Heart's Desire: A Novel by Laura PedersenHeart's Desire: A Novel by Laura Pedersen

Heart's Desire: A Novel

byLaura Pedersen

Paperback | July 26, 2005

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Card sharp and former wild child Hallie Palmer is in college now–and Bernard Stockton, her legal guardian, has suddenly appeared during final exams. He’s hysterical about his recent breakup with his longtime boyfriend, Gil, and wants to enlist Hallie in a scheme to win Gil back. So Hallie returns to Cosgrove County, Ohio, for the summer, to her job as live-in yard person for Bernard and his delightfully oddball mother, Olivia. Also present are Ottavio, Olivia’s hot-tempered Italian lover, who’s desperate for a wedding; Rocky, a chimpanzee who’s one Singapore Sling away from an AA meeting for primates; and Hallie’s own ever-expanding family, which she fled as soon as she could slide down the drainpipe.

Around town, folks assume that since Hallie isn’t in jail, she clearly has no problems of her own and can therefore tackle theirs. But Hallie has plenty of troubles–a looming tuition bill, gambling temptations, and an ex-boyfriend who’s back in town for the summer to upset any potential if highly unlikely (a girl can dream!) romantic flings.

Yet as Hallie and company navigate life’s unexpected paths of games lost and love found, the real truth begins to emerge: With friends, family, and a place to call home, your heart’s desire is always within reach.
Laura Pedersen is an author and playwright from Buffalo, New York. After finishing high school in 1983, she moved to Manhattan and began working on the American Stock Exchange, later spending the better part of the 1990s writing for The New York Times. In 1994, President Clinton honored her as one of Ten Outstanding Young Americans. Sh...
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Title:Heart's Desire: A NovelFormat:PaperbackProduct dimensions:416 pages, 8.04 × 5.53 × 0.91 inShipping dimensions:8.04 × 5.53 × 0.91 inPublished:July 26, 2005Publisher:Random House Publishing GroupLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0345479556

