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Flight Patterns
by Karen White

Published: 2016-05-24
Hardcover : 416 pages
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The New York Times bestselling author of The Guests on South Battery tells the story of a woman coming home to the family she left behind—and to the woman she always wanted to be...

Georgia Chambers has spent her life sifting through other people’s pasts while trying to forget her ...
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Introduction

The New York Times bestselling author of The Guests on South Battery tells the story of a woman coming home to the family she left behind—and to the woman she always wanted to be...

Georgia Chambers has spent her life sifting through other people’s pasts while trying to forget her own. But then her work as an expert of fine china—especially of Limoges—requires her to return to the one place she swore she’d never revisit...

It’s been ten years since Georgia left her family home on the coast of Florida, and nothing much has changed, except that there are fewer oysters and more tourists. She finds solace seeing her grandfather still toiling away in the apiary where she spent much of her childhood, but encountering her estranged mother and sister leaves her rattled. 

Seeing them after all this time makes Georgia realize that something has been missing—and unless she finds a way to heal these rifts, she will forever be living vicariously through other people’s remnants. To embrace her own life—mistakes and all—she will have to find the courage to confront the ghosts of her past and the secrets she was forced to keep...

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Excerpt

Prologue

“The keeping of bees is like the direction of sunbeams.”

Henry David Thoreau

—Ned Bloodworth’s Beekeeper’s Journal

September 1943

Provence, France

Dead bees fell from the bruised dusk sky, their papery bodies somersaulting in the air, ricocheting like spent shells off the azure-painted roof of the hive. Giles straightened, breathing in the heavy scents of lavender and honey, of summer grasses and his own sweat. And something else, too. Something chemical and out of place in his fields of purple and gold. Something that made sense out of the bees lying like carrion for the swarming swallows above.

“Ah! Vous dirais-je, maman,” sang his three-year-old daughter with her clear, perfect voice from her perch on an upturned bucket, unaware of the sky or the bees or the tremor of fear that shook the breath from his lungs.

“Colette, calme-toi,” he said, putting his finger to his lips.

The little girl stopped singing and stared up at her father with a question in her dark eyes. He had never asked her to stop before.

Keeping his finger to his lips, Giles closed his eyes, listening. A low hum escaped from inside the hive, quieter now, a volume dial turned low on a radio. A sign to any beekeeper that something was wrong. The queen had died, perhaps. Or any of the dreaded parasites—mites or beetles, even—had invaded the hive, taking over an entire population and killing them.

Or the entire colony had become aware, even before Giles, that the one thing he’d hoped and prayed would never happen was now waiting with open arms on his doorstep. And the bees had chosen a sudden death instead of a long, lingering passing.

He strained to listen, wanting to hear beyond the sound of the bees and the circling birds and his own breathing. There. There it was. The gurgle and thrum of multiple engines. Not cars. Trucks. Large trucks to transport as many people as possible, a slow convoy climbing its way through the small farms and vibrant fields of Provence.

It was inevitable, he supposed. As soon as the Germans had invaded the free zone in southern France the previous November, there was nobody to protect them. Not even a puppet government. His chest expanded and contracted as a cloud of dust and cut hay churned up by the trucks’ tires drifted over the winding dirt road in the far distance like poison descending on the valley.

He thought of the family now huddled in his barn, in the small room he’d created beneath the hidden trapdoor covered with bales of hay. A mother and father and three small children, the woman’s belly swollen with a fourth. He hadn’t even asked their names. These families came and went so frequently that he’d stopped asking. It was easier that way, later. When he’d learn that some hadn’t made it over the mountains to safety it was better that he hadn’t known their names.

Giles cursed under his breath. Three days before, when the cobbler had sent his new assistant, he’d known. He’d seen the way the young man’s eyes had darted about the barn, taking in the tidy table and bench pushed against the wall. The way the cobwebs had been swept out of the corners of the rafters. The neatly stacked tools, carefully placed. All signs of a woman’s touch, yet Giles’s wife had been dead for three years. Yes, Giles had known even then. And the bees had known, too.

