A “story of loss, ethics and forbidden love.” –Kirkus Reviews
“Kane weaves a threnody of desire and guilt…battle between love and lust…provides enjoyable reading;” (full review here.) Publishers Weekly
Emily, a twenty-four-year-old dancer and choreographer, confronts her husband’s fixation with right-wing Catholic dogma that condemns her use of birth control. His faith is so powerful that he refuses to have sex with her, even though he desperately wants to.
As awful as this broken faith feels, she is troubled more by her best friend’s losing fight with cancer, and seeks to help her friend’s grief-stricken, precocious, son-the seventeen-year-old David. But the boy’s willful ways turn the tables on her. Denied intimacy by her husband, the boy’s passion asserts itself, and everyone’s life is explosively altered.
Twenty years later, the successful David, a theater director, gets his hands on Emily’s secret journals and uncovers her covert emotional life, revealing family secrets unknown to him, and discovering prickly truths about himself.
Part literary memoir, part poignant psychological drama, this haunting love story explores the secrets of attraction and the mysteries of obsession-a boy’s coming-of-age, and one woman’s search for love and success in a year of intense achievement and painful loss.
BUY THE BOOK
WHAT OTHERS ARE SAYING
“In this exploration of a modern woman’s search for love and fulfillment, Holland Kane sheds light on the dark places our dreams can carry us, places we never meant to go.” Carol Orlock, award-winning novelist
“a poignant novel…examines long-buried memories and unsolved mysteries…[that] comes full circle from loss and longing to passionate, obsessive love and, eventually, a sense of self.” D. Donovan, Midwest Review of Books
“…beautifully written novel!” Sara Strauss
“Morning Light explores the shadow side of intimacy–the insecurities, fears and jealousies that gnaw away at relationships…we can’t help but identify with the push/pull of their lives as they move through this well paced, engaging read.” Jeanette LoCurto
“Holland Kane creates characters you care about deeply who then drive you crazy. Edgy, original, well-written.” Stefanie Marlis, Poet
“A moving story.” D. Donovan, Midwest Review of Books
“Kane weaves an intriguing web between the flawed, complex characters…” Kirkus Reviews
FROM THE BOOK
In the spring of the year that Emily’s husband told her his religion barred him from sleeping with her unless she quit using birth control, the crocuses and the hyacinth had already bloomed and I was living in a house in Brooklyn. The startling development in an otherwise warm marriage upset her. She wasn’t opposed to having children, but at her age she was nowhere near the dreaded advanced maternal age, code AMA that some nurses posted on the doors of delivery rooms, and she expected to wait several more years before starting a family. She recorded the date they stopped having sex in her journal—on her twenty-fourth birthday.
Rick’s abstinence—he was a Roman Catholic—seemed to alter the location of the earth’s gravity. She was mystified how his faith could suddenly turn her into a source of sin. She blamed their recent personal bankruptcy, and the collapse of his career, for his sudden charismatic return to the solace of his religion.
I was too young at the time to understand the events unfolding before me. I did not know that Rick was denying himself physical intimacy with the only woman who mattered to him, nor could I fathom the depth of Emily’s frustration. She wrote in her journal that an element of shame entered her life, something she had never experienced before, the shame of thwarted intimacy, the shame of being spurned—and in the midst of this shame my mother’s friendship became all the more important to her, becoming as vital as air, as essential as breathing.
My mother became the North Star guiding Emily’s uncharted American life. Sara was an artist who’d always wanted to have a daughter. But she had only me, a boy. When she first met Emily, a dancer and choreographer, at the time only a 16-year-old Lithuanian immigrant girl brought to the States illegally to work as household help, Sara knew in her heart she had found the daughter she had always wanted, and Emily found the mother she needed. The years went on—Emily’s first boyfriend and breakup, and then her marriage to Rick.
My mother and Emily discussed everything, made and changed plans, each advising the other and weighing a multitude of small things. Their attraction for each other could only be described as love. This affectionate relationship suffered in the last year of my mother’s life, in part due to her declining health, but also due to Emily’s self-censorship—she could not reveal to my mother the secrets she examined daily in her journals.
