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Pacific Avenue [Kindle Edition]

Anne L. Watson
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (180 customer reviews)

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Book Description

*****#1 AMAZON.COM BESTSELLER IN LITERARY FICTION (MAY 2013)****
 
Where do you go from the end of the line? This is the question facing Kathy Woodbridge as she steps off the bus in the port city of San Pedro, California. Nineteen years old, from Louisiana, she is running away from her past. There's a lot to run away from.
 
What do you do when there's no one to do for? That's what Lacey Greer wants to know, with her only child off at college. When Kathy gets a job at the office where Lacey works, she can tell that Kathy's in trouble. Lacey's husband advises her to stay out of it -- but what's she supposed to do, buy a rocking chair?
 
Set in San Pedro, Baton Rouge, and New Orleans in the early seventies, Pacific Avenue explores themes of love, belonging, helpfulness, hope, forgiveness, reconciliation, interracial marriage, and healing from the trauma of war. At the end of the line, will Kathy find a way to return home?
 
/////////////////////////////////////////////////
 
Anne L. Watson, a retired historic preservation architecture consultant, is the author of several novels, plus books on such diverse subjects as soapmaking and baking with cookie molds. Anne has lived at various times in New Orleans, Baton Rouge, and San Pedro, California, the settings of "Pacific Avenue." She currently lives in Friday Harbor, Washington, in the San Juan Islands, with her husband and fellow author, Aaron Shepard, and their cat, Skeeter.
 
/////////////////////////////////////////////////
 
CHAPTER 1
 
I chose a window seat on the Greyhound, but I didn't look out. For almost the whole trip, I stared at the rough tan upholstery of the seat in front of me. It had a rip on one side and three dark stains.
 
A woman settled into the aisle seat. She raised her footrest, but it clunked back down. When I glanced her way, she caught my eye and smiled.
"How do you make these things stay put?" she asked.
 
I meant to answer -- the words were lined up in my mind. But before I could say them, they slipped apart like beads when the string breaks. I gave up and studied the seat cover again. Still tan, still ripped, still stained. The next time I looked, the woman was gone.
 
Evening came, but I didn't use my reading light. Late at night, awake in the breathing dark, I imagined running my fingers over the seat back, erasing the stains, mending the seam. In the morning, I almost believed I could fix it. So, I took care not to touch it, not to find out for sure.
 
In the afternoon, the bus left the freeway and crept through downtown traffic. I turned then, and peered through the mud-spattered window. As far as I could see, Los Angeles was a city of warehouses. I sank back into my seat.
 
When we reached the station, I claimed my suitcase and dragged it through the waiting room to the street. Outside I found blank walls and empty sidewalks. No direction and no one to ask.
 
Well, I ran away from college, then from New Orleans, and then Baton Rouge. Is it too soon to run away from here?
 
The traffic light at the end of the block turned green, and cars passed me by. When a city bus stopped and opened its doors, I climbed on. I couldn't think what else to do.
 
I paid the fare and took a seat near the front. Even though I pulled my suitcase aside, it poked out into the aisle. More people piled on at every stop, and all of them had to squeeze past it. I expected everyone to glare, but nobody gave me a second glance.
 
The bus started, stopped, started again. We passed through neighborhoods with trees and shops. The crowd thinned as passengers got off, going home. Should I get off too? No, not here. Where? Next stop, no, the one after. No, not that one. Every stop would be a whole different life, a different second chance.
 
Choose, choose. I couldn't. I rode till the bus pulled over and parked.
 
"Seventh and Pacific, San Pedro, Port of Los Angeles," called the bus driver. He turned to me and added, "End of the line,


Editorial Reviews

From the Author

  
CHAPTER 1
 
I chose a window seat on the Greyhound, but I didn't look out. For almost the whole trip, I stared at the rough tan upholstery of the seat in front of me. It had a rip on one side and three dark stains. 
 
A woman settled into the aisle seat. She raised her footrest, but it clunked back down. When I glanced her way, she caught my eye and smiled.
"How do you make these things stay put?" she asked.
 
I meant to answer -- the words were lined up in my mind. But before I could say them, they slipped apart like beads when the string breaks. I gave up and studied the seat cover again. Still tan, still ripped, still stained. The next time I looked, the woman was gone.
 
Evening came, but I didn't use my reading light. Late at night, awake in the breathing dark, I imagined running my fingers over the seat back, erasing the stains, mending the seam. In the morning, I almost believed I could fix it. So, I took care not to touch it, not to find out for sure.
 
In the afternoon, the bus left the freeway and crept through downtown traffic. I turned then, and peered through the mud-spattered window. As far as I could see, Los Angeles was a city of warehouses. I sank back into my seat.
 
When we reached the station, I claimed my suitcase and dragged it through the waiting room to the street. Outside I found blank walls and empty sidewalks. No direction and no one to ask. 
 
Well, I ran away from college, then from New Orleans, and then Baton Rouge. Is it too soon to run away from here?
 
