Cover

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Title Page, Copyright, Epigraph

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pp. i-x

Contents

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pp. xi-xii

Acknowledgments

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pp. xiii-xvi

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1 HEAVEN, INDIANA, 1964

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pp. 1-3

Helen Breck knew something was wrong. Just knew it. Charlene Bader never missed an appointment with a customer. Not in the nearly nineteen years her shop had been open. The women of Heaven counted on Charlene’s Beauty Shop like they counted on social hour at church. She was more dependable than their dependable husbands, more faithful than the US mail. But then, even the US mail had been delayed since Saturday by the awful wave...

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2 DALLAS, TEXAS, 1933

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pp. 4-12

Charlie Bader was alone in his house for the first time since his wedding night. He’d taken such great care these past five months to avoid just this circumstance, but now here he was.

At his office, surrounded by metal drills and enameled pans, sterile hard surfaces and sharp-tipped picks, he could suppress his urges; there was nothing to feed them. Today, though, his last patient had canceled so Charlie was free to lock up and leave...

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3 CHICAGO, ILLINOIS, 1933

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pp. 13-36

He arrived in Chicago with his drill, his filling supplies, denture-making materials, and just enough savings to rent a small room in a boarding house on North Halsted Street and buy a few clothes. He determined to give himself just two weeks in which to indulge his urges. Go all the way with it. A full outfit. Safe from discovery in his little closet of a room he would dress to the...

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4 INDIANAPOLIS, INDIANA, 1938

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pp. 37-41

Charlie knelt by his sister’s side. “Hannah, Doctor Marsten told me they’ve got a new operation they can do that might help you. It might not. He said he talked to you about it and he thinks you might want to try it.”

Hannah was motionless except for a rhythmic tremor that moved through her right arm and hand. For years, she’d continued her steady, downward decline. Now she was a statue of a young woman. A monument to beauty, a picture of youth...

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5 CHICAGO, 1941

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pp. 42-46

It was a cold crisp day. This Sunday in particular, Charlie was as close to at peace with himself as he ever got. He’d risen early, made a pot of coffee, taken his time over toast and eggs, shaved his face, shaved his legs, plucked his eyebrows, styled his wig, padded his bra, tucked and wrapped his maleness, pulled on his stockings, laid out the new skirt-and-blouse combination that Joanne had sold him the week before. The blouse was a muted cotton beige with a ruffled...

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6 PARIS, FRANCE, 1944

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pp. 47-50

“Hey, listen, I found a nice little place. The girls are pretty, clean looking, don’t charge that much, but not too cheap either, you know what I mean? It’s low key, no rowdy parties, no messy-mess with the gendarmes. You, me, Benny, Ed, howsabout it? We need a little break, a little nookie nook. We can drive in to pick up the drills and stop on our way back....”

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7 BELGIUM, 1944

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pp. 51-64

Ordinarily they would have had a driver, but the one assigned to their mobile lab had fallen ill at the last minute and been hospitalized with a gall bladder attack, so Charlie was at the wheel. He was thankful that Tommy was a talker. As the convoy headed out and they drove to the eastern front, Charlie was happy to drive and let Tommy talk. Talking had never been his favorite part of dentistry, though it was something you had to do to pass the time while...

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8 HEAVEN, 1945

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pp. 65-93

“Anybody home?”

Minnie rested against the porch railing while she waited for a response and inventoried the items in the basket she carried. A dozen farm fresh eggs from Helen and Lester’s hens, a pound of home-churned butter, a loaf of unsliced whole wheat from the ovens of Heaven’s Bread, a package of cinnamon rolls from same, a sour cream rhubarb pie that Stella had baked, a bag of shell peas from Thelma’s garden, a quart jar of beef noodle soup...

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9 HEAVEN, 1950

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pp. 94-101

“I don’t know what the world’s coming to,” Elizabeth announced in place of a good-morning-how-are-you sort of greeting as she entered Charlene’s shop. She put her purse and sweater on a waiting-area chair and headed to the shampooing sink. “Did you see the paper today?”

