From the book
After seventeen years, Michelle Turner was going back.
Back to a past she didn't want to remember, to the father she barely
knew, to the town where she grew up too fast, fell in love too hard, and
wound up pregnant and alone.
During the long drive from Seattle to Montana, she rehearsed -- under
her breath so Cody wouldn't hear -- what she would say when she got there.
"Hello, Daddy." Funny how she still thought of him as Daddy, even though
he'd never been much more than a picture on the wall or sometimes a face
on the TV screen late at night when his old movies played. "Sorry I
didn't come sooner..." Sorry... sorry... sorry. All those regrets. So
many of them.
Sorry wouldn't do. Gavin Slade -- her father had kept his professional
name after retiring -- knew damned well what had kept her away so long.
She flexed her hands on the steering wheel of the Range Rover and
glanced over her shoulder at her son in the backseat. Cody was lost in
the space between the headphones of his Discman. Maybe I'm the one who's
lost, she thought. Here she was, thirty-five years old and the mother of
a teenager, and the thought of facing her father made her feel like a
kid again. Defensive. Powerless. Inadequate.
The Washington landscape roared by as she drove eastward, heading toward
a place where she'd find no welcome. She and Cody had left their
waterfront town house before dawn. The lights had still been shining in
the steel skeleton of Seattle's Space Needle. By sunup, the Cascade
Range had given way to rounded hills and scrubby flatland, then finally
to high plateaus, a bare and colorless midwinter moonscape, a neutral
She saw nothing out her window to interest the eye, nor to offend it.
Long ago, she used to be an artist, painting in savage color with
emotions that spilled unrestrained over the canvas, dripping off the
sides, because her feelings could not be confined to a finite space. But
somewhere along the way she had reined in those mad and glorious
impulses, as if a thief had come in the night and stolen the dreams
inside her and she hadn't noticed they were gone until too late.
All that remained of the wild soul of her younger days was a cold,
mechanical talent and a photographic eye. Airbrush and mousepad had
replaced paint and canvas.
Her subjects had changed, too. She used to create art with passion and
purity, whether it be a horse on her father's ranch or an abstract
scramble of feelings. Inspiration used to govern her hand, and something
far more powerful ignited her spirit. Once seen or imagined, the work
rushed from her, generated by a force as strong as the need to breathe.
Now subjects came assigned to her by memo from the ad agency where she
was up for full partner. She used a computer to design and animate
dancing toilet brushes, talking dentures, or an army of weed-killer bags
marching toward a forest of weeds.
Tugging her mind away from thoughts of work, she clicked on the wipers
to bat away a few stray snow flurries. The day wore on. Spokane passed
in a whisk of warehouses and industrial smokestacks. The interstate
arrowed cleanly across the panhandle of Idaho. Between empty stretches
of highway lay glaring commercial strip centers, tractor barns and
silos, wood-frame houses huddled shoulder to shoulder against the
elements. Deeper accumulations of snow formed crusty heaps on the side
of the road. East of Coeur d'Alene, the landscape yielded to endless
stretches of nothingness.