Saturday, February 22, 2014

Edna in the Desert by Maddy Lederman

Back Cover Blurb:

Edna is a precocious troublemaker wreaking havoc at her Beverly Hills school. Her therapist advocates medication, but her parents come up with an alternative cure: Edna will spend the summer in the desert with her grandparents. Their remote cabin is cut off from cell phone service, Internet and television. Edna naturally finds this arrangement unacceptable. She’s determined to rebel until she meets an older local boy and falls in love for the first time. How can she get to know him from the edge of nowhere?

Read an Excerpt:


The sun baked Edna’s forehead and brought her slight queasiness to a more threatening nausea. She tossed over. Changing positions sometimes helped, but pistachios and beef jerky on top of ice cream and the long ride did her in. Or was it what she’d just heard? She didn’t remember asking to pull off, only hunching over next to the family’s newest, silver Audi. It rocked softly as Brandon bounced around the back. The motion made her sicker, but Edna tried to stay near the car in its little strip of shade. At eleven in the morning, the sun was already relentless.

“Are you OK, honey?” Edna’s mother called from inside.

“What does it look like? Can Brandon stop that?”

The little boy looked out the window at his sister, crouched on the ground and heaving. Edna’s father stepped out of the car, saw there was nothing he could do, and stepped back in. The desert was a great place to throw up, and Edna did until there was nothing left. Everything that came out dried almost instantly in the sand. It was so much nicer than putting your head near a toilet, but it didn’t seem so nice for the little lizard racing away.

 Later, Brandon drooled on his iPad in the back seat. A map rustled up front. The more remote roads were still not on the GPS, and this presented a challenge to Jill, Edna’s mother, who had not consulted a paper map in years, not since the last time they came out to her husband’s parents’ house and got lost. Edward flew out to see them every once in a while, but the tiny airport he landed in was miles in another direction and down completely different dirt roads.

Jill was demoralized by the sight of her thirteen-year-old daughter crumpled in the backseat. Edna was a late bloomer, but she was becoming beautiful. Her wide-set eyes always turned heads, but her personality, left as it was, was going to spoil everything. Jill constantly wondered what she was doing wrong.

“Edna, sit up,” prompted no reaction from Edna. “You know, your rebellious stage is a drag.”

Jill didn’t see when Edna’s eyes widened because they were hidden by her palm.

“Can’t you see how much trouble you got into this year? Edna, I’m speaking to you.”

Edna peeked through her fingers to indicate listening under extreme protest, a gesture Jill ignored.

“Try to sit up. You’ll feel better if you sit properly,” Jill insisted.

“‘Rebellious’ implies that I’m rebelling against something when I’m clearly ill. You either have a serious lack of sensitivity, or you’re sadistic, or just stupid.”

Edna was matter-of-fact about it. Jill was speechless. She looked to Edward, who shook his head and offered the usual: “Don’t talk to your mother like that,” but Edna obviously did.

“Is that all you’re going to say?”

Jill knew her husband could assert more authority than that.

“There’s no point in arguing anymore. That’s why we’re doing this.”

Edward was one of the rare men who, as far as Edna could see, was the boss of his marriage. As a successful film director, he had a lot of practice manipulating actors, technicians, and studio executives, and Edna’s mother didn’t stand much of a chance. Jill picked her battles carefully, and this was not going to be one of them. She kept her cool. She had her own life.

Jill was a respected etiquette blogger and highly sought-after public speaker in what Edna considered to be certain uptight circles of privileged ladies whose main concern was how best to please themselves next. Their second concern was purging their collective guilt about the first one by gathering for self-improvement courses, which was where Jill’s lifestyle brand, Shimmer, came in. Shimmer dictated the best way to do anything that wasn’t a job and purveyed the products needed to do it. Edward wasn’t excited about the subject matter, but he was impressed with the amount of money it raked in and all the perks that went along with it.

