Fiction Fest: A free preview of Rebecca H. Jamison’s ‘Sense and Sensibility: A Latter-day Tale’

Sense and Sensibility 2x3 WEBRebecca H. Jamison’s latest Jane Austen retelling is “Sense and Sensibility: A Latter-day Tale,” which will be released on Aug. 12.

This book is the third Austen re-imagining Jamison has written. “Persuasion: A Latter-day Tale” and “Emma: A Latter-day Tale” preceded in 2012 and 2013, respectively.

Here’s a sampling from this book to tide you over until it’s released on Aug. 12.

EXCERPT:

From author: This is the first scene in the book. Elly, our hero, is unemployed and so desperately poor that she’s living at home and getting food from the LDS bishop’s storehouse. To make matters worse, she has to take her autistic sister along on her first trip to the storehouse. It’s a melt-down in the making—the storehouse has no Pop-Tarts or Diet Coke—and it only gets worse as the scene progresses.

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Elly

There’s a skill set to being poor. So far, I’d learned to recognize the exact spot on the gas gauge that meant empty and how to fix just about anything with duct tape— I wore duct-taped pumps to my father’s funeral, and I don’t think anyone noticed. Today forced me to learn one more thing—how to get food without paying for it.

I wasn’t stealing, but it still felt wrong. I’d never imagined myself as unemployed, single, and living at home when I turned twenty-seven. I’d done everything I could to prevent this. I had a degree. I’d worked ten-hour days. My résumé was a masterpiece. Still, I came here, accepting charity.

Walking toward the red brick building that was the bishop’s storehouse, I held onto Grace, my fifteen-year-old sister, by her hand. It was probably a mistake to bring her, considering her special needs, but leaving her at home with our sister Maren would’ve been like leaving her alone. As I pulled the heavy glass door open and stepped into a room that smelled like vanilla pudding mix, my salivary glands kicked into overdrive. It’d been a while since I’d had decent food, but I wasn’t about to drool like one of Pavlov’s dogs over vanilla pudding mix, was I?

In the center of the convenience store-size room were five aisles filled with non-perishables. Grace pulled her hand from my grasp and rushed toward the center aisle, looking at the boxes on the shelves. “Where’s the Pop-Tarts?”

I followed, reaching for her hand. “I don’t think they have Pop-Tarts here,” I said, feeling heat rise to my face. The clerk at the front of the store—the one that wasn’t helping someone else—had probably already judged us as the type of people who ate junky breakfast products.

Grace walked to the next aisle, scanning the canned foods. “I want chocolate Pop-Tarts.”

The clerk walked to the back room, darting a glance our way, a glance that said she knew my secret—that Grace wasn’t a normal fifteen-year-old girl. She was pretty with long dark hair and dark eyes like mine, only she was more symmetrical. There wasn’t a scar from a childhood accident above her lip and her ears didn’t stick out. She looked like she could be a cheerleader or a student body president. But as much as I wished Grace were normal, it was better that people knew the truth. Believe me, I’d heard plenty of angry comments from people who thought she was just a rude teenager, and today, of all days, I preferred empathy.

Grace stopped at the refrigerated section in the back and opened every door, one at a time, looking for Pop-Tarts while I pulled our food order from my purse. The order allowed for ten pounds of fresh produce. Maren had told me to get organic, but I was pretty sure, from the looks of things, organic wasn’t an option. Four bins held fruits: apples, oranges, bananas, and strawberries.

Maybe I’d save the produce for later. Grace would be more interested in breakfast foods anyway. I pointed to an aisle of boxed goods and looked at the order form in my hand. “We’re getting cornflakes. You like cornflakes, don’t you? Or how about pancake mix?”

“I want Pop-Tarts,” Grace said, getting louder.

I scanned the list our bishop gave my mom. “How about canned peaches?”

A door opened from the back, and the clerk came out, followed by a much better-looking man than I’d ever expected to find here—or in all of northern California, for that matter. He was tall and dark, the type who would’ve looked much more at home in Southern Italy, sitting under a beach umbrella with a glass of mineral water. His good looks distracted Grace from her Pop Tart obsession. He looked toward us then away. He was shy. I liked shy guys. The clerk introduced him. “This is Ethan Ferrero, one of our volunteers. He’ll help you find what you need.”

Ferrero? He couldn’t be one of those Ferreros. I looked at the worn collar on his green T-shirt—nope, definitely not one of those Ferreros. I shook his hand. “We’d love some help. It’s our first time.”

As he stepped closer to look at my food order, I smelled something like sunblock. “We’ll get the canned goods first,” he said, bending over my paper. He read our name at the top, then looked at me. “So you’re Goodwins. Are you the ones who owned the Check-It-Out software company?” He was one of those Ferreros.