“What’s the news?”

“They arrested a con man working the area, and it’s businesswomen like you he preys...

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10 HEAVEN, 1952

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pp. 102-105

The kitchen window faced east. Every morning, she sat at her table savoring her first and then second cup of coffee and looking out this window. Half the year she watched the sun rise, half the year she watched the sky begin to lighten before doing one last check to make sure all her layers were firmly in place, and that no detail would betray her. Then she left her house, leaving the door unlocked, and walked the three blocks to her shop. This was her favorite...

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11 HEAVEN, 1954

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pp. 106-122

Baby Sue Ellen Sue sat on a blanket, sucking a corner of the fabric in her mouth; Ida waited her turn and paged through Better Homes and Gardens. Charlene was fastening the protective cape around Elizabeth’s neck, while Elizabeth bragged about her baby.

“Seven months and she’s already pulling herself around on the furniture. Frederick swears she said ‘dada’ the other day, and he may be right. She’s definitely a daddy’s girl. Well, you know...

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12 HEAVEN, 1957

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pp. 123-131

Stella watched herself in the mirror while Charlene toweled her hair dry. “Thank you again for loaning me your sign and fitting me into your schedule. I wasn’t going to do anything special, but then Walter said, ‘How many grand openings does a person expect to have in a lifetime?’ ‘Only one,’ I said, and he said, ‘Doncha think it deserves at least as much of a party as your birthday?’ He’s usually the frugal one in the family, but he insisted I splurge and get a little gussied...

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13 HEAVEN, 1960

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pp. 132-140

For two long years, Donald Harris had pursued Charlene, while Minnie had agonized from afar. For two long years, Charlene had meted out the tiniest of responses. She’d let him walk her home from church because to have declined his offers would have been unacceptably rude, but she’d implied, in the most careful and vague way imaginable, that she might have a romantic interest in Chicago. To strengthen that impression, one Saturday every three months...

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14 CHICAGO, 1962

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pp. 141-149

The voice on the phone was one she hadn’t heard in years. Jacquie was back in town. Chi-town, as she called it. After a sojourn of several years in Manhattan. “I’m back,” she announced, “and I’ve got fabulous news. I’m going to have the operation.”

“Are you sick?” Charlene asked, trying to match the news with the celebratory tone of voice.

“Oh, no, darling. I’m making...

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15 HEAVEN, 1963

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pp. 150-201

The phone was ringing, refusing to stop. Charlene was trying to ignore it, since it was already 7:20 in the evening, twenty minutes after closing. She’d been there since 5:00 a m, sterilizing rollers, checking her supplies of papers and chemicals, then clipping, curling, and combing her way through the day. She dumped the dustpan full of hairs she’d swept from under the front edge of her supply cabinets where they always collected during...

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16 HEAVEN, 1964

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pp. 202-230

The door swung open and a blast of frigid air entered, along with Alma Porter.

“Charlene, do you have room for a walk-in? Just a shampoo.”

“If you can wait about twenty minutes. I’m just finishing up here with Sue Ellen Sue. And then I have to put the neutralizer on Evelyn. How do you like the birthday girl’s ’do?”

Charlene spun Sue Ellen Sue around in her chair to show Alma the soft curls...

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Excerpt from Heaven, Indiana

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pp. 231-254

Elephants paced restlessly, their immense feet beating slow syncopations. Monkeys gossiped nervously of fearsome and forbidden places. Chameleons flicked their quick tongues and tasted the August air. An unblinking boa curled around the single rock that graced its cage; the tiger mother bared her teeth and readied her claws.

Out on Millstone Road, up in Lester and Helen Breck’s barn, daughter Melinda howled in surprise, then roared...

Book Club Guide

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pp. 255-258

About the Author

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p. 259