Half an hour. That’s all he had before the trucks reached his farm, saw the brightly painted beehives and the stone house where his family had lived for almost two hundred years in the shadow of the château. Before they reached the barn and started moving the hay. His nostrils flared as the exhaust fumes overtook the sweet scents of his beloved fields, and he turned abruptly to Colette.

“C’est le temps.” He picked her up, her warm breath on his neck, and began to run.

She started to cry before they’d even reached the barn, her sobs already hiccups by the time the family had crawled from their hiding place and begun their escape across the lavender fields, their shadows chasing them through the rows of purple.

In the kitchen at the back of the farmhouse he removed the small leather suitcase that had been Colette’s mother’s, packed the same day he’d decided he could no longer be a bystander. Carefully he took the teapot from the hutch, where it had been nestled between its matching cups and plates, the feel of the china fragile beneath his rough hands, as he remembered his dead wife and how she’d loved beautiful things, how she’d loved to set the table and eat from the delicate plates. The china set had been a wedding gift from the château to his grandparents, a thank-you for his family’s years of service.

He wrapped it in a small towel and tucked it carefully amid Colette’s clothing inside the case, then lifted the little girl into his arms again, pressing his forehead to hers. “It will be all right, ma petite chérie. Madame Bosco has promised to look after you until I return.” He lifted the suitcase and began walking swiftly from the house toward the neighboring farm. The Boscos were a large Italian-French family with seven children of their own and had not asked him why he might need to leave his daughter for an unspecified amount of time. It was better they did not know.

“Non, Papa.” Colette’s bottom lip quivered, but he dared not slow or look behind him.

He pressed her blond head against his chest as he walked faster, seeing the lights of the stone farmhouse, white sheets flapping on the clothesline like a warning. The door opened before he reached it. Madame Bosco’s large, round form filled the doorway, the light illuminating her. A young girl, dark haired like her mother but slender as a reed, peered out from behind madame.

“Go back inside,” the woman said to the girl. “Keep your brothers and sisters away from the door.” She waited until her daughter had left, the girl stealing a glance over her shoulder only once. Madame Bosco turned back to Giles. “It is time?” she asked, her voice low.

Giles nodded, holding Colette even tighter, knowing what a terrible thing he was asking the child to do. And how this very scene must be playing out again and again all over the burning fields of Europe. A chorus of children’s cries and parents’ despair that fell on parched earth and thick air that smelled of burning things. The wailing might be heard, but no one was listening.

He touched his lips to Colette’s sweat-soaked forehead and tearstained cheek, breathing in the scent of her one last time. “You are my heart, ma chérie,” he said, holding her small fist tightly in his own larger one, replaying something they did every night. “And only you can set it free.” He opened his hand and wiggled his fingers like petals on a sunflower. Even in her misery, the little girl remembered her part and opened her own hand, the small fingers slow and heavy.

“Remember this,” Giles whispered in her ear, the folds and curves as delicate as a flower. “Remember you are my heart.”

Before he could change his mind, he handed Colette to the welcoming arms of Madame Bosco. There were tears in her eyes as she held the sobbing child. “We will keep her safe until you return. We have already instructed the children.”

Giles nodded, remembering her mother, as he stroked Colette’s blond curls. He slid a postcard from his pocket and handed it to madame, his thumb obscuring the foreign stamps. The edges were torn and frayed from having been held and read so many times, the image of the beach with impossibly white sand engraved on his memory. “If something happens, let my friend know. His name and address are on here. If I can’t find you, I will go to him.” He paused for a moment. “Keep it hidden. It will be safer for you that way. No questions.”

Madame Bosco nodded and he felt the trembling in her hand as she took the postcard. “I will pray that I will put this back in your hands along with Colette when this is all over.”

He gave her a solemn stare. “I hope God listens to your prayers. He hasn’t listened to mine in a very long time.” Lifting the suitcase, he set it inside the kitchen door. “Be careful with this. I have wrapped something precious inside, something of her home and family. Please keep them both safe.”

One last time Giles pressed his lips against Colette’s soft curls. “Au revoir, ma chérie. I will come back for you; I promise. However long it takes.”

