Starting Now

by Debbie Macomber

Book Details

Publisher: Ballantine Books
First Published: April 2, 2013
Format: Mass Market Paperback, Hardcover, e-Book, Large Print, Audiobook
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ISBN-13: 978-0-345-52883-4
Pages: 464
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About the Book

Paperback on Sale April 1, 2014
Debbie Macomber returns to Seattle’s beloved Blossom Street in this heartfelt tale of friendship, renewal, and discovering what’s truly important in life.

For years Libby Morgan dreamed only of making partner in her competitive, high-pressure law firm. She sacrificed everything for her career—her friends, her marriage, her chance at creating a family. When her boss calls Libby into his office, she assumes it will finally be good news, but nothing can prepare her for the shocking reality: She’s been let go and must rebuild her entire life . . . starting now.

With no job prospects in sight, Libby reaches out to old friends and spends her afternoons at A Good Yarn, the local knitting store. There she forms a close bond with Lydia, the sweet-natured shop owner; Lydia’s spirited teenage daughter, Casey; and Casey’s best friend, Ava, a shy yet troubled girl who will shape Libby’s future in surprising and profound ways.

As A Good Yarn becomes a second home—and the women a new kind of family—Libby relishes the different person she’s become. She even finds time for romance with a charming and handsome doctor who seems to be her perfect match. But just as everything is coming together, Libby must make a choice that could forever change the life she holds so dear.

Warmly told and richly textured, Starting Now is filled with the promise of new beginnings and the unending delights of companionship and love.

Excerpt

Chapter 1

This was it. Surely it must be.

The  instant Libby  Morgan heard  her  paralegal tell her  “Hershel would  like to see you in his office,” she knew.  Oh,  there’d  been rumblings  around the  office about layoffs  and  early  retirements.  Such gossip simply verified what  she felt in her heart  Hershel  was sure to tell her. She’d waited  for this moment for six very long years.

Libby  had  always  wondered how  she’d feel when  she finally got the news. She longed to hold on to this sense of happy  expectation for as long  as possible.  In retrospect, she must  have  intuitively known something was up because she’d worn  her best pin-striped suit today, choosing  the pencil skirt over her normal tailored slacks. And thankfully she’d had  a salon  appointment just the day before.  Getting  her hair  cut was long overdue, but  seeing how  good  it looked  now,  she felt  it  was  worth every  penny  of  the  hundred dollars  Jacques  had charged  her.  A good  cut did wonders for her appearance. She wore her dark  brown hair  parted in the middle  in an inverted  bob  so that it framed  her face, curling around her jawline. Jacques had mentioned more  than  once  how  fortunate she was to have  such thick  hair.  She hadn’t felt that way when he’d insisted she have her eyebrows plucked. But  he’d  been  right;  she  looked   good.  Polished.  Professional.  She promised herself not to go so long between  appointments again.

Libby didn’t see herself as any great beauty. She was far too realistic  and  sensible,  was  well  aware  of  her  physical  shortcomings. At best  she  was  pretty, or  at  least  Joe,  her  ex-husband, had  told  her she was. She knew she was probably no better  than  average.  Average height,  average  weight;  brown hair,  brown eyes, with  no outstanding features, but on the inside she was a dynamo. Dedicated, hardworking, goal-oriented. Perfect partner material.

Reaching for her yellow legal pad,  Libby headed  toward the managing partner’s opulent office. Outwardly she remained calm and composed, but inwardly her heart  raced and her head spun.

Finally. Finally, she was about to be rewarded for the hard  choices and sacrifices she’d made.

Libby  was  in  her  sixth  year  of  an  eight-year partnership track. Hopefully she  was  about to  achieve  the  goal  that  she  had  set  her heart  on the minute  she’d been accepted as an associate  in the Trusts and  Estates  Department at Burkhart, Smith  &  Crandall, a high-end Seattle-based law firm. She was about to be made partner even earlier than  anticipated.