The traffic light at the end of the block turned green, and cars passed me by. When a city bus stopped and opened its doors, I climbed on. I couldn't think what else to do. 
 
I paid the fare and took a seat near the front. Even though I pulled my suitcase aside, it poked out into the aisle. More people piled on at every stop, and all of them had to squeeze past it. I expected everyone to glare, but nobody gave me a second glance. 
 
The bus started, stopped, started again. We passed through neighborhoods with trees and shops. The crowd thinned as passengers got off, going home. Should I get off too? No, not here. Where? Next stop, no, the one after. No, not that one. Every stop would be a whole different life, a different second chance. 
 
Choose, choose. I couldn't. I rode till the bus pulled over and parked. 
 
"Seventh and Pacific, San Pedro, Port of Los Angeles," called the bus driver. He turned to me and added, "End of the line, Miss."
 
/////////////////////////////////////////////////
 
A NOTE FROM ANNE
 
I began "Pacific Avenue" with a greater sense of place than of characters. I put my main character, Kathy, into the gritty world of Pacific Avenue in San Pedro, California, a place I knew well. To my surprise, she began to walk around, think for herself, and talk back to me.
 
She brought up long-forgotten pictures of my years in New Orleans as well. Of men who came back from Vietnam, with their unimaginable memories. Of families struggling with the war, and with racial justice. Kathy is a young woman who "lives in interesting times," as the saying goes.
 
So, "Pacific Avenue" grew out of my love of these two places -- San Pedro and New Orleans -- and out of memories of the turbulent late '60s and early '70s. But it is not simply a political novel. It is a story of personal lives, loves, and coming of age.
 
It's also a story of an artist's development: Kathy becomes a puppeteer, and the puppets' stories are added to her own. Years before I wrote the book, I was a puppeteer myself. When my husband suggested I include this experience in the book, I knew it was exactly what the story needed.
 
Though it deals with serious issues, this is not a novel of despair. Instead, it weaves together love, loss, altruism, and forgiveness. I see it as a story of hope.
 
/////////////////////////////////////////////////
 
NOVELS BY ANNE L. WATSON
 
SKEETER: A CAT TALE. When a stray kitten romps into Lynne's life, she has no idea what she's getting into. As Lynne describes in letters to her friend Angie, Skeeter is all cat -- high-spirited, contrary, inventive, and so goofy that he reminds Lynne of her own nuttiest escapades. No one who meets Skeeter will ever be quite the same again.
 
PACIFIC AVENUE. When young Kathy Woodbridge steps off the bus in San Pedro, California, she is running away from her past in Louisiana -- a past burdened by family tragedy and the imprisonment of the man she has loved. Soon she meets Lacey Greer, who can sense the young woman is deeply troubled. But before Lacey can help, she must uncover just what Kathy is running from.
 
JOY. In the Oakland, California, of 1989, Mirai San Julian is a young woman with a fascinating life and a rich past. She restores historic carousels -- her dream career -- working from her own studio in a former roller skating rink. But why is everything suddenly falling apart? Mirai knows how to restore a carousel, but can she restore relationships with those she loves? 
 
FLIGHT (Young Adult). Linda Farley of San Diego is now living as Lainie Foster with her mother and brother in Olympia, Washington, under rules she's been given for being in the Witness Protection Program. But questions confront her at every turn. How could her loving father get involved in a Mafia money laundering scheme? Why is her mother so familiar with their new city? And who is that dark-haired woman she keeps spotting in front of the house?
 

Product Details

  • File Size: 742 KB
  • Print Length: 330 pages
  • Publisher: Shepard & Piper (January 7, 2009)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B004I1KRV4
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
  • Lending: Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #168,063 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
70 of 74 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars `The good things hurt worse than the bad.' March 17, 2008
Format:Paperback
This is a novel that combines elements of hope and happiness with tragedy and triumph, and ends up with that compromise known as reality.

Kathy, escaping a past that has brought her pain, meets Lacey while searching for a job. Lacey, needing to learn that the pattern of mothering changes as children reach adulthood, becomes concerned for Kathy and seeks to find out more about her past. By moving between past and present and sharing the narrative between Kathy and Lacey, we piece together Kathy's life and Lacey's challenge. The shifting points of view are handled deftly.

Ms Watson has taken some relatively common real life ingredients and combined them in a way that provides readers with a magnificent story. The writing is superb, the main characters are three dimensional, and very human. There is much to enjoy in this novel. Ms Watson has packed a world into less than 320 pages.

I am looking forward to reading other novels by Ms Watson.

Highly recommended.

Jennifer Cameron-Smith
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51 of 54 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Absolutely wonderful February 4, 2008
Format:Paperback
I was extremely surprised by the quality of the writing of Anne L. Watson. She delivered the complete package, a well-crafted plot, with proficiently developed characters, and the use of a writing style that has nothing to be jealous of the greats in the genre. The fact that I read this novel in one sitting, really speaks to how much I liked it and the kind of grip that the story gets on the reader. I have had this happen to me before with several mystery novels, but this was one of the few times I experienced it with literary fiction.