The little girl looked up at him with her mother’s eyes, large and dark. She reached for him. “Ne va pas, Papa! Don’t leave me!” She struggled to release herself from the woman’s grasp, her legs kicking frantically.

“Be safe,” madame said, her own eyes damp. “Until we meet again.”

He touched her arm and pressed it, grief like cement filling his throat. With one last glance back, he turned in the opposite direction from his farm and began to run. He heard his daughter sobbing as the sky cast out the light, and imagined he could hear the sound of dead bees hitting the parched earth, lamenting the passing of all that was good.

Chapter 1

“The bee collects honey from flowers in such a way as to do the least damage or destruction to them, and he leaves them whole, undamaged and fresh, just as he found them.”

St. Francis de Sales

—Ned Bloodworth’s Beekeeper’s Journal

Georgia

April 2015

New Orleans

Memories are a thief. They slip up behind you when you least expect it, their cold hands pressed against your face, suffocating. They blow icy-cold air even on the hottest days, and pinch you awake in the middle of the night. My grandfather had once told me that memories were like a faucet you could turn on or off at will, and that after I got to be as old as he was, I’d have figured out how it works. Maybe I just wasn’t old enough, because my memories always had a way of getting stuck in the on position, flooding my mind with images and snatches of conversations I’d rather not relive.

Perhaps that explained my obsession with old things, with antique clocks, armoires, and shoes. My fascination with ancient books filled with brittle paper, mismatched china pieces, and old-fashioned keys and their corresponding locks. It was as if these relics had been left for me to claim as my own, to make up a past that was devoid of my own memories.

Old china was my favorite. It allowed me to live vicariously through somebody else’s imagined life, to participate in family meals and celebrations, to pretend to be a part of a bride’s place-setting selection. Experiences from somebody else’s life, but definitely not my own. Despite, or probably because of, my family’s well-grounded belief that I was born to founder, I’d discovered a vocation I not only loved but was actually good at. I was an expert in most things antique, a sought-after consultant, and proof that it’s possible to become someone different from the person you’d once been. The person everybody expected you to still be. If only I could have figured out how to turn off the memories, I might have been able to sink comfortably into the new life I’d created from old china and discarded furniture.

I dipped a cotton swab into the cleaning solution and dabbed at the intricate scrollwork of the padlock on my desk. The silver shield-shaped lock with grained bar-and-diamond-embellished trim had been found in a box of old horse tackle in a barn in New Hampshire at an estate sale. Mr. Mandeville, my boss, and owner of the Big Easy Auction Gallery, had grudgingly let me go. I had a good eye and an even better instinct about these things, and after eight years of my working for Mr. Mandeville, he’d finally started to agree. I would study the history of a property and its owner when an estate sale was announced so that I could look at pictures of boxes stacked in an old barn or pushed against the walls of a humid attic and know what treasures I’d find.

I wouldn’t say that I was particularly happy, or as successful as I’d like to be, but there was nobody in my life to ask me whether I was. Nobody to hold up a mirror to make me see whom I had become, or to see the person I’d been who had never really believed she could be anything more than ordinary. My mother had once told me that she didn’t know that particular sorrow, the sorrow of being ordinary. But I did. And I relished it, if only because it made me not her.

I opened the large bottom drawer of my desk, listening to the clink and slide of dozens of mismatched keys and padlocks I’d collected over the years, my hope of finding a matching key and lock one of the stupid little games I played with myself. I’d just grabbed a fistful of keys when I heard the front door of the building open, the bell clanging ominously in the empty space. It was Sunday, the offices and gallery below were closed, and nobody was supposed to be there. Which was precisely why I was there, unconcerned about the vintage jeans with frayed bell-bottoms that sat a little too low on my hips, flip-flops, a 1960s tie-dyed T-shirt, and hair pulled back in a ponytail that made me look about ten years old.

“Georgia?” Mr. Mandeville called up the stairs. The gallery was an old cotton warehouse on Tchoupitoulas, and every word bounced and ricocheted off the brick walls and wood floors unencumbered by rugs or wall coverings of any sort.

