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Rope & Bone

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Cover image of the novel Rope & Bone

Rope & Bone
is Book 1 of a trilogy.

Rope & Bone’s thirty-four stories span the years from 1946 to 1993 and act as a kind of prequel to Books 2 and 3. These stories are told in the voices of all of the members of both families: the Merricks and the Morlettis. They all get a chance to give their “take” on their formative years.

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Published by Illume Publications.

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Excerpt from Rope & Bone


The novel opens in 1984 on Chicken Farm Road when Del Merrick, an art teacher living without plumbing or electricity, enlists help in changing a flat tire from Carla Morletti, a member of the Pagan Biker’s auxiliary, now studying for her G.E.D. This chance connection between these two women will reroute their lives and the lives of their children.

The first section of the novel, “Wildest Dreams,” flashes back to pivotal moments in the past. Part 2, “Castanets,” tells of Carla and Del’s misadventures as they try to raise their kids, get their old cars started on subzero mornings, and put in enough wood to get through until April—at the same time they’re testing their theory: a good man’s hard to find. In Part 3, “Shelter,” Carla and Del’s friendship darkens as their children’s lives become more chaotic.

Rope & Bone is Book 1 of a trilogy. Book 2, Night Navigation, (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt 2009), focuses on Del and her son, Mark Merrick. Book 3, Doing Time Outside (Standing Stone Books 2013) turns back toward the Morlettis: Carla and her daughter and son, Tess and Rudy. Each of the novels is written to stand alone.



The two women looked at each other through the glass. Both wary.

“Oh, it’s you,” Carla said as she opened the door, “the lady who lives in the log cabin without plumbing or electricity.” Not a Jehovah’s Witness. Not someone from social services.

“Sorry to bother you at dinner time,” Del said, still breathless from the fast walk.

Carla stepped back and motioned Del inside. “For a minute, I thought you were God.”

Del hesitated. The woman must be on something.

Carla opened the door further. “Come on in by the stove. I’ve always wondered about you, how you wash all that long hair without indoor plumbing for one thing. We call you Mystery Lady 2. What we really wonder is why you or the first lady ...”

“Sally—the woman I’m renting the cabin from ...”

“... would want to go out in your yard to pump your water, use kerosene lamps? We used to think the lady—the woman you’re renting from—might be one of the sixties radicals. You know: living there off the grid because she was undercover, but when you, a respectable school teacher, moved in, we figured we were wrong about that.”


Del followed the woman back through the dark hallway into the warm kitchen.

“Oh,” Del said, stopping in the doorway, surprised by a hair curler that floated in the air a few feet over the sink, two pink plastic prongs stabbed through the bristles and wire. Her scalp winced with the memory. A few inches above the curler hovered a carved bird—a swallow, its dark, burnished wings banked for a dive. Then she saw they were fastened to long strings attached to the beam. She gave the delicate branched tail of the bird a small push; she couldn’t resist. The swallow’s shadow glided across the back wall.

“How lovely,” Del said, reaching up again to run her finger along the gleaming wing.

“Yeah,” the woman said and then switched her finger back and forth, indicating the two objects floating above her head. “This and that. Something I’ve been thinking about.”

Del waited for more words that would give some clue as to what on earth she meant, but instead the woman smiled and said, “I’m Carla. Carla Morletti.”

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