Souvenir: A Novel By The Author Of Reunion by Therese FowlerSouvenir: A Novel By The Author Of Reunion by Therese Fowler

Souvenir: A Novel By The Author Of Reunion

byTherese Fowler

Paperback | February 10, 2009

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Meg Powell and Carson McKay were raised side by side on their families’ farms, bonded by a love that only deepened as they grew. Everyone in their small rural community in northern Florida thought that Meg and Carson would always be together. But at twenty-one, Meg was presented with a marriage proposal she could not refuse, forever changing the course of her life.

Seventeen years later, Meg’s marriage has become routine, and she spends her time juggling the demands of her medical practice, the needs of her widowed father, and the whims of her rebellious teenage daughter, Savannah, who is confronting her burgeoning sexuality in a dangerous manner and pushing her mother away just when she needs her most. Then, after a long absence, Carson returns home to prepare for his wedding to a younger woman. As Carson struggles to determine where his heart and future lie, Meg makes a shocking discovery that will upset the balance of everyone around her.
Therese Fowler holds an MFA in creative writing. She grew up in Illinois, and now lives in Raleigh, North Carolina, with her husband and two sons. This is her first novel.From the Hardcover edition.
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Title:Souvenir: A Novel By The Author Of ReunionFormat:PaperbackProduct dimensions:416 pages, 9.8 × 5.25 × 0.85 inShipping dimensions:9.8 × 5.25 × 0.85 inPublished:February 10, 2009Language:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0345499697

ISBN - 13:9780345499691

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Read from the Book

One Reminders. Meg didn’t need more of them, but that’s what she got when her father let her into his new apartment at the Horizon Center for Seniors Wednesday evening. He held out a plastic grocery bag.“What’s in there?” “Notebooks, from your mother’s desk,” he said. “Take ’em now, before I forget.” He did more and more of that lately, forgetting. Idiopathic short-term memory loss was his doctor’s name for his condition, which right now was more an irritation than an issue. Idiopathic, meaning there was no particular explanation. Idiopathic was an apt term for Spencer Powell, a man who lived entirely according to his whims. Meg took the bag and set it on the dining table along with her purse. This would be a short visit, coming at the end of her twelve-hour day. Hospital rounds at seven am, two morning deliveries, a candy-bar lunch, and then four hours of back-to-back patients at her practice—women stressing about episiotomies, C-section pain, stretch marks, unending fetal hiccups, heavy periods, lack of sex drive, fear of labor. And still four hours to go before she was likely to hit the sheets for five. An exhausting grind at times, but she loved her work. The ideal of it, at least. “So how was today?” she asked, taking the clip out of her shoulder-length hair and shaking it loose. “Are you finding your way around all right?” “Colorful place,” he said, leading her to the living room. He sat in his recliner—why did old men seem always to have one, fraying and squeaky, with which they wouldn’t part? “Pair o’ guys over in wing C got a great system for winning on the dogs.” The greyhounds, he meant. “Is that right?” she asked, looking him over. He looked spry as ever, and his eyes had regained the smile she’d never seen dimmed before last fall. His hair, once the brightest copper, had gone full silver, making him seem more distinguished somehow, silver being more valuable. Distinguished, but no less wild than before—a man whose mind was always a step ahead of his sense. His diabetes was in check, but since her mother had died suddenly seven months earlier, Meg felt compelled to watch him closely. She was looking for signs of failing health, diabetic danger signals: swollen ankles, extra fluid in the face, unusual behaviors. All his behaviors were unusual, though, so that part was difficult. The other difficult thing was how he kept confronting her with random pieces of her mother’s life. A pitted chrome teapot. Stiff and faded blue doilies from their old dining hutch. Rose-scented bath powder, in a round cardboard container with a round puff inside. Last week, a paper bag of pinecones dipped in glitter-thick wax. Trivia from a life forever altered by the sudden seizure of Anna Powell’s heart, like a car’s engine after driving too long without oil.“Yeah, those boys said they win more’n they lose, so what’s not to like about that? Hey—my left kidney’s acting up again. Steady pain, kinda dull, mostly. What d’ya s’pose that’s about?” “Call Dr. Aimes,” she said, as she always did when he brought up anything relating to his kidneys. “Tomorrow. Don’t wait.” He looked all right—but then, she’d thought her mother had too. What a good doctor she was; she should’ve seen the signs of runaway hypertension, should’ve known a massive heart attack was pending. She never should have taken her mother’s word that she was doing fine on the blood pressure medication, nothing to worry about at all. Her father frowned in annoyance, as he always did when she wouldn’t diagnose him. “What good are you?” “If you go into labor, I’ll be glad to help out. Otherwise, tell Dr. Aimes.” She would remind him again when she called tomorrow. His apartment was modest—one bedroom, one bath, a combined dining–living area, and a kitchen—but comfortable, furnished mostly with new things. He’d sold the business, Powell’s Breeding and Boarding, along with the house and all the property, in order to move here. She didn’t know the financial details because he’d insisted on handling that part of things himself. But he assured her he could afford to “modernize” a little, as he’d put it. Meg looked around, glad to not see much of her mother here. Memories were like spinning blades: dangerous at close range. Her mother’s empty swivel rocker, placed alongside the recliner, would take some getting used to. If her father would just stop regurgitating things from the farm—or send them to her sisters, all of whom wisely lived out of state—she might be able to get comfortable with the new order. Was that his strategy, too? Was he giving things away so that he didn’t have to be reminded of his loss every time he opened a closet or a drawer? He certainly wasn’t much for facing the past, himself. The past was where all his failures lived. Well, they had that in common. He pulled the recliner’s lever and stretched out. “So yeah, I’m doin’ fine. Why’nt you bring Savannah over Sunday; we’ll have dinner in this establishment’s fine dining room. They just put in one of them self-serve ice cream machines, you know what I’m talking about? Toppings, too. Y’oughta see the old farts elbowing each other to get there first! If I’d known this place was so entertaining, I’d’ve moved Mom here. This would be her kind of place, don’t you think? Lots of biddies around to cackle with.” “Sure, she would’ve liked it a lot,” Meg said. The farm had overwhelmed her mother perpetually, even after Brian and his father— officially Hamilton Savings and Loan—forgave her parents’ mortgage as promised. In the years afterward, Meg liked to take her mother out to lunch for a break and a treat; she offered her spending money (as she secretly did her sisters too), but the reply was always, “Oh, heavens no, Meggie. You’ve done so much as it is. Besides, you know your father.” She did. Though cursed with a black thumb for profits, he was too proud to let her put cash in their hands. He hadn’t been too proud, though, to let her—to encourage her—to take Brian’s offer. That was different; no money changed hands. Meg hadn’t had to give up anything—Carson didn’t count. It was her choice anyway, that’s what he always said. “Hey—why’nt you bring our girl over here for dinner Sunday?” He said this as if the idea had just occurred to him. She stood next to his chair, noting how his invitation didn’t include Brian—intentionally? “I’ll do that,” she said. “Right now I need to get going.” “Okay, fine, go on, Miss Hectic Schedule. I know, you got things to do. Y’oughta enjoy the ride a little more, though. Now that you can. Don’t you think? I’m fine here, everything’s settled. I don’t know why you don’t just get on with your life.” Now that she could? What was he talking about? He continued, “You’re not happy. I’ve known that for a long time. Move forward, Meggie, while you’re still young.” She looked at him quizzically—he didn’t always make sense, but he hated having it pointed out—and kissed him without pursuing it. “I’m fine, Dad,” she said. “It’s just been a long day.”From the Hardcover edition.

