Friday, September 22, 2017

When We Were Worthy by Marybeth Mayhew Whalen ~ Excerpt & Giveaway

A win brought them together, but loss may tear them apart.

When the sound of sirens cuts through a cool fall night, the small town of Worthy, Georgia, hurtles from triumph to tragedy. Just hours before, they’d watched the Wildcats score a winning touchdown. Now, they’re faced with the deaths of three cheerleaders—their promising lives cut short in a fatal crash. And the boy in the other car—the only one to survive—is believed to be at fault. As rumors begin to fly and accusations spin, allegiances form and long-kept secrets emerge.

At the center of the whirlwind are four women, each grappling with loss, regret, shame, and lies: Marglyn, a grieving mother; Darcy, whose son had been behind the wheel; Ava, a substitute teacher with a scandalous secret; and Leah, a cheerleader who should have been in the car with her friends, but wasn’t. If the truth comes out, will it bring redemption—or will it be their downfall?

The Girls
One thing everyone agreed on—it was the perfect night for football. There was a nip in the air—just enough to need a sweatshirt—and it smelled of popcorn and moldering leaves, was filled with the sounds of thundering cleats and the band’s instruments mingling with the screams of excited fans, carrying as far out as the interstate, so that even peo­ple passing through caught a bit of our excitement. “Our boys really showed up tonight,” we all said.
We were Worthy, a town and a team. The town was small, just 4,162 souls calling it home. And we knew just about all of them in one way or another. Small as the town was, we had at least one of every kind of church, and it didn’t matter whether you were a good person or a straight-up heathen; you showed up in one of them on Sunday morn­ing. If you didn’t, we would talk about you.
Our few restaurants were passable but none of them especially good. Folks liked Chessman’s for their fried chicken and barbecue plates. Tomasina’s had decent pizza (so long as you’d never had really good pizza somewhere else and didn’t know the difference). And of course there was the Subway and the Hardee’s if we wanted fast food. There was also Stooges Pool Hall and Bar, but we weren’t supposed to Marybeth Mayhew Whalen go out there, even though it was rumored that they served people under twenty-one. We knew if we even tried it, we’d get spotted by someone who’d tell our parents.
We had some stores—a Dollar General, a Rite Aid, an Ace Hardware, and Trout’s Market, the town grocery store where we were sure to run into someone we knew, so we never went there if we weren’t fixed up. (We always left Trout’s with instructions to tell someone in our families that someone else said “hey.”) But that was pretty much it for shopping, unless you counted Maxine’s Finery, a place our mamas always wanted to take us because that was where they used to get their dresses when they were our age. But we preferred to go to Macon or, better yet, Atlanta for our clothes.
We had a swim club that practically everyone we knew was a mem­ber of. In the summer we went up there all the time to tan and swim and see our friends. There was a lake just outside town with a public beach, so sometimes we went there just to do something different. Once, late on a summer’s night, we even skinny-dipped in that lake, shrieking and laughing as we slicked off our clothes and leaped into the dark water.
But it wasn’t summer anymore. It was fall. And fall meant football in Worthy.
Once football season started, we were more the team than the town. And that season we were the team to beat in Bibb County. We had Webb Hart and Ian Stone and Seth Bishop as starters. It was Coach William “Fig” Newton’s last year (after a Georgia record of 470 wins and counting) as head coach of the Worthy Wildcats. We were halfway through another winning season that promised to last all the way to the state championship. That night brought another victory: 28 to 7 against the Central Chargers.
At halftime they escorted Diane Riggle out onto the field, the only girl ever in the history of Worthy to go on to become Miss Georgia. Though that’d been five years ago, people never got tired of it, still proud though she didn’t even place in Miss America. They kept up the billboard on the road that led out to the lake, a gigantic Diane Riggle looking down on us as we drove by, wearing her Miss Georgia crown, her face growing more and more bleached by the sun with each passing year.
“We grow ’em pretty in Worthy,” the boys said that night, elbowing one another and gesturing from Diane to us on the sidelines, where we were holding our pom-poms and waiting patiently for Diane to get off the field so we could get back on it. We thought she looked like she’d gained weight.
After the game we had a party to get to, so we all went to Mary Claire’s to get ready. Her mom was out with that weird girl, taking on a cause like Mary Claire’s mom was always doing. “What can I say?” MC said, pulling the curling iron from her long hair to reveal a flawless blonde loop de loop. “She’s already created the perfect daughter, so she needs a new project.” MC rolled her eyes and laughed. “And this one is definitely a fixer-upper.”
We laughed along with her, but we heard the note of hurt in her voice. Her mom had missed the game to take the strange girl—we called her the Runaway because of how Mary Claire’s mom got mixed up with her—shopping in Macon.
Not one to dwell on depressing topics, Mary Claire cranked up “Style” by T. Swift and we all joined in, singing at the top of our lungs and laughing at Brynne’s earnest attempt to sound like the singer. Brynne couldn’t carry a tune in a bucket, but she thought she could. Though Keary went along with everything that night, she was kind of quiet, like she had something on her mind, something she wouldn’t talk about no matter how much we tried to get it out of her. Her cheers had been flat in the second half, her jumps lacking any spring, her voice not nearly as peppy as it normally was. Whatever she had on her mind, we had a feeling it was good stuff. Stuff we planned to get out of her. But there was time for that, we believed.
We’d talked Keary into being DD, even though she only had her permit. “You’ll be with two other licensed drivers,” Mary Claire assured her. “It’ll be fine.” And because Keary was a sophomore and just honored to be part of the night—part of our group—of course she said sure, yeah, she’d do it. But Keary was nervous about it, and she wished Leah hadn’t bailed on us to do whatever it was Brynne had put her up to. Leah would’ve made a better DD. She was so conscientious, so certain, so good. We all felt Leah’s absence that night in one way or another, but when Brynne said she had something more important to do, we didn’t argue.
And so we got ready for the party without Leah. We curled our hair and did one another’s makeup and took ten times longer to do everything because we had to stop and dance, like, every five seconds. We danced to Luke Bryan and Taylor Swift and BeyoncĂ© and once even Hank Williams Jr., and of course Mary Claire had to play “Can’t Touch This” by MC Hammer because “MC Hammer” was her dad’s nickname for her. When her dad heard it, he came busting in the room from wherever he’d been keeping himself and did some dance that we guessed was from the eighties. We laughed our asses off and MC about died of embarrassment. But we assured her that our dads were just as embarrassing. Her dad saw the beer cans but didn’t say anything because MC promised him we had a DD and it would all be fine.
“I thought we were busted for sure,” said Brynne after he left.
“My dad’s cool about that stuff,” said Mary Claire. “Now my mom, on the other hand . . .” She shook her head and buried the beer cans in a grocery sack to hide the evidence. “Let’s just say we’d be locked in this room for the rest of the night.”
Later, we would think back to that moment, to how things could’ve gone so differently, to how easily we could’ve been prevented from load­ing into Mary Claire’s Civic with Keary behind the wheel and Adele on the radio. Sometimes we like to think we are still in that room, all of us happy, all of us young, all of us excited for the night ahead, anticipat­ing what it would hold. Never once thinking it could hold tragedy. We imagine that night just keeps going on forever, and we guess that, in some ways, it does.

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  1. I like the cover. It would make me pick up the book to see what it's about. Book sounds like an awesome read.

  2. I like the cover, it looks like something I would enjoy.

  3. If I saw this cover in the bookstore, I probably would not pick it up to see what it's about. However, after reading the summary and your review, I think I'd really like it.

  4. This cover is perfect for the story.