to my date as he walked up to the front door). In Between Sisters, I got to dive into sisterhood by telling the story of two women who have been estranged for more than two decades and who, unexpectedly, find themselves drawn back together in a time of almost unbearable sadness and exquisite joy. The following excerpt is taken from early in the book, when the younger sister, Claire, who is a single mother, meets the love of her life long after she’d stopped looking for him. Claire is positively swept away by her emotions. Meghann, her hot shot divorce attorney older sister, is not so easily convinced…especially when she learns of Bobby’s questionable past. I hope you all enjoy reading this novel as much as I enjoyed writing it.

With love and peace,
Kristin Hannah


Their first gathering at lake chelan had been in celebration.
Nineteen eighty-nine. The year Madonna urged people to express
themselves and Jack Nicholson played the Joker and the first
pieces of the Berlin Wall came down. More important, it was the
year they all turned twenty-one. There had been five of them then.
Best friends since grade school.

That first get-together had happened by accident. The girls had
pooled their money to give Claire a weekend in the honeymoon
cabin for her birthday. At the time—in March—she’d been head
over heels in love with Carl Eldridge. (The first of many head-over-heels-
in-love relationships that turned out to be a plain old kick in
the head.) By mid-July, on the designated weekend, Claire had been
out of love, alone, and more than a little depressed. Never one to
waste money, she’d gone on the trip by herself, intending to sit on
the porch and read.

Just before dinnertime of the first day, a battered yellow Ford
Pinto had pulled into the yard. Her best friends had spilled out of the
car and run across the lawn, laughing, holding two big jugs of margarita
mix. They’d called their visit a love intervention, and it had
worked. By Monday, Claire had remembered who she was and what
she wanted out of life. Carl Eldridge had most definitely not been
“the one.”

Every year since then, they’d managed to come back for a week.
Now, of course, it was different. Gina and Claire each had a daughter;
Karen had four children, aged eleven to fourteen; and Charlotte
was trying desperately to conceive.

In the past few years, their parties had quieted; less tequila and
cigarettes came out of suitcases these days. Instead of getting dressed
up and going to Cowboy Bob’s Western Roundup to slam tequila and
line-dance, they put the kids to bed early, drank glasses of white
wine, and played hearts at the round wooden table on the porch.
They kept a running score for the week. The winner got the keys to
the honeymoon cottage for the next year.

Their vacation had evolved into a sort of slow, lazy merry-go-round
rhythm. They spent their days by the lake, stretched out on
red-and-white-striped beach towels or sitting on battered old beach
chairs, with a portable radio set up on the picnic table. They always
listened to the oldies station, and when a song from the eighties
came on, they’d jump up and dance and sing along. On hot days—
like this one had been—they spent most of their time in the lake,
standing neck-deep in the cool water, their faces shielded by floppy
hats and sunglasses. Talking. Always talking.

Now, finally, the weather was perfect. The sky was a bright seam-less
blue, and the lake was like glass. The older kids were in the
house, playing crazy eights and listening to Willie’s ear-splitting
music, probably talking about the latest, grossest R-rated movie that
everyone else’s mothers allowed their children to see. Alison and
Bonnie were pedaling a water bike in the cordoned-off section of the
lake. Their giggles could be heard above the others.

Karen sat slouched in her chair, fanning herself with a pamphlet
from the water-slide park. Charlotte, completely protected from the
sun by a floppy white hat and a diaphanous, three-quarter-sleeved
cover-up, was reading the latest Kelly Ripa book club choice and sipping

Gina leaned sideways and opened the cooler, rooting noisily
through it for a Diet Coke. When she found one, she pulled it out
and snapped it open, taking a long drink before she shut the cooler.
“My marriage ends and we’re drinking Diet Coke and lemonade.
When Karen’s dickwad first husband left, we slammed tequila and
danced the macarena at Cowboy Bob’s.”

“That was my second husband, Stan,” Karen said. “When Aaron
left, we ate those pot brownies and went skinny-dipping in the lake.”
“My point remains,” Gina said. “My crisis is getting the Sesame
Street treatment. You got Animal House.”

“Cowboy Bob’s,” Charlotte said, almost smiling. “We haven’t
been there in years.”