I stood to let him know where I was, then froze as I heard another male voice and two sets of footsteps climbing the stairs.

“Georgia?” he called again.

Knowing he’d probably seen my car in the small parking lot behind the building, I sat down behind my desk, hoping to at least hide my flip-flops.

“I’m in my office,” I shouted unnecessarily, their footsteps coming to a stop outside my door. “Come in.”

Mr. Mandeville opened the door and stepped through, then ushered his companion inside. The tall ceilings and windows dwarfed most people, including my boss, but not the visitor. He was very tall, maybe six feet, four inches, with thick and wavy strawberry-blond hair. As a person who studied objects of beauty for a living, I decided that’s what he was and didn’t bother to hide my scrutiny.

He was lean but broad shouldered, the bones in his face strong and well placed, his eyes the color of cobalt Wedgwood Jasperware. As they approached, I stood, forgetting what I must look like, and allowed my gaze to rove over the full length of him like I would a Victorian armoire or Hepplewhite chair. I’d started to grin to myself as I realized I must be one of a very small number of women who’d compare a handsome man to a piece of furniture.

He must have caught my grin, because the man stopped about five feet from me, a pensive look on his face. It took me a moment to realize that he was studying me with the same examination I’d just given him.

I sat down quickly, chagrined to know that I wasn’t as immune as I believed myself to be.

Mr. Mandeville frowned slightly at me seated behind my desk. I knew he had issues with my insistence on solitude and working long hours. He was a family man who thrived on noise and bustle and the adoration of his employees and extended family. But he’d never had concern over my manners. Until now, apparently.

“Georgia Chambers, please meet a prospective client, James Graf. He’s come all the way from New York City to see you. He was so excited to meet you that he made me bring him straight here from the airport.” He sent me an accusatory glare as we both understood my lack of a cell phone meant he hadn’t been able to give me advance warning.

James tucked a parcel under his left arm to free up his right as he extended his hand toward me. I half stood, painfully aware of my low-slung jeans. “It’s a pleasure to meet you.”

His hand was large and swallowed mine in a firm handshake. I slid my fingers from his and sat back in my chair. Turning toward Mr. Mandeville, I asked, “What’s this about?”

“James is in the process of settling his grandmother’s estate and came across a set of china that he believes might be valuable. He Googled china experts and found your name.”

The visitor continued. “But I couldn’t find a phone number for you, so I reached Mr. Mandeville instead. I offered to e-mail a photo, or speak with you directly, but he explained that you prefer to look at pieces in person, to hold them to get a real ‘feel’ for them. And that an e-mailed photo is something you’ve never considered working with.”

He said it without the usual derision I was accustomed to hearing when people learned I had yet to move into the twenty-first century.

“She also declines to use a cell phone,” Mr. Mandeville added.

The man looked at me with assessing eyes, and just for a brief moment I thought that he might understand why a person would choose to live surrounded by other people’s things.

Then he said, “I couldn’t imagine.”

He was right, I knew. But I could almost believe that I’d seen something in his eyes that seemed a lot like longing for a world he hadn’t even known existed.

“Do you know anything about antique china, Mr. Graf?”

“Not a thing, I’m afraid. And please call me James.”

I nodded, taking in his well-tailored suit and Hermès tie—possibly vintage. He wasn’t a Jim or Jimmy, had never been one. He was mid-thirties, but had a youthful air about him that didn’t seem like a Mr. Graf at all. He looked like a James who sailed a lot and was probably on the rowing team at Dartmouth or Yale or wherever up north he’d gone for undergrad. His hair was a little too long for the Wall Street stereotype, but I would’ve bet my collection of Swiss watch parts that he belonged to the fast-paced financial world of constant texts and two cell phones to manage the craziness.

He narrowed his eyes and I realized that I’d been too busy cataloging him to be aware that I had been staring again. Flustered, I slid the items on my desk to the side, then reached for the brown corrugated box. “May I see?”

“Of course.” He handed the small square box to me, and I placed it in the center of my desk.