ISBN - 13:9780345479556

Reviews

Read from the Book

Chapter OneSomeone cracks open the bedroom door. "Hallie? Are you in there?"Upon hearing the familiar voice I wake slightly and assume that I'm having weird dreams due to excessive body heat. Lying next to me is my boyfriend, Ray. And on the other side is Vanessa. I push down the blanket."Hallie, are you up?" the voice comes again.Only now I'm definitely hearing and not dreaming Bernard's stage whisper. And also smelling the rich aroma of freshly brewed coffee with a hint of vanilla. Wakefulness and reality strike simultaneously. "Oh my gosh!" I shout, and raise my head off the pillow. "What time is it? I have an exam at eight!"The only thing that's not surprising is to find Bernard Stockton in the hallway of my apartment. After all, he's the one who'd saved me when I was sliding down the slippery slope of adolescent rebellion the previous fall by taking me on as a live-in yard person. And now at least one weekend a month he arrives early and cooks us all a big brunch. Only this isn't Saturday or Sunday. It's Wednesday of finals week after my first year of college.Bernard opens the door the rest of the way and steps inside the room. "It's just after seven," he says. But his voice is hesitant and hoarse, like a record being played at the wrong speed, and I can tell immediately that something is terribly wrong. Normally he would be trilling "Rise and shine!" like Amanda Wingfield in The Glass Menagerie. Not only that, he must have awoken at five in the morning to make the one-hour drive to Cleveland."What's the matter--I mean, I'm coming. . . ." I start to climb out from my position as pickle in the middle. "Um, could I meet you in the kitchen?""Oh, yes, of course. How indelicate of me." His footsteps become faint and then I hear him tackle the mess of dirty pots and pans in the kitchen.After stumbling around the minefield of packed duffel bags and piles of dirty clothes for a few minutes I finally find a pair of sweatpants to pull on. No surprise to discover a bunch of unpaid bills and parking tickets scattered beneath them. I'll be lucky if the repo man isn't towing my car away at this very moment.The whole place smells like old pizza and even older laundry. As I pass the living room the sound of loud snoring comes from behind stacks of books and model cardboard buildings that rise in the middle of the floor to form a miniature skyline. A closer look reveals my roommate Debbie and her boyfriend Daniel asleep on the couch, surrounded by notebooks and empty pizza boxes. It's a memorial to unfinished group projects everywhere.In the kitchen Bernard has lined up his numerous shopping bags on the floor, since there's no available space on the countertops or table. Those are covered in a collagelike mishmash of art supplies, stained coffee mugs, and overdue book notices. Fortunately, he's accustomed to the mess. With four busy young women sharing three rooms and all the various friends and boyfriends hanging about, housekeeping rarely rises above the minimum required for pest control. Particularly during exam time, when everyone is cramming for finals and working like crazy to finish papers and art projects.I rub the sleep from my eyes. "What's wrong? Is it Olivia?" Though I'd called Bernard's sixtyish mother the night before to ask her a grammar question for a paper I was writing, or at least attempting to write, and she'd sounded fine.Bernard stops whipping eggs in the shiny metal mixing bowl he brought from home, bows his head, and shuts his eyes as if in pain.I stop in my tracks and stare at Bernard, waiting for his answer while growing increasingly worried. For he was, as they said of Odysseus, a man never at a loss. Only in Bernard's case, when faced with adversity he was rarely without a witty remark and an audacious plan, though it was oftentimes one he'd seen in a movie.Finally Bernard exhales for the entire State of Ohio and says, "It's Gil."Never before have I seen him so grave when referring to his longtime companion. And so of course I assume the worst. "What? Is he dying?"Now that my eyes have become accustomed to the light, I notice how completely wrecked the normally dapper Bernard looks--bags under his eyes, worry lines furrowing his brow, and something I've never seen on him before, brown socks with black loafers!Bernard turns away from me and dabs at his eyes. "I promised myself I wouldn't shed any more tears." He waits a moment to compose himself, takes a deep breath, looks me straight in the eye, and in a trembly voice blurts out, "Gil left me!""You broke up?" I'm truly stunned. I'd have voted my parents more likely to break up than Gil and Bernard, and even the thought of that is impossible."We didn't break up." Bernard starts sniffing again. "Gil left me!" He switches to French for greater effect. "Abandonnement."I'm not sure exactly what the difference is between breaking up and one person leaving, but this doesn't appear to be the right moment to ask. Tears begin to stream down Bernard's cheeks. I've never seen him full-out cry like this before, not even when his father died.As I reach to put my hand on his arm, a hiss comes from the stove and he leaps to adjust the heat on his beloved Calphalon nonstick crepe pan. Then he concentrates on making chocolate crepes and this seems to calm him slightly, to my great relief. Hopefully Bernard is overreacting and he and Gil just had an argument that will eventually be resolved. Perhaps it was about Bernard's antiques taking up the entire garage. In the spring Gil always gets cranky when bucketfuls of pollen land on his car because it has to sit out in the driveway all the time."What happened?" I ask. "Did you two have a fight?""No. I mean, here Gil is, always insisting that he's the normal one. Then all of a sudden he goes berserk and announces that he doesn't want to be part of a committed relationship. Gil just hasn't been the same since his older brother, Clifton, died unexpectedly last month . . . he became more and more distant and then . . . he said . . . it was over. . . ."Bernard becomes upset again and uses the dish towel over his shoulder to wipe away his tears. He always brings his own Marshall Field's British icon dish towels when he comes to cook for us.All of my friends love Bernard. He's like an eccentric uncle who unexpectedly shows up and bakes, helps to decorate, rearranges the furniture, and organizes theme parties. One of my professors had even invited him to guest lecture in a pottery class. Having bought and sold plenty of ceramics for his shop over the past fifteen years, Bernard knows everything about the different schools and designs, and most of all, precisely how much any lump of painted clay you might have lying around your attic is worth. This morning, however, his usual exuberance is nowhere to be found.Either the noise from us talking or, more likely, the smell of food and vanilla-flavored coffee awakens the couple on the couch in the living room and we hear them carefully making their way toward the kitchen. Design projects in various states of completion are everywhere, transforming the path into an obstacle course.Bernard says to me, "I can't have anyone seeing me so out of sorts. Now, don't breathe a word to them about this calamity, all right?""Mum's the word," I reply. Bernard does indeed have a reputation for inexhaustible zest and witty remarks to protect.He takes a deep breath, straightens up, and lifts his head high. "I'm channeling Susan Hayward in Valley of the Dolls when, after having her wig ripped off, she announces with great dignity, 'I'll go out the way I came in.' ""I'm sure that's exactly what nine out of ten therapists would recommend," I agree wholeheartedly with his strategy.