“Not since we started dragging around these undersize humans,”
Karen pointed out. “It’s hard to rock and roll with a kid on your

Charlotte looked out at the lake, to where the little girls were
pedaling their water bike. Her smile slowly faded. That familiar sadness
came into her eyes again. No doubt she was thinking about the
baby she wanted so much.

Claire glanced at her friends. It startled her for a moment, as it
sometimes did on these trips, to see their thirty-five-year-old selves.
This year, more than any other, they seemed quieter. Older, even.
Women on the edge of a sparkling lake who had too much on their

That would never do. They came to Lake Chelan to be their
younger, freer selves. Troubles were for other latitudes.

Claire pushed herself up on her elbows. The scratchy cotton of
her beach towel seemed to bite into her sunburned forearms.

“Willie’s fourteen this year, right?”

Karen nodded. “He’s starting high school in September. Can you
believe it? He still sleeps with a stuffed animal and forgets to brush
his teeth. The ninth-grade girls look like Solid Gold Dancers next
to him.”

“Why couldn’t he baby-sit for an hour or two?”

Gina sat upright. “Hot damn, Claire. Why didn’t we think of
that before? He’s fourteen.”

Karen frowned. “With the maturity of an earthworm.”

“We all baby-sat at his age,” Charlotte said. “Hell, I was practically
a nanny that summer before high school.”

“He’s a responsible kid, Karen. He’ll be fine,” Claire said gently.

“I don’t know. Last month his fish died. Lack of food.”

“They won’t starve to death in two hours.”

Karen looked back at the cabin.

Claire understood exactly what her friend was thinking. If Willie
was old enough to baby-sit, he wasn’t really a little boy anymore.

“Yeah,” Karen said finally. “Of course. Why not? We’ll leave a
cell phone with him—”

“—and a list of numbers—”

“—and we’ll tell them not to leave the cabin.”

Gina smiled for the first time all day. “Ladies, the Bluesers are
going to leave the building.”

It took them two hours to shower, change their clothes, and
make the kids’ dinner. Macaroni and cheese and hot dogs. It took
them another hour to convince the kids that their plan was possible.

Finally, Claire took firm hold of Karen and led her outside. As
they walked down the long, winding driveway, Karen paused and
looked back every few feet. “Are you sure?” she said each time.

“We’re sure. The responsibility will be good for him.”

Karen frowned. “I keep thinking about those poor little goldfish,
floating belly-up in the dirty water.”

“Just keep walking.” Gina leaned close to Claire and said, “She’s
like a car in the ice. If she stops, we’ll never get her going again.”
They were standing across the street from Cowboy Bob’s when it
hit them.

Claire was the first to speak. “It’s not even dark out.”

“As party animals, we’ve lost our touch,” Charlotte said.

“Shit.” This from Gina.

Claire refused to be thwarted. So what if they looked like sorority
girls amid the professional drinkers that populated a place like this
in the early evening? They were here to have a good time and Cowboy
Bob’s was their only choice.

“Come on, ladies,” she said, storming forward.

Her friends fell into line behind her. Heads held high, they
marched into Cowboy Bob’s as if they owned the place. A thick gray
haze hung along the ceiling, drifting in thin strands between the over-head
lights. There were several regulars along the bar, their hunched
bodies planted like soggy mushrooms on the black bar stools. Several
multicolored neon beer signs flickered in the gloomy darkness.

Claire led the way to a round, battered table near the empty
dance floor. From here they had an unobstructed view of the band—
which was now noticeably absent. A whiny Western song played on
the jukebox.

They had barely made it to their seats when a tall, thin waitress
with leathery cheeks appeared beside them. “What c’n I get for
y’all?” she asked, wiping down the table with a gray rag.

Gina ordered a round of margaritas and onion rings, which were
promptly served.

“God it feels good to get out,” Karen said, reaching for her drink.
“I can’t remember the last time I went out without having to do
enough preplanning to launch an air strike.”

“Amen to that,” Gina agreed. “Rex could never handle getting
a sitter. Not even to surprise me with a dinner date. The surprise was
always: We’re going out to dinner. Could you plan it? Like it takes
ovaries to pick up the phone.” At that, her smile slipped. “It always
bugged the hell out of me. But it’s a pretty small grievance, isn’t it?
Why didn’t I notice that before?”