While she didn’t want  to appear overly confident, it went without saying that  no one deserved  it more  than  she did. Libby had  worked harder, longer, and more effectively than any other attorney employed by the firm. Her legal expertise  on the complex estate-planning project for  Martha Reed  hadn’t  gone  unnoticed either.  Libby  had  provided  a  large  number of  billable  hours  and  the  older  woman had taken  a liking to her. Over the past  month two partners had stopped by her office to compliment her work.

Libby  could  almost  feel her  mother looking  down  on  her  from heaven,  smiling and proud. Molly Jo Morgan had died of breast  cancer when Libby was thirteen. Before dying, Libby’s mother had taken her daughter’s hand  and told her to work  hard, and to never be afraid to go after  her goals.  She’d advised  Libby  to dream  big and  warned her there  would  be hard  choices and sacrifices along  the way.

That  last summer  her mother was alive had set Libby’s life course for her. Although her mother wouldn’t be around to see her achievements, Libby longed to make her mother proud. Today  was sure to be one of those Hey,  Mom, look  at me moments.

Early on in high school  Libby  had  set her sights on becoming an attorney. She was  the  president of  the  Debate  Club  and  was  well known for  her  way  of taking  either  side of an  issue and  making  a good argument. Reaching her goal hadn’t  been easy. Academic  scholarships  helped,  but there  were still plenty  of expenses  along  the way. Funds  were always  tight.  In order  to support herself through college she’d  worked as a waitress  and  made  some  good  friends.  Later  on in law  school  she’d found  employment as a paralegal in the  Seattle area.

Her  career  path  had  taken  a short  detour when  she married Joe Wilson.  Joe worked as a short-order cook.  They’d  met  at the diner where she waited  tables while in college. When she moved from Spokane  he willingly followed  her to the Seattle area  and  quickly  found another job, cooking  in a diner.  He was the nicest guy in the world, but their marriage was doomed from  the beginning. Joe was content to stay exactly  where  he was for the rest of his life while Libby was filled with  ambition to  be so much  more.  The  crux  came  when  he wanted her to take time out of her career so they could start  a family. Joe  wanted children  and  so did  Libby,  but  she  couldn’t risk  being shunted off to the “Mommy Track” at the firm. She’d asked  him to be patient for a couple  more years. Really, that  wasn’t  so long. Once she was established at the firm it wouldn’t matter so much.  But Joe was  impatient. He  feared  that  once  those  two  years  were  up  she’d want  another year  and  then  another. Nothing she said  would  convince him otherwise.

Hershel  glanced  up  when  she entered  his office. He  wasn’t  smiling, but that  wasn’t  unusual. “Sit  down,   Libby,” he  said,  gesturing   toward the  chair  on  the other  side of his desk.

One  day  her office would  look  like this,  Libby  mused,  with  old- world  charm, comfortable leather  chairs,  polished wood  bookcases, and  a  freestanding globe.  Pictures  of  Hershel’s   wife  and  children stared  back at her from the credenza  behind  his desk. The one of him sailing never failed to stir her. Hershel  had his face to the camera, his hair wind-tossed as the sailboat sliced through the Pacific Ocean  on a crystal-clear day, with a sky as blue as Caribbean waters. The sailboat keeled over so close to the water’s edge she wanted to hold her breath for fear the vessel would  completely overturn.

The photograph inspired  Libby because  it proved  to her that  one day, as partner, she, too,  would  have time to vacation and  enjoy life away  from  the office. But in order  to do that  her work,  her commitment to the law firm and her clients, had to be her sole focus.

Libby sat in the chair  Hershel  indicated and  relaxed, crossing  her legs. She knew  the managing partner’s agenda. What  she hadn’t  expected  was  the  deeply  etched  look  of  concern  on  his  face.  Oh,  it would   be  just  like  Hershel   to  lead  into  this  announcement  circuitously.

“I’ve taken  a personal interest  in you  from  the  day  the  firm decided to hire you,” he said, setting his pen down  on his desk. He took a moment to be certain  it was perfectly  straight.