I picked up ivory-handled scissors—from an auction in Louisville, Kentucky—and slit the single layer of packing tape that held the top flaps in place. He’d carried it on the plane, then, not trusting anyone else to its safety. I imagined it must mean something important to him. He’d said it had belonged to his grandmother.

I began sifting Styrofoam peanuts from the box. “Did you eat from this china when visiting your grandmother?” I wasn’t sure why I asked, why I wanted to know more about the life of the inanimate object I was unwrapping.

“No,” he said, almost apologetically. “We never used it. It was kept in a place of honor in her china cabinet ever since I can remember from when I was a little boy. She’d dust all of the pieces and carefully return them to their spots on the shelves, but we never used it.” There was a note of wistfulness in his voice, a hint of loss and longing I wasn’t wholly convinced was about his grandmother or her china.

“It’s Limoges,” said Mr. Mandeville, as if to validate his presence. He was a great businessman, and had a fond appreciation for beautiful and expensive antiques, but what he knew about fine porcelain and china could fit onto the head of a straight pin.

My eyes met Mr. Graf’s—James—and we shared a moment at Mr. Mandeville’s expense, distracting me enough that I almost missed the white handle of a teacup emerging from the sea of Styrofoam.

Using my thumb and forefinger, I gingerly lifted it from the box, then sifted through the remaining peanuts and found the saucer. “It’s Haviland Limoges. Haviland and Co., to be exact—not to be confused with Charles Field, Theodore, or Johann Haviland Limoges.”

I felt Mr. Mandeville beaming at me. “I told you she was good.”

James leaned in closer. “You can tell that without looking at the bottom?”

I nodded. “You can tell by the blank.” I ran my finger along the scalloped edge of the saucer. “That’s another name for the shape of various pieces in the pattern. I can tell by the edges of this saucer that it’s probably blank eleven, which is a Haviland and Co. shape. It’s evident by the scalloped border with embossed dots along the edge. It’s very similar to blank six thirty-eight, but because I have the teacup, which is completely different in both blanks, I know for sure it’s number eleven.”

The visitor smiled. “I had no idea it would be this easy.”

I tried not to sound smug. “That’s actually the only easy part in identifying Limoges china. David Haviland, who founded Limoges in 1849, never saw the need to put his pattern names on the pieces he manufactured—that’s why there isn’t one on the bottom of your teacup.” I held it up to prove my point. “Which becomes problematic . . .” My words trailed away as I studied the brilliant colors of the pattern, noticing for the first time the bee motif in bright gold and purple, with fine green lines and loops showing the trajectory of the bees in flight as they danced along the scalloped edges of the saucer. It was extraordinary and unique. So memorable.

I looked up to find both men watching me, waiting for me to continue. I cleared my throat. “Which becomes problematic when you learn that since the company was founded it has produced almost thirty thousand patterns under five different Haviland companies on several continents.”

“Do you know this pattern?” James asked, and I got a brief whiff of his cologne. Something masculine. Sandalwood, I thought.

I shook my head. “I don’t think so.” I flipped over the teacup, seeing the familiar Haviland & Co. marking. I swiveled my chair and reached for the bookcase behind me and pulled out a thin book with a spiral binding, one of a six-volume set. “But if it’s been identified it will have been given a Schleiger number and will be cataloged in one of these books.”

“And if it’s not in there?” Mr. Mandeville asked.

“Well, it could have been a privately commissioned pattern, or such a rare one that it never made it into the catalog. Mrs. Schleiger was a Nebraskan trying to fill holes in her mother’s set of china and was appalled at the lack of pattern names on most of the Haviland china, and did her best to identify as many as she could—hence the name ‘Schleiger number.’ But the scope was too great to include every pattern ever created.”

I leaned back in my chair. “There are other Haviland identification books we can refer to if we don’t find it in the Schleiger volumes, but I’ve rarely had to dig that deep. The Schleiger books are pretty comprehensive.”

“So there’s a chance you won’t be able to identify it or determine its value?” he asked.