Claire knew that Gina was thinking about the changes that were
coming in her new, single life. The bed that would be half empty
night after night. She wanted to say something, offer a comfort of
some kind, but Claire knew nothing of marriage. She’d dated plenty
in the last twenty years, and she’d fallen into pseudo-love a few
times. But never the real thing.

She’d figured she was missing out, but just now, as she saw the
heartbreak in Gina’s eyes, she wondered if maybe she’d been lucky.

Claire raised her glass. “To us,” she said in a firm voice. “To the
Bluesers. We made it through junior high with Mr. Kruetzer, high
school with Miss Bass the Wide Ass, through labors and surgeries,
weddings and divorces. Two of us have lost our marriages, one hasn’t
been able to get pregnant, one of us has never been in love, and a few
years ago, one of us died. But we’re still here. We’ll always be here for
one another. That makes us lucky women.”

They clinked their glasses together.

Karen turned to Gina. “I know it feels like you’re cracking apart.
But it gets better. Life goes on. That’s all I can say.”

Charlotte pressed a hand on Gina’s but said nothing. She was the
one of them who knew best that sometimes there were no words to

Gina managed a smile. “Enough. I can mope at home. Let’s talk
about something else.”

Claire changed the subject. At first, it was awkward, a conversation
on a one-way road trying to change directions, but gradually,
they found their rhythm. They returned to the old days and everything
made them laugh. At some point, they ordered a plate of nachos.
By the time the second order of food came, the band had
started. The first song was a bone-jarringly loud rendition of “Friends
in Low Places.”

“It sounds like Garth Brooks got caught in a barbed-wire fence,”
Claire said, laughing.

By the time the band got around to Alan Jackson’s “Here in the
Real World,” the place was wall-to-wall people. Almost everyone
was dressed in fake leather Western wear. A group was line-dancing
in a thigh-slappin’ way.

“Did you hear that?” Claire leaned forward and put her hands on
the table. “It’s ‘Guitars and Cadillacs.’ We gotta dance.”

“Dance?” Gina laughed. “The last time I danced with you two,
my butt hit an old man and sent him flying. Give me another drink
or two.”

Karen shook her head. “Sorry, Charlie. I danced until I hit a size
sixteen. Now I consider it wise to keep my ass as still as possible.”

Claire stood up. “Come on, Charlotte. You’re not as damn old as
these two. You want to dance?”

“Are you kidding? I’d love to.” She plopped her purse onto her
chair and followed Claire to the dance floor. All around them, couples
dressed in denim were dancing in patterns. A woman pirouetted
past them, mouthing 1-2-3 along the way. She clearly needed all
of her concentration skills to keep up with her partner’s moves.

Claire let the music pour over her like cool water on a hot summer’s
day. It refreshed her, rejuvenated her. The minute she started
to move in time with it, to swing her hips and stamp her feet and
clap her hands, she remembered how much she loved this. She
couldn’t believe that she’d let so many quiet years accumulate.

The music swept her away and peeled back the layer of mother-hood
years. She and Charlotte became their teenage selves again,
laughing, bumping hips, singing out loud to each other. The next
song was “Sweet Home Alabama,” and they had to stay for that one.
Next came “Margaritaville.”

By the time the band took a break, Claire was damp with perspiration
and out of breath. A tiny headache had flared behind her
left eye; she stuck a hand in her pocket and found an Excedrin.

Charlotte pushed the hair out of her eyes. “That was great.
Johnny and I haven’t danced since . . .” She frowned. “Jeez. Maybe
not since our wedding. That’s what happens when you try like hell
to get pregnant. Romance hits the road.”

Claire laughed. “Believe me, honey, it’s after you get knocked up
that romance changes ZIP codes. I haven’t had a decent date in
years. Come on. I’m so dehydrated I feel like a piece of beef jerky.”

Char nodded toward the back. “I need to use the rest room first.
Order me another margarita. And tell Karen this round is on me.”

“Sure thing.” Claire started to head for the table, then remembered
the aspirin in her fist. She went to the bar instead and asked
for a glass of tap water.