“I know  and I’m grateful.” Libby rested her back against  the comfortable padding. “It’s been a wonderful six years.  I’ve worked hard and feel that  I’m an asset to the firm.”

“You  have done an excellent  job.”

Libby resisted  the impulse  to remind  him of all the billable  hours she’d piled up on a number of accounts.

“You’re  a hard  worker and an excellent  attorney.”

Libby took  a moment to savor  his words.  Hershel  wasn’t  known to  hand  out  praise  freely.  “Thank you.” She sat  up  straighter now, anticipating what  would  come next. First he would  smile, and then he would  announce that  after discussing  the matter with  the other  partners they would  like to.

Her projection was interrupted when Hershel  went on to say, “I’m sure you’re aware  that  the last six months have been a challenge  for the firm.”  He met her gaze head-on, and  in his eyes she read  regret and  concern  as his thick  brows  came together. “We’ve experienced a significant  decline in profitability due to the recession.”

A tingling  sensation started at the base of Libby’s neck. This conversation wasn’t  taking  the route  she’d anticipated.

“I’ve certainly carried  my load,” she felt obliged  to remind  him. More  than  any  other  attorney on  staff,  especially  Ben Holmes, she thought but didn’t say. At six o’clock, like a precision  timepiece,  Ben was out the door.

Hershel  picked  up the same pen he’d so carefully  positioned only a few moments before and held it between  his palms.  “You’ve carried a substantial load,  which  is one  reason  why  this  decision  has  been especially difficult.”

“Decision?” she repeated as a sense of dread  quickly overtook any elation  she’d experienced earlier.

“The problem is your lack of ‘making rain,’ ” he said. “You haven’t brought any major  clients into the firm.”

Meeting  potential clients  was  next  to  impossible with  the  hours she worked. Libby had tried attending social functions but she wasn’t good at “power schmoozing” the way others  were. She felt awkward inserting herself  into  conversations or  initiating them  herself.  With little  to talk  about besides  work,  she often  felt inept  and  awkward. She hadn’t  always  been this shy, this hesitant.

“Hershel,” she said, voicing her suspicion, her greatest  fear, “what are you trying to say? You aren’t laying me off, are you?”  She finished with a short  disbelieving  laugh.

The senior  partner exhaled  slowly  and  then  nodded. “I can’t tell you  how  much  I regret  having  to  do  this.  You  aren’t  the  only  one. We’re letting  five go in all. As you  can  imagine  this  hasn’t  been  an easy decision.”

Libby’s first concern  was for her paralegal. “Sarah?” “She’s fine. She’ll be reassigned.”

Libby’s heart  slowed  to a dull thud.

“We’re  offering  you a generous  severance  package.” Hershel  outlined the details  but Libby sat frozen,  stunned, unable  to believe this was  actually  happening. People  she worked with,  people  she knew, were losing their jobs. She was losing her job. Why hadn’t  she sensed that?  She didn’t like to think  she was so out of touch  with reality that she hadn’t  picked up on it.

“I’d also like to offer you a bit of advice, Libby, if I may?”

The shock  had  yet to dissipate, and  because  her throat had  gone dry  she  didn’t  respond. All she  could  manage  was  to  stare  at  him aghast, disbelieving, shaken  to the very core of her being.

“I don’t want  you to think  of this as the end. This is a new beginning for you. One of the reasons  I’ve taken  a personal interest  in you is because  you’re very much  the way I was years ago. I felt the need to prove  myself, too.  I set my sights on making  partner to the exclusion of everything  else, the same way I’ve seen you do. I completely missed my children’s childhoods. By the time they were in high school they were strangers to me. Thankfully, I’ve been able to make  up for lost time. The point  is, I sacrificed far too much, and I see you making the same mistakes I did.”

Libby tried to focus but couldn’t get past the fact that she was suddenly unemployed. She blinked  a couple  of times in an effort  to absorb what  was happening. It didn’t help. The sickening  feeling in the pit of her stomach intensified.

