A Measure of Happiness
Published by: Kensington Books
Release Date: August 25, 2015
Katherine Lamontagne isn’t Celeste Barnes’s mother, but ever since Celeste graduated high school and her parents abandoned Hidden Harbor, Maine, she’s acted the part. At twenty-two, Celeste worked at Katherine’s bakery, and hoped to buy the business once Katherine took early retirement. But when Katherine reconsidered that decision, Celeste fled to culinary school in New York—only to return two months later, a shadow of the girl who’d stormed out the door.
Katherine knows the signs of secret heartbreak. Years ago, she gave up her baby son for adoption—a regret she’s never shared with either her ex-husband or Celeste. She longs for Celeste to confide in her now. But it will be a stranger in town—an engaging young wanderer named Zach Fitzgerald—who spurs them toward healing. As both women are drawn into Zach’s questioning heart, they also rediscover their own appetites for truth and for love—and gain the courage to face the past without being imprisoned by it.
Uplifting, emotionally rich, and deeply satisfying, A Measure of Happiness illuminates the nature of friendship, motherhood, hope—and the gifts of second chances.Add on Goodreads
International Book Awards Winner
NH Literary Awards Finalist
National Indie Excellence Awards Finalist
“Love in All Forms: Women’s Fiction Best Bets for August 2015,” Heroes and Heartbreakers
“7 Book Club Reads to Share with Your Girlfriends,” BuzzFeed
“Happy Reading: Six Novels That Will Make You Feel Better About Life,” She Reads
“In this absorbing, deeply emotional novel about family secrets, Lorrie Thomson shows us how love can sometimes feel like an obsession, how insults can slice beneath your skin and how impossible it is to keep your children safe from heartbreak. It’s a breathless roller coaster of a book in the best sense. Page by lyric page, Thomson’s characters unveil their darkest truths, demonstrating that having the courage to open our hearts to love is the true measure of happiness.”
—Holly Robinson, author of Beach Plum Island and Haven Lake
“Thomson’s ‘A Measure of Happiness’ is about many things – finding home, facing fears, and making choices among them. But more than anything, it’s the book you’ll reach for when you want to recall that perfect love can still be found in an imperfect world.”
—Therese Walsh, author of The Moon Sisters and The Last Will of Moira Leahy
“Don’t let the bakery setting fool you; this is no cozy mystery. The issues raised are gritty…Despite the grit, the book is sensual and sexy, full of aromas, flavors and flirtation.”
—Suzanne DeWitt Hall, Merrimack Valley Magazine
“The author does a great job of melding the past with the present. Each character is flawed in his or her own way, but the beauty of this novel lies in each character confronting and embracing those flaws. This novel directly tackles the themes of forgiveness, confrontation and transformation. The dialogue was engaging.”
—B. Nakia Garner, RT Book Reviews, 4 Stars
“Ultimately A Measure of Happiness is a book about guilt, secrets, family and love…This was the second book by Lorrie Thomson for me and I can say that she knows how to write about family drama. I enjoyed every minute of it. I do have a little warning for anyone planning on picking up this book. Eat before you start it because with all of the bakery talk you will most definitely get hungry!”
—Kristine, Twin Spin
“I love all of the great characters who make up this small part of the Hidden Harbor community. They are all a bit flawed, but then who isn’t? It’s learning to get past those flaws and accept themselves and each other for what they are that will bring them true happiness. A Measure of Happiness is a wonderful story about relationships, love, acceptance, honesty, and forgiveness. This is exactly the kind of story that I love to get lost in.”
—Susan Schleichner, The Book Bag
“A story equally heartwarming and emotional, A Measure of Happiness is what amazing stories are made of. It’s a story about life choices, family, facing your fears and searching for things missing in one’s life…Full of relatable characters, a storyline so powerful that it will grab hold of you from the first page, and so much emotion that it oozes off the pages, A Measure of Happiness is a must read for all.”
—Marlene Engel, Book Mama Blog
“As with each of the books by Lorrie Thomson, A Measure of Happiness took my breath away and wrenched at my heart strings…I can’t get the characters out of my head and I feel like they are real…The journey through the story always feels like a learning experience for me — I learn something about people and myself with each book. I will happily read anything that Lorrie Thomson writes and indulge myself by savoring every page.”