In the same year that Rick had doubled-down on his resolve to remain true to his Church’s teachings, Emily was invited to perform at the Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival. This was a huge breakthrough for her as a choreographer, a chance to dance before large audiences and meet the best performers in her field. She liked to choreograph opposing moods, and then arranged these moods into movements. This was both simple and pleasing to audiences; a contest between clearly defined opposites – good and evil, love and loss, trial and testing – a pattern used since epic stories from the past. But who, or what, could have been the antagonist to take down her good marriage? Rick was neither a tyrant, nor stupid. He loved her and continued to love her—the loyalist in her corner, an honorable man who had become unbending in his new-found principles. She saw his good qualities, and she loved him, too. But months into his abstinence regimen, willy-nilly, she found herself attracted to me, then a seventeen-year-old boy.
In her journals—the journals she had refused to show me—she questioned her emotions, her abilities and talents, her lack of formal schooling and her wayward mind. Her doubts ran so deep that this beautiful woman decided she was no longer attractive.
I wouldn’t understand the depth of her questioning and the complexity of her emotional life for another twenty years. By that time I had become a successful director. When she came to the opening night of one of my productions, her eyes, a lustrous blue, were as vivid as ever. She was as trim as when I had last seen her, and her hair remained thick and rich and auburn dark. She had read in The New York Times about the Seattle theater scene and my recent appointment as Artistic Director. The reporter had noted that my first love wasn’t directing but writing plays, but I had not staged my own work because Maya, the play I’d written in my youth about a secret love affair, had blocked me. I knew very little about sexual life in any form when I was young—let alone the rich and capacious ways of adult love. I groped around in the shadows of desire. My inability to complete Maya blocked every successive effort. Some elemental thing was missing from my makeup, and my failure prevented me from becoming a playwright.
The unfinished script was like a question waiting to be answered.
I had told the reporter that I had wanted to script a romance, a story with a happy ending, and I kept coming up with tragedy. He was amused, and made a joke about the melodrama of young lives. I didn’t tell him it was based on anyone remotely close to me in my life. But people make those assumptions, often accurately. I explained, too knowingly, too convinced of my own truth, and too full of creative pride and prejudice and deceit, that imagination always trumps autobiography.
But from afar Emily ignored my confident self-assessments and guessed the truth—I had been writing about her and couldn’t finish the work or advance as a playwright because she had refused to hand me the unedited version of her journals.
I was with a group of friends at intermission when she came over. Her beauty bowled me over and our love affair marched into the present. But the past, the past, our painful past…
My friends were baffled by my uneasiness. They didn’t know that she’d left me, and that for years I’d searched for her. I now introduced her as “my friend” and we chatted amiably about the awful rainy Seattle weather, when suddenly she retrieved a box she’d brought but had kept out of sight in a Macy’s shopping bag. “Maybe you can make something out of these journals?” she asked. I took the box, a handful of writings recording her intimate life. She turned to leave.
“Wait, please wait,” I said.
She hesitated, and I expected she’d wait. My friends were a boisterous bunch, and more of them joined us. I held up a hand to indicate to Emily that I could visit privately with her if only she could stay. I motioned for her to follow me as we headed for the open bar, but she smiled and said no.
There were so many aspects to her. She was a woman and a child; she was a tomboy and very sexual. A girl who loved fantasy, a woman with talent, and a child who couldn’t give up her ideals. She was good to me, and guided my coming-of-age. She believed she was bad. I had missed her all these years.
I drank only half of a glass, the minimum I could get away with without offending my friends, and then I went looking for her. I asked several ushers for help. “Auburn hair, beautiful”—but my words were useless among so many beautiful women attending that night. I went up and down several aisles searching for her, until the lights dimmed and I had to accept the inevitable—she had left at intermission, departing as abruptly as she had earlier.
The play that night won plenty of applause and I should have stayed to celebrate. Instead, I apologized to my friends (headache, post-performance tension) and skipped the celebratory late dinner. At home, I pounced on the box of journals with the ferocity of the ravenous. I had wanted her to love me. I had wanted her to stay with me. I wanted her. No matter how uncommunicative we’d been at that point in our lives, I felt we had a conspiracy going that was lost in the following days. I now held the journals I had always wanted. I was as excited as a trespasser might feel walking into someone’s private life, but something new had been added—I was once again a voyager exploring my own unexamined emotional life.
© 2013. All rights reserved. Excerpted from Morning Light, Rumor House Books. Used with permission.