This week’s Opening Lines showcases a brand new novel from Sam Binnie.
The Kindness Project.
Sit down for five minutes, put your feet up, and dive on in…
Step 1. Help the baker’s ex-wife
Step 2. Find the true calling of the village shop owner
Step 3. Call a truce on a decades-old feud
Step 4. Forgive me . . . ?
The locals of the Cornish village of Polperran are grieving the sudden loss of Bea Kimbrel, a cornerstone of their small community.
Now her reclusive, estranged daughter Alice has turned up, keen to tie up Bea’s affairs and move on.
But Alice receives a strange bequest from Bea – a collection of unfinished tasks to help out those in Polperran most in need.
As each little act brings her closer to understanding her mother, it also begins to offer Alice the courage to open her clamped-shut heart. Perhaps Bea’s project will finally unlock the powerful secrets both women have been keeping . . .
THE KINDNESS PROJECT will draw you deep into the lives of two compelling women who should never have missed their chance to say goodbye. It will break your heart – and piece it back together again . . .
FIRST 500 WORDS
She sits at the kitchen table, a table worn smooth with years of teacups and plates of biscuits, balls of wool, tears and paint and linseed oil and birthday cakes.
Her pen is poised over the note-paper, but she takes a moment to put the pen down and flex her fingers – writing for even this long has made her hands tired – before taking it up again and finishing her note.
She pauses for a moment, looking at what she has written, then signs off,
Forever, always, and above all,
Your mother x x x
She folds up the paper, slides it into an envelope, addresses it and adds it to the small pile. Small, but more there than she’ d dared hope, and she looks at them with a smile. It’s time now, she thinks.
The sky has got bigger on this journey, Alice thought to her- self with purposeful calm.
From the muddy skies of Cambridge in the last days of April, all cranes and yellow spires and corners of grey light, the train had carried her away from office blocks and read- ing schedules and into huge, blooming landscapes of hills and clouds.
‘Next stop, Polperran,’ called the guard at the end of the carriage. ‘Polperran, laaast stop.’
I didn’t even know they still had guards, she thought again, in the same rigidly bright internal voice. Anything to keep herself distracted on the journey.
It was one Alice had taken every year through her child- hood and twenties, bagging up her books and clothes to travel down to Bea on her annual visit to the tiny fishing village. She had never consciously intended it to be only once a year; as a child, other friends spent summers in Cornwall with their parents and siblings, revelling in the sun and sea air, and as an adult Alice knew her colleagues would love the idea of a coastal bolt-hole, but of course that bolt-hole was owned by Alice’s mother, and between one thing and another through her thirties the trips had become further and further apart, more than a year, eighteen months,
the gap growing each time, and the phone calls had become more sporadic, shorter, with Alice always snipping short each call, massaging her temples and thinking afterwards, Next week, I’ ll speak to her properly next week. But next week never came, then it had been almost seven years since Alice had last visited Bea in Polperran.
Bea had been the most beautiful person little Alice had ever seen. She sported bright, wild clothes and occasional dashes of blue-green eyeliner, and sometimes when Alice brought a friend home Bea would have made a huge multi- coloured jelly just because it was a Tuesday. She let Alice wear whatever she wanted to birthday parties, offering her feathered hats and silk scarves and nail polishes and pixie boots with socks stuffed in the toes to fit her. Alice had always just worn her own clothes, though…
Sam Binnie has written for the Guardian, Vice magazine, and Google’s Creative Lab, among others, and was the 2005 winner of the Harper’s/Orange Prize Short Story Competition. The Kindness Project is her fourth novel.
She swims year-round in her local river, and makes the best pink grapefruit cake you’ll ever eat.
Read more at www.sambinnie.com