—Landi, The Book Geek
“I was completely charmed by Lorrie Thomson’s latest novel, A Measure of Happiness…This fast paced and genuinely warm and loving story features a cast of quirky and interesting characters, a delicious setting of a beloved bakery, and three separate but related tales that intertwine with each other and leads to a hard-won but satisfying ending. Lorrie Thomson’s storytelling skills are on point with her third novel and I look forward to reading more of her work in the future – this is an author to watch for!”
—Sharon Galligar Chance, Sharon’s Garden of Book Reviews
“There is so much about this story that was just wonderful…Peace is made, questions answered and secrets revealed. This is a wonderful story about love, forgiveness and strength. I look forward to more from this author.”
—Sara, Harlequin Junkie
“At the heart of the story is Katherine and Celeste’s relationship with each other…Be prepared for heart-to-heart moments which require tissues (and possibly cake)…as they open up to each other, which lets them prepare for a new, much happier future.
—Nayu, Nayu’s Reading Corner, 10E/10E
“Slide” and “Iris” Goo Goo Dolls. Celeste and Zach connect over their shared affection for the Goo Goo Dolls. In the words of Celeste: “Rock on, baby.”
“Free Bird” Lynyrd Skynyrd. The song plays during a pivotal moment in Katherine’s past when she connects with another free bird and changes her life forever.
“Honesty” Billy Joel. A pivotal moment for Celeste. According to the song, “honesty” is such a lonely word—something Celeste belatedly discovers.
“Monday, Monday” The Mamas and the Papas. Here Katherine is thinking about the lack of guarantees and all she has to lose.
“Drive My Car” The Beatles. When distress renders Celeste speechless, she connects with Zach through music.
“Don’t Dream It’s Over” Crowded House. I don’t want to give anything away, but I promise you’ll enjoy discovering the story connection.
“I Would Die 4 U” Prince. Ditto! (Not included on the YouTube playlist.)
The end of the world came with a soundtrack.
At four o’clock in the morning, Katherine Lamontagne drove through the darkened streets of Hidden Harbor, Maine and angled into her spot in front of Lamontagne’s Bakery, her pride and joy. She filled her lungs with the familiar sweet brine of the ocean, the scent of hard-earned serenity.
The first smoky hint of changing leaves singed the air. Along Ocean Boulevard, the summer’s maple leaves gave way to reveal underlying bursts of warm gold and orange, evidencing the vacation town’s reluctant slide into autumn. On the radio, the DJ’s voice droned on about the upcoming Y2K, and the associated crash of every single computer in the country, as though no one had thought to prepare for a future beyond 1999. In case anyone missed the DJ’s dire hyperbole, REM’s “It’s the End of the World as We Know It (And I Feel Fine)” intoned in the background, driving home the point.
Katherine cut the engine, but the song still hummed through her brain like an auditory afterimage of doom. She leaned across the passenger seat and rolled up the window, savoring the stretch, the elongation of her spine. She flexed her fingers. Then she fashioned her long, dark hair into a work-ready chignon, slid her purse onto her shoulder, and stepped into the darkness.
When she passed beneath the streetlight’s soft umbrella of light, an involuntary shiver contracted her shoulders, raising tiny hairs on the back of her neck. She furrowed her brow and glanced in either direction down the empty sidewalk. Silly-me grin on her face, she gave her head a clearing shake and turned her key in the lock. Above Lamontagne’s door, the bell jingled its welcome. One hand clasping the door handle, she angled inside the bakery and switched on the lights.
She blinked once, twice. But her sight refused to clear.
Her pinewood tables and chairs lay on their sides, as though an early autumn storm had gathered strength at sea and unleashed its torrent across her café. Beneath the unforgiving lights, shards of jagged glass and hills of sugar glistened and glowed–all that remained of her sugar dispensers. Scattered napkins ringed the floor in front of the coffee station. Gray sneaker tread footprints stomped across their white perfection. Swirls and jabs of spray paint blackened her pale-blue walls and snaked across one of her canary-yellow booth seats, the design as chaotic as her childhood. Trick of memory, in her smoke-free bread- and pastry-redolent café, her father’s stale cigarette smoke narrowed her breathing passages. The corners of her eyes stung.