Bookclub Guide

1. Hallie believes that she’s fallen in love with Auggie after a brief meeting. Is there such a thing as love at first sight?2. Do you have a set of criteria for “the right one,” characteristics that you know you really like in a person, or do you just go by how you feel when you meet someone and then spend a bit of time together?3. Brandt points out that most species are not monogamous. Into which category do you think humans fall? Are we meant to mate for life, be serially monogamous, or just date various people? Or does it depend on the individuals and the relationship?4. At the beginning of the book Hallie observes that many couples seem to divorce when their kids leave for college. Do you think that people wanting to get divorced should try and stay together until their children are at least teenagers?5. . Can your significant other also be your best friend? Is it necessary to have a good friend with whom you’re not engaged in a physical relationship in order to talk about certain things?6. Hallie’s mother believes that Louise has taken up with a bad crowd of friends and that this is to blame for her recent wayward behavior. Is it fair to judge people by the company they choose to keep, or should you be able to see them as an individual? Would you worry if you had a teenage daughter hanging around with older guys who drove fast cars?7. Hallie and Brandt have known each other a long time, and it appears that they might start a relationship. Has there ever been a person you really like and have known for a long time, but never considered for a relationship? What makes for “chemistry” between two people, where they both want more than friendship?8. Hallie is having what she deems to be a good experience at college, but it sounds as if only a fraction of her time is devoted to actual learning. What percentage of high school and/or college would you say is about academics and what percentage is about other things such as learning how to be a friend, have a relationship, and basically be a human being?9. Craig and Hallie agreed not to be exclusive while attending colleges so far away from each other. Based on your experiences, can long-distance relationships work?10. Brandt and Louise choose abstinence when it comes to premarital sex. Is this the best option for all young people, or does it depend on the teenager? Should parents, teachers, and counselors be trying to steer teens toward abstinence, or should they provide all the information and let them decide what’s right? If you had a teenage son or daughter what route would you want him or her to take?11. What are the pros and cons of marrying the only person with whom you ever plan on having a serious physical relationship?12. Every once in a while we’re surprised to hear someone we thought was heterosexual announce a lifestyle change. In the book, Gil briefly considers being with a woman after a long same-sex relationship. Do you know people who have questioned their sexual preferences, and if so, do you think the urge to do so came on suddenly or had been on their minds for a while, only they may have been worried about sharing the information?13. Ottavio wants to marry and Olivia doesn’t. Whose side are you on? Would you mind if one of your children, parents, or grandparents was living with a significant other?14. Is it true that you always remember your first kiss and/or the first time you enter into a serious physical relationship? Do people make too big a deal about first times or are they really special?15. Hallie’s parents have a lot of kids to keep track of. If you’re a teenager, do your parents know much about your real life? How might they answer if you were to ask them? If you’re older and you think back, did your parents know much about what was really going on when you were sixteen or seventeen? And if you have teenagers now, do you think you know much about their relationships?16. Occasionally Hallie is forthcoming about her fears and concerns but usually lets them bubble inside for a long time. On the other hand Bernard is happy to unburden himself to basically anyone willing to listen. Do you tend to discuss your problems with others or keep them to yourself? Is either way healthier, is there a happy medium, or does it depend on the person?17. As you get older, has your view on love changed at all? Are you more hopeful or more cynical about romance than you were a few years ago?18. Do you think people usually break up because they feel that one of them has changed, or because they find they didn’t really know the other person as well as they thought? Or is there another cause you see happening a lot, such as meeting someone else?19. Can the brain can be saying one thing about a person while the heart is saying another? Why do you think we sometimes make bad choices for partners? And is this a learning curve so that as you get older your selection process improves? If a friend told you that he or she loved someone who didn’t love them back, what would you be your advice?20. Bernard goes through a very bad time after splitting up with Gil. Have you ever had a bad breakup? What helped you through it? Did you learn anything that ended up being useful later on?21. What do you think is the most important element in a successful relationship?

Editorial Reviews

“Prepare to fall in love with a story as wise as it is witty.”–Sarah Bird, author of The Yokota Officers’ Club“Smart, funny, and chockful of surprises, Heart’s Desire delivers on the promise of its title. Laura Pedersen’s lively imagination has created a cast of zany characters and an unforgettable heroine, whose honesty, sweet nature, and witticisms make this novel an enchanting read.”–Bev Marshall, author of Right as Rain and Hot Fudge Sundae Blues