“I hope,” Hershel  continued, “that you will take this time to find some balance in life. Starting  now.”

“Pardon?” she asked, looking  up and blinking. Some of the numbness had begun to wear off. All Libby could  think  about was the fact that  she had  given her life, her marriage, her everything  to this firm, and they were about to shove her out the door.

“I  want  you  to  enjoy  life,”  Hershel  repeated. “A  real  life, with friends  and  interests  outside  of the office. There’s a whole  world  out there  ready  for you to explore.”

Libby continued to stare  at him.  Didn’t  Hershel  understand?  She had a life, and that  life was right here in this office. She was passionate about her work  and now it was being ripped  away from her.

“Who will  take  over  working with  Martha Reed?”   she  asked. Surely this was all a big mistake. Martha Reed was one of their most important clients and she enjoyed  working with Libby.

“Libby, you’re not listening.  The decision  has already  been made. The firm is being more than  generous.”

“Generous,” she  repeated, and  gave  a  humorless laugh.  Anger took  hold  then  and  she  surged  to  her  feet.  The  legal  pad  fell unnoticed  to  the  floor  as she knotted her  fists at  her  sides.  “This  is a decision   unworthy  of  you,  Hershel.  You’re  making   a  mistake.  I thought you had my back . . .” She could feel the heat crawling up her neck, creeping  into her face, and snapped her mouth closed. Arguing was pointless; as he said, the decision  had been made,  but by heaven she wanted him  to  know  she wasn’t  taking  this  sitting  down.  Stabbing an index  finger at his desk, she looked  him hard  in the eyes and said,  “I  hope  you  know  I’ll have  another job  before  the  end  of the day.”

“For  your  sake  I hope  you  don’t,  but  if that’s  the  case  then  so be it.”

“You’re  going to regret  this, Hershel. I’ve given you and  this firm everything.” Without bothering to  argue  more,  she whirled  around and stormed out of his office.

With her heart  pounding wildly, Libby approached her own small office. When  Sarah  saw  Libby,  the  paralegal stood, her  brown eyes wide and expectant.

“Well?” Sarah  asked.

“I . . . I’ve been laid off.”

Sarah’s face went slack. “You’re  joking?”

A security  guard  came to stand  just outside  her door,  watching as she packed  up  her  things.  Libby  jerked  open  her  desk  drawer and started emptying the  contents onto  her  desktop. “Does  it look  like I’m joking?”

Sarah  wore  the  same  stunned expression as Libby  had  only  moments earlier.  “But why?”

“Ask  Hershel.” Libby  pinched  her lips closed as she struggled  to rein in her outrage.

“What . . . what  about me?” Sarah sank into a chair as though her knees had given out on her.

“Not to worry,  I already  asked.  You’ll be reassigned.” “I can’t believe this.”

“You?” Libby choked  out, now dumping the contents of her drawers into a tote bag she kept on hand.

“What are you going to do?”

“Do?” Libby repeated, as though the answer  should  be self- explanatory. “What else is there  to  do?  I’ll find another job.  I’ll be working for another firm before  I’m out  of the building. I told  Hershel and I meant  it. Jeff Goldstein has been after me for years.” This was no exaggeration. Jeff had contacted her two or three  times since she’d been with  Burkhart, Smith & Crandall to see if she was happy in her current position. He was the first person  she’d call. Already  a list of potential firms was scrolling through her mind.  Any number of law offices would  consider themselves  fortunate to get her.

Slamming  the  final  drawer closed,  she reached  for  her  briefcase and dumped onto  her desk the files she’d spent several hours  working on at home the previous night. Next  she hefted the bag containing the personal items from her desk drawer over her shoulder.

“Libby,” Sarah  said, eyeing the security  guard.

Frankly  she couldn’t get away  fast enough. “I don’t  think  I could stand  it here another minute.”