When the water came, she swallowed the single pill, then turned
away from the bar. As she started to head back to the table, she saw
a man walk onto the stage. He carried a guitar—a regular, old-fashioned
guitar that didn’t plug in or amp out. The rest of the band
had left the stage, but their instruments were still there.

He sat down easily on a rickety bar stool. One black cowboy boot
was planted firmly on the floor, the other rested on the stool’s bottom
rung. He wore a pair of faded, torn jeans and a black T-shirt. His
hair was almost shoulder length, and shone blond in the fluorescent
overhead lighting. He was looking down at his guitar, and though a
black Stetson shielded most of his face, Claire could make out the
strong, high bones that defined his cheeks.

“Wow.” She couldn’t remember the last time she’d seen a man
who was so good-looking.

Not in Hayden, that was for sure.

Men like him didn’t show up in backwater towns. This was a fact
she’d learned long ago. The Toms, the Brads, the Georges of this
world lived in Hollywood or Manhattan, and when they traveled,
they stood behind blank-eyed bodyguards in ill-fitting black suits.
They talked about meeting “real people,” but they never actually did
it. She knew this because they’d once filmed an action movie in
Snohomish. Claire had begged her father to take her down to watch
the filming. Not one of the stars had spoken to the locals.

The man leaned toward the microphone. “I’m gonna fill in while
the band takes a short break. I hope y’all don’t mind.”

A round of lackluster applause followed his words.

Claire pushed through the crowd, elbowing past a young man in
skintight Wrangler jeans and a Stetson as big as a bathtub.

She halted at the edge of the dance floor.

He strummed a few notes on the guitar and started to sing. At
first, his voice was uncertain, almost too soft to be heard above the
raucous, booze-soaked din.

“Be quiet,” Claire was surprised to hear the words spoken out
loud; she’d meant only to think them.

She felt ridiculously conspicuous, standing there in front of the
crowd, only a few feet away from him, but she couldn’t move,
couldn’t look away.

He looked up.

In the smoky darkness, with a dozen people crammed in beside
her, Claire thought he was looking at her.

Slowly, he smiled.

Once, years ago, Claire had been running along the dock at Lake
Crescent behind her sister. One minute, she’d been laughing and upright;
the next second, she was in the freezing cold water, gasping for
breath and clawing her way to the surface.

That was how she felt right now.

“I’m Bobby Austin,” he said softly, still looking at her. “This song
is for The One. Y’all know what I mean. The one I’ve been lookin’
for all my life.”

His long, tanned fingers strummed the guitar strings. Then he
started to sing. His voice was low and smoky, seductive as hell, and
the song had a sad and haunting quality that made Claire think of
all the roads she hadn’t taken in her life. She found herself swaying
in time to the music, dancing all by herself.

When the song ended, he set down the guitar and stood up. The
crowd clapped politely, then turned away, heading back to their
pitchers of beer and buffalo wings.

He walked toward Claire. She couldn’t seem to move.

Directly in front of her he stopped. She fought the urge to look
behind her, to see if he was actually looking at someone else.

When he didn’t say anything, she said, “I’m Claire Cavenaugh.”

A smile hitched one side of his mouth, but it was strangely sad.
“I don’t know how to say what I’m thinking without sounding like
an idiot.”

Claire’s heart was beating so fast she felt dizzy. “What do you

He closed the distance between them, small as it had been. Now
he was so near she could see the gold flecks in his green eyes, and the
tiny half-moon-shaped scar at the edge of his upper lip. She could
see, too, that he trimmed his hair himself; the ends were uneven and

“I’m The One,” he said softly.

“The one what?” She tried to smile. “The way? The light? There
is no way to Heaven but through you?”

“No joking. I’m the one you’ve been looking for.”
She ought to have laughed at him, told him she hadn’t heard
that corny a pick-up line since the year she tried shaping her eye-brows
with a Lady Bic.

She was thirty-five years old. Long past her believing-in-love-at-first-
sight years. All of that was what she meant to say, the response
she framed in her head. But when she opened her mouth, she heard
her heart speak. “How do you know that?”

“Because, I’ve been lookin’ for you, too.”

Claire took a tiny step backward; just far enough so that she
could breathe her own air.

She wanted to laugh at him. She really did.

“Come on, Claire Cavenaugh,” he said softly. “Dance with me.”

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