Six Strings by Jen Sanya Williamson

Release date: June 18th 2014
Publisher: Booktrope
Purchase: Amazon
Riley Witt is running out of time.
Battling Alzheimer’s disease, Riley’s grandmother Mary suffers from memory loss, mood swings, and a tendency to wander off.
As senior year approaches, Riley has to face the reality that the one person she depends on most is slowly fading. Making matters worse, when Mary does remember the past, she tells tales of time travel and visions. As Mary’s version of the past gets more confused, Riley knows they are running out of time together.
But when Riley discovers a guitar belonging to a famous rock star at Mary’s house, the truth behind the crazy tales finally comes out.
SIX STRINGS tells the story of Riley’s journey back to 1973 where she enters a world of music, long-lost family, and first love. Her adventure is all about discovering her past, understanding her present, and figuring out how to step into her future.

“DID YOU KNOW THAT MARK TWAIN could wiggle his ears?”
Grandma Mary asks.
She is curled up in our old blue recliner, facing the window, and
staring at the drizzly gray sky. It hardly rains in Tucson, being a desert
and all, but during the summer months we have a monsoon season
that’s usually characterized by fantastic thunder and lightning in the
afternoons. This storm is just brewing. Mary and I used to love sitting
on her front porch and watching the lightning flash, illuminating all of
the trees and cars and mailboxes a ghostly silver. As soon as she saw the
weather report this morning, she camped out in front of the window.
“He wiggled his ears, just like that,” she continues, snapping
her fingers.
Another story. Since the day at Hotel Congress a week ago, her
stories of visions and times long past have become even more frequent.
And more confusing. My mother thinks it’s due to the trauma she
experienced from getting lost. That’s her passive-aggressive way of
letting me know that it’s my fault. I choose not to engage in that debate
with Mom, since she promised she would wait until after summer to
seriously think about a care facility for Mary—that is, as long as my
grandmother doesn’t wander off again. I’ve been watching her every
move and refraining from fighting with my mother. I don’t want to
poke the tiger, so to speak.
“You mean, like this?” I say to my grandmother, and I put my
fingers behind my ears and wiggle them. I sit up a bit from my reclined
position on the couch where I’ve been flipping through Invisible Man.
I still have half the book to read and less than four days to do it.
“No,” she says, smiling. “He could really do it. Like this.” She holds
out both of her hands, palms up, and wiggles her ears without touching
them or anything. I can’t help laughing, which makes her smile more.
“I had no idea you had this special talent,” I tell her, flipping the page
in my book. Then, I mumble, “I had no idea Mark Twain did, either.”
She ignores me.
“It was in New York,” she continues. “I couldn’t believe it, even
then. It was his last attempt to make me laugh. And it worked, Riley.
I never laughed so hard. Will had a hard time believing that one
when I told him.”
I stare at the words on the page in front of me, but I don’t read
them. I think of how to respond. Will was my grandfather. Her
memories of him seem to be what make her happiest these days.

Jen Sanya Williamson is a graduate of the University of Arizona where she received a BA in creative writing. She spends most of her time with her junior high students, teaching and talking books. When not in a classroom, Jen is writing, watching TV shows from the ‘90s, or cheering on the Wildcats with her husband and children in her adopted hometown of Tucson, Arizona.


Let's leave it up to this quote from Emily Brontë: "And from the midst of cheerless gloom I passed to bright unclouded day."

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