Hershel  had offered her fatherly  advice, sounding so righteous and superior . . . so patronizing. Well, she’d show him. He would  rue this day; he’d made a huge mistake  and was about to see just how wrong he was.  Throughout her  life, Libby  had  faced  challenge  after  challenge and proved  herself again and again. This would  be no different.

If her mother’s  death  had  taught her anything, it was that  Libby should  do whatever was needed to rise above setbacks. She’d survive. She had before  and she would  again.  She’d lost her mother when she was  far  too  young,   and  she’d  gotten   through her  divorce.   She’d weather this, too,  just the way she had everything  else.

Forcing  herself to smile, she swallowed hard  and looked  at Sarah. “Keep  in touch.”

“I will,”  her paralegal promised. “You’ll  let me know  where  you land,  won’t  you?”

“Of  course.” When  she did,  Libby  would  ask  Sarah  to  join  her. They  were  a good  team.  They’d  worked together for  so  long  that they’d become  like running partners—keeping pace with  each other, intuiting each other’s needs and expectations. When she’d last spoken to Jeff Goldstein, Libby had  insisted  that  if she ever were to join his firm he’d need to hire Sarah,  too.  Jeff had assured  her it wouldn’t be a problem.

Without a backward glance,  Libby  walked  out  of the office. She felt other staff members staring at her, but she chose to ignore them. Standing  in the doorway to his office, Ben Holmes  started to say something, but  after  one  glaring   look  from  Libby  he  apparently changed  his mind.  Good  thing.  Ben wouldn’t want  to hear  what  she had to say to him.

Her cell phone  was in her hand  even before  she reached  the elevator.  After  a  quick  call  to  directory assistance, she  connected with Goldstein & Goldstein.

“Jeff Goldstein, please,” she told the receptionist. “Tell him Libby  Morgan is calling.”

She was connected immediately. “Libby, how are you?”

“Fabulous.” She  got  directly   to  the  point.   “You   called  a  few months back  and  asked  if I was  happy  in my current position, remember?”

“Of  course.  But that  was over a year and a half ago.”

“That long?”  Time had gotten  away from her. “As it happens I’m free to come on board with Goldstein & Goldstein.” No need to hint at what  she wanted. Libby preferred the direct  approach.

“Really?” his voice dipped  slightly.  “As I said, that  was well over a year ago. We’ve had  a sharp  decline in business  since then.  Almost everyone  has. We aren’t  currently taking  on any associates.”

The  news  deflated  her,  but  Libby  wasn’t  discouraged. “Not  a problem, Jeff,”  she said,  continuing to  walk  at  a clipped  pace.  She was outside  the building  now,  joining  the traffic  on the Seattle  sidewalk,  her  steps  brusque and  purposeful. The  dark, overcast  March sky was an accurate reflection  of her mood. It was sure to start  raining at any moment.

“I’m sure with  your  track  record  you won’t  have a problem finding another position,” Jeff continued.

“I  don’t  think  I will, either,” she said,  making  sure  her  voice reflected an air of confidence. “I wanted to give you the first opportunity since you’ve pursued me in the past.”

“I appreciate that.  If something comes up you’ll be the first person I contact.”

“Wonderful. Thank you for your time,”  Libby said. “No problem. Keep in touch.”

“Will  do,”  she said,  cutting  off the words  in her rush  to end the call.

She regretted calling Jeff in an angry  flush. She should  have given the conversation more  thought instead  of acting  out  of emotion and outrage. Even now she was fuming,  caught  between  disbelief and indignation.

The  walk  to  her  condo  took  fifteen  minutes. The  distance  was what  she considered her daily workout. Her  building  was on a busy street  and  safe enough  for  her  to  hoof  it both  early  in the  morning and late at night.  She hoped  she’d be able to continue to walk to and from work  at her new firm.

Shifting  the load  from  one shoulder to the other, Libby struggled to  maintain her  composure as she  walked  through her  front  door. She’d been so certain  that  this was it, so confident that  her hard  work and  sacrifices  were  finally  being  recognized. To  get laid  off instead was unbelievable.