Because of Shimmer, Jill remained an elegant version of herself at all times. This took work. Her perfect example deterred any of Edna’s possible, similar ambition, as opposed to cultivating it, which was the desired effect. Even without any enhancements, Edna thought her mother was gorgeous and intimidating. Lately she’d gotten into the habit of provoking Jill to step outside her notion of appropriate behavior, and if Edna was successful, Jill might raise her voice or let out a scream from inside her shoe closet. Edna wasn’t aware that she tortured her mother on purpose; the less perfect Jill became, the closer Edna felt to her. This could be called “negative attention getting,” but naming it didn’t do any good.

Jill and Edward would tell each other that Edna was “intelligent” and “gifted,” but, positive people though they were, these words were hollow. Edna had gone off the charts. Instead of flowering, she’d become combative, impossible to reason with, and there was an embarrassing incident at school involving a pair of dirty gym socks and a teacher’s aide. The aide was fired, of course, but when Edward secretly sympathized with the guy, he knew it was time to do something about what he laughed off as Edna’s severe case of “wiseact-itis.”

So, about an hour away from Grandma and Grandpa’s, Edna’s parents explained: they’d given it a lot of thought and that something would be for Edna to spend the summer in the desert with her grandparents, starting now. Edward told her that her grandmother was a tough woman, and he meant that as a compliment.

Edna’s grandparents lived in a small cabin on a large acreage near the town of Desert Palms, California, but Edna wouldn’t call it a “town.” She’d call it “coordinates on a map.” Edna knew that this was at least partially because of the sock incident and that, in fact, her father blamed her for it. It was so unfair. If someone doesn’t know the difference between “strained” and “sprained,” they should not have authority in a school. Besides, the act was clearly premeditated; no one could fish socks out of their gym bag that quickly. Edna would have the memory of that lunatic charging at her and the smell and taste of his filthy socks burned into her brain for life, but that didn’t seem to matter to anyone.

Edna whimpered things like “the whole summer?” and “it’s not my fault!” and that she “would be really good,” but she was still too sarcastic, and it didn’t matter what she said anymore anyway. Her parents had undertaken a military-like approach to this maneuver, and they were not turning back.

“I want you to be an exceptional woman, Edna, and I want you to be yourself,” Jill explained, “but you’re always out to prove something. You’ll find that not everyone appreciates your constant one-upmanship, certainly not Grandma.”

“What’s the problem, exactly? ‘One-upmanship’ or that your words are poorly chosen and you don’t know what rebellious means, and I simply take the trouble to point it out?”

“The problem is that you’re a...word that rhymes with witch—”


“She needs to know how she’s perceived.”

Jill couldn’t deny that she’d called Edna the same thing, but not directly to her. She didn’t immediately agree to leave Edna in the desert when Edward presented the idea. He refused to put Edna on medication, and there was increasing pressure from the therapist to send her to a psychiatrist. It was time to do something radical, he explained. After Edna handed a bottle of mouthwash to the genius she’d worked so hard to get for piano lessons, Jill agreed. The award-winning pianist was insulted and embarrassed, and he never came back.

“Edna, you have no respect for others. It can’t go on, and it’s not going to be tolerated,” Jill said.

“If it can’t go on, it won’t need to be tolerated. You’re getting illogical—”

“And you’re getting a lot of time to think.”

Her father’s tone was sharp enough to end the exchange. Edna pictured herself trapped in her grandparents’ dreary world. She was no longer sure if she was breathing. Hopefully she would pass out quickly and die. Until then she couldn’t reveal any further weakness. Perhaps if she seemed happy about this idea it wouldn’t seem like enough of a punishment, and her parents might change their minds. She could only hope that there was no way they were serious and that this was merely a sadistic joke, but the main challenge at the moment was to keep from crying.

Garbled in the background, while this momentous challenge was underway, was Jill’s voice suggesting that Edna do her best to get on well with Grandma.

“—and try not to worry about Grandpa. He can hear, I think, and he can stand up. The way to be a good guest, Edna, is to be cheerful, to offer help, and to never need to be entertained.”