“Not necessarily, but it will take some time. It might not have a pattern name, but there are other ways to determine its origin, and through that a more exact value. For instance, floral patterns were popular in the 1950s, and there were distinctive patterns from the Art Nouveau era that can help us pinpoint the time period the china was first made. Although I must say I can’t really identify a time period where insects were the ‘in’ thing. I’ll need to double-check, but I believe the blank was in use in the second half of the eighteen hundreds, so that would be a place to start.”

I picked up the cup and ran the tip of my finger over the bees, so lifelike that I could almost imagine their buzzing. “This pattern is so unusual. If it was mass-produced, there will be more out there, unless it wasn’t popular and had a limited run. Even harder to find would be if it was made on commission.” I looked up at Mr. Mandeville. “Well-known artists like Gauguin, Ribiere, Dufy, and Cocteau actually designed several patterns for David Haviland. If this is one of theirs, it could be very valuable.”

“But wasn’t Haviland Limoges meant for the American market?” Mr. Mandeville asked, beaming. I’d had to explain that factoid to him many times and was glad to know it had stuck. “And if Mr. Graf’s grandmother was from New York, perhaps you could start by looking at the local retailers there who sold Limoges.”

“Yes, but the Limoges factories were in France, so it wouldn’t be unheard-of for a French customer to commission a set of china. And that might be like looking for a needle in a haystack.” I ran my fingers along the end of the teacup again, a reluctant memory stirring.

James turned the catalog around to face him and began thumbing through the pages with a frown on his face. “So to identify the pattern, you have to look through each page to see if you recognize it.”

“Pretty much,” I said, wanting to explain that I loved the minutiae of my work, the mindlessness of flipping through pages that took enough of my concentration that my mind didn’t have to wander down paths it wasn’t allowed to go.

“I could help,” he offered, his blue eyes sincere.

I shook my head quickly. “I’m sure you have to get back to New York. If you allow me to keep the cup and saucer, I’ll fill out the necessary paperwork for insurance purposes. . . .”

He straightened. “Actually, I’ve taken a leave of absence from my job, so I have as much time as it will take. I wasn’t planning on heading back until I have some answers.”

“And he’s already promised that we will handle the auction of the china and the rest of his grandmother’s estate if this search proves fruitful,” Mr. Mandeville added, giving me a hard look under lowered eyebrows.

I studied the bees again as they swirled around the pieces of china, their wings stuck in perpetual movement. So memorable. I had a flash of memory of my grandfather in his apiary, my hand in his as we walked down the rows of hives, the bees thick as they darted and spun around us, and how I hadn’t been afraid. And then I remembered Birdie finding me in her room, rummaging through her closet for something vintage to wear, finding instead something entirely unexpected, something that had made my mother so sad that she had to go away again. Something that had made her put her finger over her lips and make me promise to keep it a secret. It was the only thing my mother and I had ever shared, just the two of us. And so I had.

“I think—” I said, then stopped. I wasn’t sure I wanted to mention that I thought the pattern seemed familiar, that I might have seen it in my childhood house. Because even after all this time and all that had happened in the intervening years, I didn’t want to give my mother another reason to be disappointed by me.

“What do you think?” prompted Mr. Mandeville.

“I think,” I said again, “that I may have seen this pattern before. Or something very similar.” My eyes settled on Mr. Mandeville. “On a soup cup I found in my mother’s closet. My grandmother was a bit of a junker—always collecting stray bits of china and knickknacks, which is probably where it came from.”

“Good,” said my boss. “Then all you have to do is go home and bring it here so we can compare.”

I frowned up at him. He’d been urging me to go home to see my family for years now, not understanding how people related by blood could be separated for so long. As if being related meant permanence and acceptance, two words I’d never associated with my family.

“I really don’t think that’s necessary. I’ll call my grandfather, ask him to look for it and ship it here if he finds it. Or maybe he can just take pictures and send them. That might be enough to compare it with this one. It wouldn’t be necessary to physically hold it to see if it’s the same.” I indicated the cup I still held in my hands, almost feeling the thrum of the flying bees through my fingertips.

“If it is the same,” asked James, “what might that imply?”

