But after a visit to her doctor on the day before Thanksgiving, she doubts whether her dreams will come true. Angered and shaken, and after years of absence, Jane abruptly cancels her holiday plans with her handsome Argentinean-born boyfriend to return to her upcountry hometown.
Upon her arrival, however, Jane encounters reminders from a troubled past. A chance meeting with an old beau. An awkward reunion with a distant father. A skeptical and dismissive twin sister. A crude and vulgar brother-in-law. And, throughout it all, the haunting voice of her late mother.
Following a disastrous family dinner, Jane discovers her sister’s painful secret and faces a fateful dilemma: should she simply rescue her sister from her husband’s evil clutches or take justice into her own hands?
For Jane Schumacher, however, nothing is ever simple. Nothing is cut and dried.
Set against an engaging backdrop of modern political times, Upcountry is a riveting, page-turning story of sibling strife and affection, of sadness and grief, and finally redemption and rebirth.
At daybreak, Jane Schumacher awoke to discover that she had spent the night on the couch. She was still dressed in the same white silk blouse and navy-blue, pleated skirt she had worn the day before. Good God, she moaned, as she raised herself up and surveyed the situation. It wasn’t pretty.
After a moment, she found the strength to walk towards her living room window and peered out. The freezing rain that had threatened to paralyze the city the night before had finally ended, and in its place a steadily rising sun had turned the dominant sugar maples, now barren of their leaves, into sparkling prisms of light. She squinted. It was almost too much for her hangover to handle.
Well, no worry. This sunshine won’t last, she concluded.
It never lasts.
It was November, after all…in fucking upstate New York.
She let out another big sigh. Over the rooftops across the street, Jane could see the southwest corner of the capitol building where she and the governor had met the media yesterday. Soon, she thought, the day’s activities would pick up. Soon public employees would be scurrying to their cubicles as taxis, limos and buses jostled through traffic. Through the plaza, the practitioners of real politics—the lobbyists and influence-peddlers—would be racing to yet another meeting on their mission to stop progress in its tracks. Later, perhaps, a few tourists, mindless of the late season, would stroll over the stately grounds. Maybe they figured they’d get lucky and catch a glimpse of someone famous.
It was just another sunrise in the most dysfunctional state capital in the nation, she thought. Nothing changes.
But today, Jane now noticed, was different. Why the hell was it so quiet? Normally at this time of the morning she expected to hear the detonations of the city. Where were the honking horns? Or those annoying garbage trucks? With their gears in reverse, emitting their familiar beeping sounds as they approached restaurants and stores?
Then she remembered. Oh, shit, that’s right. It was Thanksgiving, and the streets were nearly abandoned. All commerce came to a halt on this most overrated holiday of holidays.
Jane let her eyes wander across her penthouse apartment, and it was not an appealing sight. From the evidence on display, she slowly recalled what had happened the night before, and she groaned again. She could see her briefcase. It was on the floor near the condo’s entrance, open and askew, its contents spread haphazardly down the hall. Her mail, too, had been strewn across the carpet of the living room. On the counter separating the kitchen from the dining room sat a half-empty bottle of Scotch. Next to it was an abandoned bag of microwave popcorn.
“Jesus, I guess that was dinner,” she muttered to herself. “Keep me away from a mirror.”
She moved slowly to the kitchen and towards her coffee maker. Opening the lid, she looked in and saw the grounds. A layer of white, fuzzy mold had formed, the sight of which started to turn her stomach. Jesus, I might be growing my own antibiotics here, she thought. When was the last time I was home? I can’t remember. So much for my so-called life.
Jane was standing at her sink when her fragile lungs released another violent and painful cough that seemed to originate from her toenails.
Man, now that one hurt!
Slowly, she recovered but the pain lingered on. After a few minutes, a new brewing process commenced and she waited impatiently for the first full cup to materialize. From above the stove, she reached for her favorite mug, the one with a photo of the White House. She remembered its origin; it was a gift from a friend at Meet the Press, a producer who attached a card saying, “Jane, consider this your first bribe!” It was then that she remembered a bottle of Baileys in the refrigerator.
Oh, why the hell not?
Jane glanced back at the mess she had created the night before. Screw the briefcase, she thought, but maybe I should check my mail. She walked back to the living room and gathered the pieces that she had cast aside in anger the night before.
It was all coming back now. Her memory was returning. Upon entering her apartment, she had tossed her briefcase into the air with such velocity that she now spotted a deep gouge in the entrance wall. Moments earlier, she’d struggled with the lock so long—the damn key wouldn’t fit!—that she had nearly given up, pounding on the door as if brute force would solve her dilemma.
Her spectacle caused such a commotion that she had aroused the concern of her elderly neighbor in the next condo. Well, I must have been pretty loud and profane, Jane now conceded. That old bat is nearly deaf. The widowed woman—she couldn’t remember her name—had peered out and had enquired, innocently, if Jane was all right. No, I’m not all right, she now remembered declaring, so why don’t you mind your own goddamn business! Or something even ruder than that.
Jane promised herself she’d apologize later to her lovely, caring neighbor. I’m not that much of a bitch, am I? Well, maybe.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
A Canadian, he began his career with the Ottawa Citizen before serving as a political reporter and Parliamentary Bureau Chief for United Press International, where he crossed paths with six Canadian prime ministers and one U.S president. An avid observer of American politics, he has covered presidential visits and boasts that to his journalistic friends that he has set foot in the Oval Office.
Though very successful in business, during which he co-founded one of North America’s best-known public relations firms, he never lost his love for fiction. This has resulted in the upcoming launch this fall of his debut novel, Upcountry. It is the explosive story of Jane Schumacher, a smart, savvy and often profane aide to the Governor of New York who is making a serious run for the White House. When her doctor gives her some shocking news shortly before Thanksgiving, she returns to her upcountry hometown only to discover that her sister is the victim of horrific spousal abuse. Her dilemma? Simply pull her sister away from her evil husband, or take justice into her own hands? But for Jane Schumacher, nothing is simple. Nothing is cut and dried.
In addition to Upcountry, he is the author of Pirouette, a stage-play on the life and times of Pierre Elliott Trudeau, and has co-written two screenplays (Shoulda, Coulda, Woulda and The Last Carousel) with his wife Shelley Anthony.