Author Bill Harley’s latest novel weaves a fictional tale about a young girl, her on-the-spectrum brother, and their monumental cross-country journey after the death of their mother.
Harley joined us to share an excerpt from that novel, “Now You Say Yes,” where protagonist Mari contemplates her future as a foster kid while watching a solar eclipse during her journey across the U.S.
Read the full transcript:
Zydalis Bauer, Connecting Point: Author Bill Harley’s latest novel weaves a fictional tale about a young girl, her on-the-spectrum brother and their monumental cross-country journey after the death of their mother.
Harley joins us to share an excerpt from that novel, “Now You Say Yes,” where protagonist Mari contemplates her future as a foster kid while watching a solar eclipse during her journey across the U.S.
Bill Harley, Author: So, briefly, to get the context of this passage, Mari and her nine-year-old adoptive brother Connor, are driving across the country. And she gets Connor to go,he doesn’t want to go, he wants to stay in Los Angeles, even though there’s nothing there for him. But he loves astronomy and she — it’s the week of the Solar Eclipse in 2017, in August. And she says, “If you get in the car, we’ll go to the eclipse.” And that’s all Connor wants. So he gets in the car.
And they get to Missouri the day of the eclipse, and they come — they park in a rest area on Route 40 — Route 44– and they’re there with a couple of hundred other people watching the eclipse.
And so, this passage is really, in some ways at the heart of — Mari’s afraid of going into the foster care system, she’s lost, she doesn’t know what happened to her. She doesn’t know if their grandmother, in Lynn, Massachusetts, is going to take them in. And here’s the eclipse.
She’s with — they’re with a family, a family has is sitting with them, a family from Texas.
A sudden and brilliant explosion of light makes Mari jump. Through her dark glasses, she sees a small speck of sun, the tiniest sliver, peek out from behind the dark moon. It bursts across the heavens, showering everyone there in its shining. A bright, gleaming light that promises something beyond all promising.
“Oh my god!” Marco whispers.
Mari feels a giant intake of breath. Everyone, not just this family, but the entire planet, or at least everyone along the path of totality, gasps.
Then she hears a collective sigh, a breathing in and out like one being. She lowers her head and takes off her glasses, and what she sees around her is as astonishing as what is happening above.
She sees everyone looking up, their mouths open. But she sees beyond that. She sees their pudgy knees and their wheelchairs and their skinniness and their grasping and their wanting and their desperation to fit in.
She sees the group of teenage girls peering upward, their neediness and cliquishness forgotten for the moment. She sees that everyone is broken, not all broken in the same way, but in myriad different ways.
They may try to hide it, but they are. Mari is broken, too. She has lost her mom. She gets mad too easily. She has a bad mouth. Some people look at her funny because she’s a foster kid or because she’s adopted or just because she is who she is.
She’s not alone. It’s the hiding of the brokenness that keeps everyone alone. She belongs to all of this. It’s being broken. That makes her part of it, part of being alive.
People laugh and hug one another. Disregarding differences and seeing sameness. Birds start calling like it’s morning. A breeze ripples across the grass and through the crowd. Connor stands there, staring at the vanishing eclipse.
Mari puts her glasses on again and watches the sun come back. The moon passes on by, inching ahead of her brighter sibling.
“Goodbye,” Mari whispers to herself.