Only now was the truth of it beginning to sink in.

Libby had  always  been driven  to succeed.  She’d been the valedictorian of her high school  class and had been in the top ten percent  of her  class in both  college  and  law  school.  She had  worked hard  for those grades;  she worked hard  for everything.

With her arms wrapped around her middle,  Libby walked  around the living room  three  times,  her mind  racing  at a speed  to rival any NASCAR engine. The sky had gone even darker and a drizzle splashed against  the  windows, weaving  wet  and  crooked trails  on  the  glass. This was March in the Pacific Northwest.

Libby needed  to think.  First things  first: update her résumé.

She turned on her one-cup  coffeemaker, brewed  a mug,  and  carried it into  her home  office. Setting it down  on a coaster, she looked at the picture  of her mother that rested on the corner  of her desk. Her mother’s  eyes seemed to focus directly  on hers.

“I  know,  Mom.  Don’t  worry.  This  is only  temporary. All is not lost.”

It  was  then  that  Libby  noticed   the  plant  next  to  her  mother’s framed  photograph. She didn’t  even know  what  kind  it was,  but  regardless:  it was  brown and  shriveled  now.  It had  withered with  neglect.

Reading Guide

  1. Starting Over is not only the title of this book, it’s also the theme. Besides Libby, what other characters in the book are coping with life-changing developments? How are they handling the upheaval in their lives?
     
  2. During Libby’s time of unemployment, she learned she was a survivor. Share with your group about a time in your life when you had to start over or went through a similar period of adversity. What did you learn about yourself in the process?
     
  3. When Libby’s boss lets her go, he advises her to get a life outside of work. What did you think about Libby’s attempts to do that?  Would you have approached it differently than she did?  Why do some people struggle more than others to maintain a balance in life? What do you think are the keys to achieving that balance?
     
  4. Libby discovers great joy by volunteering at the hospital.  What do you think it was about the experience that proved so fulfilling?  Would a different type of volunteer work have had the same impact?
     
  5.  Libby demonstrated her optimistic outlook on life when she told her friend, Robin, that eventually everything would right itself. Even so, Libby still had setbacks and disappointments. Do you believe that everything works out like it’s supposed to? Did you agree with how Libby faced her challenges?  How would you have responded differently?
     
  6. For Libby, re-discovering knitting is therapeutic. What is it about this activity that helps her? Have you had similar experiences with taking up a hobby?
     
  7. Both Libby and Phillip have a tendency towards being workaholics but this is something Phillip has taken action to address when the book opens.  How do you think this tendency impacts their relationship?  Is the fact that these two characters are cut from the same cloth, so to speak, a benefit or a hindrance?
     
  8. Several of the characters in Starting Now, including Libby and Ava, feel they have been defined by their mothers.   Likewise, Casey is having a much different mother/daughter experience with Lydia.  Discuss these characters and how their mothers have had an impact on them, particularly at critical crossroads in their lives. 
     
  9. Which character in Starting Now do you relate to the most—and why?
     
  10. Libby and Robin have a falling out. Do you think Robin was justified in being upset with Libby? How would you have handled it differently?
     
  11.  Starting Now demonstrates the resilience of the human spirit. By the story’s end, in what ways was Libby’s life better because of her ability to turn adversity into opportunity?

 

Spoiler Alert Questions
 

  1. Lydia seeks out Ava’s grandmother when she and Libby are made aware of Ava’s pregnancy, and they debate about whether or not this is the best course to take.  Intervention by outsiders into private family matters can be challenging and controversial.  Did you agree with this course of action?  How might you have handled it differently?
     
  2. When Libby thought she was going to adopt Ava’s baby, she planned on it being an open adoption, where Ava could be a part of the baby’s life. Do you think Libby’s decision was wise? If you were in Libby’s shoes, would you choose an option adoption? Why or why not?
     
  3. How do you think things would have played out if Libby had been able to adopt Ava’s baby?  How would it have affected her career?  Would the course of her relationship with Phillip have been any different?

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