Who would do this to her? Why? What had she done wrong?
Katherine’s hand shook the door. The jingle bell dinged, like the wail of a burglar alarm. She pried her fingers from the door handle and wrestled the key from the lock.
For twenty-five years, she’d awakened the citizens of Hidden Harbor with their first cups of freshly brewed coffee. She’d nourished them with daily breads. She’d sweetened their birthdays, anniversaries, weddings, and graduations with made-to-order cakes. Golden yellow or French vanilla? German chocolate or Devil’s food? Their preferences she knew by heart. Their life events marked her calendar. Their voices she recognized on the phone. Everything in her adult life, good and bad, had started at this bakery. Everything she’d loved and lost. Everything she still hoped to recover.
What if she’d come in early again, determined to wow Katherine with a new recipe? What if Celeste had interrupted the vandal? What if the intruder had found her first? Katherine tried taking a breath, but the inhalation caught in her throat. And an off-beat pulse hammered from within her gut.
“Celeste!” Katherine’s voice echoed in her ears half a second before rational thought returned. Dear, sweet, infuriating Celeste had left her employ weeks ago, gone to culinary school in New York to rid herself of Hidden Harbor, Lamontagne’s, and Katherine.
Thank God Celeste wasn’t here to witness this disaster. Then why did Katherine wish she were?
Don’t panic, don’t panic, don’t panic.
Exactly what you told yourself when you were clearly panicking.
Katherine chewed the inside of her cheek. Her ragged breath sounded in her ears. She tiptoed through the debris. Glass crunched beneath her clogs and ground into the treads. Balled-up napkins covered the coffee station counter, as though a child had pitched a cookie tantrum. Strawberry goo smeared across her check-out counter. A handful of PB&J cookies lay in a crumpled heap, sans the jelly. The trays of leftover black-and-white, M&M, and sugar cookies were empty.
She didn’t give a damn about the pastries.
The register sat open and empty, exactly as she’d left it at closing time. Every night, she counted out one hundred and fifty dollars for her register bag. Profits too late for a bank run went into a larger zipped pouch. She secured both bags in the back in her combination safe.
She didn’t give a damn about the money.
In the kitchen, Katherine hit the light switch. The overhead fluorescents flickered to life, illuminating her clean work tables, her shining stainless steel sinks. Katherine nodded at her ancient Blodgett oven, the kitchen’s workhorse. While waiting for her bread dough to rise, she could bake forty-eight pies in the faithful machine, a dozen per rack. Oven trouble meant bakery trouble.
At the moment, Katherine didn’t give a damn about the Blodgett.
Katherine tiptoed across her clean floor and into her stockroom. Proof boxes. Rolling ladder and wheeled bins of flour, oats, nuts, and dried fruit. The top shelf displayed a row of mason jars filled with specialty flours. The chest freezer hummed against the left-hand wall. On the right, a paisley skirt hung beneath a narrow marble work counter.
Katherine dropped to her knees and lifted the skirt.
The combination safe was locked. Crazy, irrational, but she had to know for sure. Her palms pulsed with perspiration, and her fingers slid on the wheel. She spun the lock to the right, missed the first number, took a steadying breath, and began anew. Three tries later, the dead bolts gave, and she swung the door on its hinges. She pushed aside the register bag, heavy with change. Her earnings pouch? Okay, she cared a little. She checked the bills against the tally sheet. All there. The stack of singles she kept separate from the two bags would’ve done little to tip a scale, but they weighed heavy on her heart.
At the far end of the safe, a plain white dishcloth secreted her prized possessions. She held the cloth to her nose, inhaled. Her fingers twitched, her cheeks heated, her heart hurt. Time hadn’t dulled the power of memory.
“I’m sorry,” she said, the same apology she’d offered her ex-husband when she’d failed to provide him with a good-enough reason for wanting a divorce. The empty words that failed to salve Celeste’s rage. The brokenhearted send-off for the one person incapable of questioning Katherine’s motives.
She unfolded the dishcloth and ran her fingers across the hospital bracelets she kept as reminders, touchstones of all she’d lost.