Bookclub Guide

1. Did Meg realistically have a choice about whether or not to marry Brian? Even if her parents pressured her into it for reasons of their own, was anything stopping her from refusing?2. Meg sacrifices her happiness for the sake of her parents . . . But do you think she embraces the role of martyr a little too zealously? And do you think the prospect of attending med school and becoming a doctor entered into her decision at all?3. Does Meg ever come to grips with the fact that her parents have betrayed her by pressuring her into a loveless marriage solely for financial gain? How does this affect the kind of woman she becomes, as wife and mother?4. Is there a chance that Meg’s decision to marry Brian had something to do with her feelings for Carson? Is there evidence in the novel that she was afraid of the intensity of those feelings and was looking for a way out? What other reasons, besides what Meg consciously believes, could have influenced her decision?5. William Faulkner once wrote, “The past isn’t dead. It isn’t even past.” How do those lines pertain to Souvenir?6. Did Carson give up on Meg too easily back in 1989? What more could he have done to win her back?7. Are Meg and Carson trapped by the past? Are their memories and regrets preventing them from moving forward?8. Do you think Carson and Meg find some peace and happiness by the novel’s end? What has the price of that been for them and for those close to them? Was it worth it?9. Did you find Meg to be a likable character? Why or why not?10. How would you face a diagnosis of ALS, or Lou Gehrig’s Disease? Do you think Meg makes the right choice, all things considered?11. Does Carson do the right thing by breaking off his engagement withVal? Isn’t he treating her the same way that Meg treated him yearsearlier?12. What do you think made Savannah so vulnerable to Kyle’s advancesand to his introduction of drugs and sex into their relationship?13. Does Souvenir accurately portray the dangers of the Internet, or doesit exaggerate the threats?14. Truths are revealed and documented in Anna’s notebooks and Meg’sjournal. Meg is determined to write only the truth in her journal, evenif she is unable to tell the truth in real life. How is the written wordliberating and restrictive? What purposes do the notebooks and journalserve to their authors and readers? Are Carson’s lyrics his form ofjournal, a means of catharsis?15. Is Meg a good mother? How does her relationship to her own mothercolor her relationship with Savannah?16. The question of Savannah’s paternity plagues Meg throughout hermarriage–yet, when she has the chance to know the answer, she’s nolonger so sure she wants it. Is this ambivalence understandable? Inher shoes, would you choose to know?