Jann Arden Releases New Novel, The Bittlemores
Jann is excited to announce that her very first novel, ‘The Bittlemores’, is out November 7th and now available for pre-order on audio, e-book and from your favorite bookstore!
“I’ve never written a novel before—I had certainly thought about it through the years- same old idea rolling around in my head, taking up time and space—I’d have whole pages written while I slept and wake up disappointed that it was all just a dream.
I started this book in 2009 and I wish I was kidding. I wrote two memoirs in between ‘The Bittlemores’—that’s how long it took me, but it was worth every single moment spent on planes and buses and hotels and dressing rooms. I’m so glad I stuck with it. Maybe it stuck with me.
This family is part fantasy, part fiction, part little bits of my actual DNA. My mom’s childhood, my dad’s disposition, long dead relatives and dear childhood friends. I had a mighty group of souls cheering us on—me and Willa and Carol and Margaret and the cows and a feisty orange cat.”
Excerpt from The Bittlemores
“It was somebody’s birthday yesterday!” my grandmother trilled when I came into the kitchen for breakfast, thrusting a newspaper-wrapped package in front of my face. When I ripped it open, I realized they had gone out and bought me a book. A used one, but even so, it was a first. So now I had two copies of Nancy Drew’s The Mystery at the Moss-Covered Mansion.
The card was interesting. It was originally a Happy Anniversary to my Loving Husband card, but my grandmother had scribbled that out and put Happy Birthday to our Loving Daughter instead.
She’d obviously never felt the desire to give that card to my grandpa Harp: it looked like it was twenty-five years old.
Along with the used book I’ve already read three times, Harp gave me his old pocketknife. I’ve seen him clean his nails with it a thousand times or cut twine or gut trout or open bottles. It’s as sharp as a dare and can chop through a fence post. After the incident with Berle, I guess he figured he needed something bigger to protect himself from her and the other killer cows, so he’d bought himself a new one from the hardware store. He shines it with a felt cloth every chance he gets, admiring the blade like it holds the secrets to the universe.
Poor Berle hasn’t been the same since Harp attacked her. She only ventures out of the stable on the nicest of days, and then staggers around the field, sandwiched between Dally and Crilla for protection. I wonder what it would be like to have human friends and family who love you so much they never leave your side, who want to protect you and keep you safe. It’s as foreign to me as walking on the moon.
I thanked my grandparents for my book and my knife and tried to act as humble and as grateful as I possibly could. It all went pretty smooth, until I blurted, “How do you know she’s not dead?”
They both knew exactly who I was talking about.
As the words fell out of my mouth, I realized how harsh it was to be pushing the issue on the anniversary of my mother’s disappearance. My grandmother grabbed the pitcher of iced tea off the counter and poured me a giant glass.
“Here, you must be thirsty.”
For a split second it crossed my mind that she might be poisoning me. Have I mentioned that she fancies her abilities with herbal remedies? I shook the bad thought out of my head and took a big drink as she waddled back around the table.
Harp acted like he hadn’t heard the question. Maybe the two of them really had no idea about what had happened to their daughter.
“That thing’s like a razor,” Harp said, pointing at his old knife. “Don’t be waving it around like a wand.”
I couldn’t think of any reason I would have to wave a pocketknife around like a wand. My grandmother added that they had discussed giving me the knife at length and decided it was high time I had some protection out there.
Out there where?
Mostly what I needed to be protected from was them.
She poured herself a glass of tea and waved for me to hand over my new old knife so she could cut up the corn cake she’d made that morning.
“Look what you can do with it . . . it cuts like nothing.”
“Yes,” I said, “it cuts right through cake . . .”
I could have cut that cake with my thumb.
Harp looked like he no more wanted to stay sitting at that kitchen table celebrating my belated birthday than he wanted to be strapped to an electric chair.
I figured I wouldn’t get any further that day, pressing them on whether they thought my mother was still alive. But wouldn’t the Bittlemores know? Wouldn’t police eventually show up at your door? Or you’d hear a Jane Doe report on the news and put two and two together? How could a fourteen-year-old girl who had just given birth walk off a farm one night and never be heard from again?
While I didn’t care much for corn cake—it tasted a little too much like, well, corn—Mrs. B poured saskatoon berry syrup over it and brought the plate over to me, and it was sort of my birthday after all.
“I didn’t have a candle,” she said. Hands on her hips, she waited for me to take a bite, then leaned closer to watch me chew.
After I swallowed, I said, “I wasn’t expecting a candle. Honestly, this is great, thank you.”
Why in the world can’t I have a normal cake?
But then I realized this wasn’t a birthday cake—this was Harp’s lunch I was eating, both of us cramming corn cake into our heads like there would be a test at the end of it. Between bites, Harp chugged a big glass of whisky, doing a very good job of pretending things were hunky-dory.
“Do you want to sing ‘Happy Birthday’?” my grandmother asked.
“Like to myself?”
“Papa and I can sing with you.”
Harp grunted and shook his head. “I ain’t singing anything.”
“That’s okay,” I said, “we can just eat the cake.”
My grandmother shrugged, and began cleaning up the dishes, clanging and banging around like she was mad all of a sudden. As she hurried over to the sink, one of her boobs knocked the jug of iced tea off the counter. It smashed on the kitchen floor.
“For the love of Christmas pudding! Girl, get the dust¬pan and the mop!”
That was the end of my belated party.
As I mopped up the floor, I started brooding again about my mother. Was I the only person on the planet that thought the total disappearance of a fourteen-year-old girl was the least bit suspect?
Something nasty has been simmering on the farm these past weeks. Something coming to a boil that I’ve sensed for as long as I’ve been alive. I’m a little bit scared about what it might be, tell you the truth. But truth? Yep, I’d like to know that.