Edna had no idea why Grandpa liked to sit on the porch for the entire day, but that was his story, and she certainly didn’t expect Grandpa to entertain her. Sometimes it looked like he was going to get up, but usually that was a cough or a sneeze, and it almost always disgusted Edna. He ate on a TV tray that Grandma brought, and at the end of the day he’d come inside and go to bed. It never occurred to Edna that that had been going on, all this time, since she was last there two years ago. Edna didn’t like to think about Grandpa, and she hardly ever did.

“Grandma and Grandpa came to live out here because Grandpa was very sick. That was a...a long time ago, before you were born, but many years after Grandpa fought in a war that—”

Edward told Jill not to make it so complicated.

This was the speech Jill had been selling to make Grandma and Grandpa seem more human. It was all starting to make sense: the speeches, the snacks, the ice cream in the morning. This kidnapping scheme disguised as a fun little trip was not appreciated. Edna might have at least packed her clothes or said good-bye to her friends. Instead she was going to disappear like some freak.

“Grandma and Grandpa have a phone now,” Jill reminded her.

It was a landline. Edna’s grandparents had just acquired a 100-year- old technology. It was not likely that they also had Internet. Or a computer. Edna checked her phone, a useless, pink object with games on it and no service. For all practical purposes, Edna had died. She didn’t know if she’d ever fully recover from this; she’d just gotten things perfect after changing schools over some other problem that was totally not her fault either.

“Edna, you have to be a little brave. It’s a hard life. Grandma has no place to go. There’s no one around, there’s nowhere to go to dinner—”

Edward interrupted to point out that there were a couple of restaurants, not that Grandma and Grandpa go out very much, and a few stores.

Edna silently gasped against her carsickness and the future. She rested her head by the window so air could rush over her face. The rhythmic whir of the wheels on the road gave her something else to focus on. Creosote bushes whipped past, creating streaks of green ribbon in the sand, and the road sloped up into forever, the low horizon line ahead promising an ocean of anything beyond it. Even though hell and, hopefully, a swift and merciful death were in that direction, it was beautiful and Edna was hypnotized. For a moment the whole family was.

To buy the book, go here:


About Maddy:

Edna In The Desert is Maddy Lederman’s first novel, and she’s working on its sequel. Other writing has appeared in The Huffington Post, The Los Angeles Times and The Sun Runner, a magazine about California deserts. Maddy has an M.F.A. in Theater from Brooklyn College. She works in the art department for films and TV shows, recently on Darren Aronofsky's Noah and The Amazing Spiderman 2. She’s a native New Yorker who loves to travel, hike, drive, go out to eat and be in the desert.

Connect with Maddy here:

Maddy is giving away a copy of Edna in the Desert. The giveaway is only available to U.S. addresses.
To be entered in the book giveaway, leave a comment along with your email address. You may enter the book giveaway twice--once on each spotlight post.

Happy Reading!
Caroline  Brown


Anonymous said...

Sounds really good. Kids now days can benefit from being "unplugged" and isolated a wee bit. Get them into REAL life!


Linda Kish said...

For a native New Yorker, she has the desert down pat. Poor Edna, a summer in the desert. I would hate it. But the book sounds great. I'd love to read it.

lkish77123 at gmail dot com

Jackie McNutt said...

Edna In The Desert looks like a good book.
Congratulations on getting published.
Story line is interesting' thank You

Anonymous said...

Hello ladies. I enjoyed reading about this story and Maddy. Sounds good. I would love to be in the drawing for a copy of this book.
Maxie mac262(at)me(dot)com

sm said...

Sounds good and people will relate to this problem of being isolated and God providing for them. sharon wileygreen1(at)yahoo(dot)com

Maddy Lederman said...

I'm glad so many readers are finding this idea interesting. It's great to hear your thoughts!

squiresj said...

I would love to win, read and review this - jrs362 at Hotmail dot com

  © Blogger template Simple n' Sweet by 2009 Design expanded and personalized by 2011.

Back to TOP