“That the pattern could be mass-produced, which will mean it’s not worth as much as a custom one.” I ran my fingertips along the edge of the cup, trying to remember that day in my mother’s closet, trying to see again the pattern of bees. Trying to remember what it was about it that had sent my mother away again. “Although I’d be pretty surprised if it were mass-produced. I’ve seen thousands of Limoges patterns before, but never anything like this. It’s rather . . . unique.”

“I’d prefer to see it in person,” Mr. Mandeville said. “That way we won’t make any mistakes.” He cleared his throat as he turned his attention to James. “We’re very particular here at the Big Easy. We like to make sure we’re one hundred percent correct when assigning values.”

“I’ll call my grandfather,” I repeated, my higher voice sounding panicky, and I hoped they hadn’t noticed.

Mr. Mandeville frowned. “But if the piece doesn’t turn up, I want you to go look for yourself. You’re very thorough, Georgia. It’s what makes you so good at what you do.” His frown morphed into a fatherly smile that made him look like an executioner holding an ax.

I felt James’s presence beside me, watching me closely, making it impossible for me to tell my boss exactly why I hadn’t been back to Apalachicola in ten years.

“I’m sure your family would love a visit from you, too,” he added.

Impotent anger pulsed through me, forcing me to close my eyes so I could focus on breathing slowly to calm down, just as Aunt Marlene had shown me when I was a little girl and the world had stopped making sense. Breathe in; breathe out. The air whistled in through my nose and out through my mouth, sounding more and more like the drone of hundreds of angry bees as I tried to force the word “no” from my lips. view abbreviated excerpt only...

Discussion Questions

1. The title FLIGHT PATTERNS has many layers of meaning that only become clear after you’ve read the novel. What do you think the title represents?

2. Many people collect china or have pieces that have been handed down in their family through generations. Do you have a china collection and if so, do you know its history? Is knowing its history particularly meaningful to you?

3. Georgia and Maisy grew up knowing that their mother, Birdie, was mentally ill, but it doesn’t seem to be something that is openly discussed in the family, and even between the sisters. Is there a stigma in talking about mental illness? Is this something you think you would be able to discuss with either family or friends?

4. One of the themes in FLIGHT PATTERNS is family and what people do in the name of family, to protect their families. Many of the characters in FLIGHT PATTERNS have done extreme things to protect their family—whether it’s Giles sending Colette away, Georgia’s gift to her sister, or Ned protecting his wife even long after her death. Do you feel that this is realistic? Would you go to the same extremes for your family?

5. Bees and beekeeping are important elements throughout FLIGHT PATTERNS. What do you think the bees represent to the different characters?

6. After caring for the bees almost religiously most of his life, Ned does something so destructive towards the bees and nearly burns down the house and kills his granddaughters. Why do you think Ned acted the way he did?

7. Birdie has been acting for nearly her entire life, despite not having a career on the stage or screen—who do you think the real Birdie is?

8. Becky accidentally discovers a secret about herself. Is this something that Maisy should have told her about before? Why or why not?

9. We find out that Ned is the one who sent in Giles Mouton’s name to Yad Vashem to be recognized and honored for what he did during World War II. Do you think this helps to mitigate some of the guilt he bears in Giles’s death?

10. Birdie’s inability to cope with her past and her emotional instability lead her to being a neglectful mother to both Georgia and Maisy. Do you think she deserves forgiveness from her daughters now that they know the truth of her damaged personal history?

Notes From the Author to the Bookclub

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Book Club Recommendations

Serving suggestions?
by nbaker (see profile) 10/10/16
Definitely hot tea, with warm biscuits and lots of sweet honey.

Member Reviews

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by BeaSou (see profile) 02/16/19

 
  "An Awesome and Beautiful Read"by nbaker (see profile) 10/10/16

Wow - such a potent story. I'm speechless and want to just pick up the book and start it over again. Karen White has again proven why she is one of my favorite authors and this one may be my... (read more)

 
  "Flight Patterns"by Silversolara (see profile) 06/03/16

Georgia vowed she would never return home after she and her sister had words and parted ways ten years ago.

But....never say never. James, a client of Georgia's looking for a special Lim

... (read more)

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