When Kathy arrives at San Pedro and rents a room in Pacific Avenue, she is at the bottom of a deep hole. A series of terrible events have affected her life and she is trying to find the strength to move forward and forge a new future. This is where she meets Lacey, a middle-aged woman that is going through a crisis herself, after her daughter left for college and "does not need her anymore". Kathy is the perfect pet project for Lacey, who does not need long to see that the youngster carries a heavy burden and is in desperate need of help. Thus, starts this novel, which alternates the narration in first person between these two complex and mesmerizing characters. The story also goes back and forth in time, between past and present, and as we learn more about Kathy's misfortune, we get drawn deeper and deeper into this wonderful novel.

There are several interesting topics intertwined in this story, such as interracial marriages, the effects of war, and infant death. The author treats these topics seriously and delves deep into how they affect the characters of her story.

I do not feel I exaggerate when I say that this is one of the best books I have read in the last few years. I am looking forward to discovering more works by this great author.
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39 of 44 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Nice Effort, Sad Story May 9, 2008
Format:Paperback
This book took me about a month to finish . . . I simply wasn't motivated to get to the end of the story, most likely because of the structure. The plot is predictable by design, and I found it very sad--neither uplifting nor particularly moving. The writing starts out strong, with great use of mood and description, but soon lapses into the annoying habit of relying on italicized internal dialog for the main character. She is a young woman named Kathy, who escapes her sad life in Louisiana, boards a bus for the unknown, and winds up in southern California. A second character, Lacey, (Kathy's co-worker at a construction company) has an occasional chapter, where she primarily obsesses over finding out more about Kathy, but this is very much Kathy's story and Lacey is tragically short-changed.

Kathy goes back in time from her arrival on "Pacific Avenue" in SoCal, to the years just prior and her complicated, young-adult life, her bi-racial relationship with a troubled Viet Nam vet named Richard, their child, Jamie, and her racist parents--particularly her hateful mother--and her relationship/s with a group known as the "Motleys," who put on puppet shows for a living. Skimming over anything to do with the puppets and the shows, I kept looking to the pages that moved the story forward and played out the details as to why she felt the need to escape.

Ultimately, one feels great sympathy for Kathy. She's innocent and likeable; however, that internal italicized dialog kept getting in the way. On each page I wanted to tell her to SPEAK UP! Unfortunately, this writing technique ruined (for me) an otherwise compelling tale of love and loss.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Interesting but somewhat depressing March 30, 2013
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
This book takes place in the seventy's and shows true to that time. A big part of the story takes place in New Orleans with several cultures, a Vietnam Vet, a young woman who just wants to be happy. She had fallen in love with a black man which had disappointed her family. Her problems just seem to get worse and worse as the book goes on.

I kept reading it in hopes that some joy would come to the main character. It never really did. Without giving away anything I found the book to be somewhat depressing. I guess this too was a sign of the time when the war was going on, racism was a big issue and sprinkle an "out of wedlock" pregnacy in the mix. You really have sympathy for the main character as she struggles to hold her family together and to just survive.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars great
good read, was a teen in this day and age
Published 27 days ago by Amazon Customer
4.0 out of 5 stars Four Stars
A new author for me. I found the story kept my interest and was well-written.
Published 1 month ago by BarbaraDBH56
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Great book will buy more by this author
Published 3 months ago by mudhead
4.0 out of 5 stars just a sad comment on how far some people can go to ...
This was an interesting study of a family torn by undercurrents, disappointments and in the case of the mother, just a sad comment on how far some people can go to destroy the... Read more
Published 3 months ago by Rita Ringle
3.0 out of 5 stars Light Read, Interesting Plot
Easy read, story with a moral. Written in a non-offensive way.
Published 3 months ago by Linda B
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
I thought it was beautifully written and it is a story from a different time.
Published 5 months ago by sara dennis
5.0 out of 5 stars A damn good read.
Very enjoyable.
Published 5 months ago by Niel T. Johnson
5.0 out of 5 stars Magical
I rarely cry after reading a book, but I did with this one. Full of real healing. If you are old enough to remember the 70s this will really resonate with you, and if not you'll... Read more
Published 5 months ago by Patricia McLaughlin
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Good mystery.
Published 6 months ago by Amazon Customer
4.0 out of 5 stars sweet read
I thoroughly enjoyed this tale and the way it entertained themes of family, true friendship, racism and the trauma of war. Read more
Published 6 months ago by wilbeksky
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More About the Author

Anne L. Watson is the author of a variety of works, including literary novels, soapmaking and lotionmaking manuals, and a cookie cookbook. She is also retired from a long and honored career as a historic preservation architecture consultant. Anne, her husband and fellow author, Aaron Shepard, and their cat, Skeeter, live in Friday Harbor, Washington.

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