Isabel's Daughter
By Judith Ryan Hendricks
Published by William Morrow
June 2003; 0-805-06648-9; 400 pages

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Isabel's Daughter by Judith Ryan HendricksChapter One

The first time I saw my mother was the night she died. The second time was at a party in Santa Fe.

Once in history class I made a time line. It was a thick, straight black line, intersected by crosshatches representing dates and events. The teacher claimed that you could tell by studying it how events were related to each other, the causes and effects.

The problem is, time isn't a straight line. I think of it more as a huge arc, curving gently into space, keeping not only the future just out of sight, but the past as well. You never really know what might have caused something to happen, and the effects ripple outward in ever widening circles.

Like losing my contact lens, for instance. I was supposed to be off this whole weekend, my last free weekend before the season gets crazy. And then Juana calls on Thursday to tell me Patrice stepped off a curb and broke her ankle and they need me to work a party Friday night.

"Pinnacle Gallery on Canyon Road," she says. "Lots of people. Big tips."

Friday morning she calls me again. "Hey, chica. Party is changed to DeGraf's house -- "

"The what house?"

 

"DeGraf. Mister DeGraf. You know San Tomás?"

As it happens, I do. It's one of those narrow, unpaved roads that winds south off Canyon Road. I've wandered past it lots of Sunday mornings, clutching my coffee from Downtown Subscription and peering in the gallery windows. One time I turned at the corner and walked a little ways, hoping for a glimpse of one of the huge homes behind adobe walls. I got chased by a Doberman for my curiosity, while the owner hollered, "Stand still, miss! He won't bite you."

I didn't trust him or his dog, so I ran like a jackrabbit back out to Canyon, fully expecting to feel the hot breath, the sharp teeth sinking into my leg at any minute. But when I looked around the dog was gone.

It's late April in Santa Fe, but at 7,000 feet, spring is slow to take hold. In the daytime, fierce winds blow out of the west, and the inside of your nose feels like it's lined with Cap'n Crunch. At night the air is sharp and cold, still laced with piñon smoke from hundreds of kiva fireplaces.

Tonight I'm racing the clock, and my breath makes little puffs of steam as I half walk, half jog down the narrow sidewalk. My white shirt's already damp under the arms, I know my tie is crooked, and my hair is about to come loose from its knot.

Worst of all, I'm late. Again. While we were getting ready, Rita knocked a bottle of perfume off the shelf and she tried to catch it before it hit the tile counter, but she just ended up knocking my contact lens off my finger into oblivion, and the bottle smashed all over anyway and then we started yelling at each other and here I am. It's not my fault, but I don't imagine Dale will give two hoots about that.

Then as I round a curve I see lights. Farolitos, those little brown paper bags with candles inside that people in this town love so much, line the top of a wall. Except these are probably the new version, electrolitos. Plus lots of little twinkle lights twined in the tree branches. This is it.

The address -- 505 San Tomás -- is spelled out in Mexican tiles over a massive blue door, set into a wall the color of chocolate ice cream. A couple of guys with clipboards and walkie-talkies lounge against the wall smoking and looking bored. I give them my name. Apparently Kirk has neglected to change Patrice's name to mine on his list, so they have to ring up Dale on his cell phone to be sure I'm not an international jewel thief, before they let me in.

"Kitchen door's around to the left past the pool," the older one says. "And stay on the path. Mr. DeGraf don't like people cutting through the garden." He flicks his cigarette away.

"Mr. DeGraf probably don't like cigarette butts all over his yard either." I smile at him as I step through the gate.

The house is a pueblo-style adobe, fashioned with the rounded corners and soft silhouettes of the Pueblo Indian dwellings, not the more boxy, territorial adobes like the Anglos built later on. It's a lighter shade of chocolate than the wall, with the traditional blue doors and windows that are supposed to keep out brujas, or witches. I follow the stone walkway past a huge old lilac bush, its branches drooping under the weight of fragrant purple clusters about to explode into bloom, and cut across the patio. A swimming pool sparkles aquamarine in its underwater lights.

The kitchen is in the usual preparty state of controlled chaos. It's small but elegant, with granite countertops and the kind of appliances favored by people who can afford to hire kitchen designers. When the screen door bangs behind me, Dale makes a big show of looking at his Rolex.

"Avery. So glad you could join us." His dark eyes give me a once-over. "Polished and pulled together as usual, I see." The guy standing beside him rustles a wrinkled yellow invoice. "Thanks, Tom. Put the wine over there. Under that table."

I try to secure my hair. "They didn't have my name on the -- "

"Jesus Christ, you reek. What did you do, take a bath in Opium?"

"Eternity. I'm sorry. Rita broke the bottle and it went everywhere, and I didn't have time to -- "

He gives me The Look. "Never mind. Fix your tie and run out to the -- shit! Where's your eyes?"

"My eyes are in my head, Dale. I lost my contact."

I notice the muscle in his jaw twitching. "Well, try not to look at anybody...


The foregoing is excerpted from Isabel's Daughter by Judith R. Hendricks. All rights reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced without written permission from HarperCollins Publishers, 10 East 53rd Street, New York, NY 10022
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Synopsis

From the author of Bread Alone comes an intimate tale of a woman -- given up at birth -- piecing together her mother's identity

After a childhood spent in an institution and a series of foster homes, Avery James has trained herself not to wonder about the mother who gave her up. But her safe, predictable life changes one night at a party in the home of a wealthy Santa Fe art dealer when she stumbles upon the portrait of a woman who is the mirror image of herself.

Avery has found her mother, Isabel Colinas, an artist who died eight years earlier in a tragic accident. Slowly but inevitably, she is compelled to discover all she can about the woman. Searching for Isabel -- in her work, in the stories of friends, rivals, and lovers, in Isabel's own journal, and in what's left of Querencia, the old miner's cabin that was her haven -- Avery is drawn into complex relationships with the people who knew her mother. And the unexpected reappearance of Will Cameron, the boy Avery loved in high school, further complicates matters. As she draws together the threads of her mother's artistic heritage, her grandmother's skills as a curandera, or healer, and her own talent for cooking, Avery learns that, while discovering Isabel provides a certain resolution in her life, it's discovering herself that brings lasting happiness.

Beautifully observed and insightful, with Isabel's Daughter Judith Ryan Hendricks delivers a moving portrait of familial love -- a bond that transcends time and place.

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Author

Judith R HendricksJudith R. Hendricks worked as a copywriter, journalist, computer instructor, travel agent, and waitress before landing at Seattle's McGraw Street Bakery, where she fell in love with the rhythm of baking. Hendricks now lives in Long Beach, California, with her husband, Geoff.

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