An image came back to me suddenly and strongly: my mother lounging on one of those chairs, some forty years ago. Her cotton blue floral bathing suit faded and bleached from the sun and salty air, her skin ruddy and freckled, slippery with baby oil, and a plastic cup, wet with condensation, under her seat, partially hidden in the basket-weave shadows of the chair, the pale amber liquid just visible below the melting cubes. She was fast asleep, passed out from a cocktail hour that had started at breakfast. I was reading The Secret Garden at her feet when my grandfather walked past and stopped to stare down at her, in her oily, slick stupor.”

From Seven Birds, a new novel from Amy Sargent Swank