Readers, are you ready for the inside scoop? Erica Boyce’s new novel Lost at Sea explores the death of a fisherman named John Staybrook and the ways in which that loss ripples through his town. We’re thrilled to be revealing the cover for Lost at Sea, and we also have an excerpt to give you a sneak peek at the novel. We think you’re going to love it.
Are you ready to see the cover?
Here we go.
This cover is designed by Kathleen Lynch of Black Kat Designs, and we love how the vibrant yellow raincoat stands out against the serene and mysterious blue background.
Now that you’ve seen the cover, it’s time to start reading! Check out this excerpt:
When Jess Connelly appeared on Diane and John’s front porch that evening, her eyes fixed on the welcome mat and her feet in a puddle, Diane knew just what she was going to say.
“I’m not sure what happened,” Jess said. “To tell the truth, he took another boat out tonight and had me running his. One minute, he was there on the radio, talking to me, and the next—” She scrubbed at her forehead to hide her tears from her captain’s wife. Later, the men who had been at the docks that night would say when she returned on the Diane & Ella alone and white-faced, they’d never seen her look so shaken.
Diane, for her part, leaned heavily against the doorway, fingers to her mouth. She heard Jess apologizing in one choked tangle. “It’s all right,” Diane said, though of course it wasn’t. She wanted so desperately for this part to be over. She touched Jess’s trembling shoulder, which seemed to break the spell. Jess met her eyes, nodded once, and left, her boots leaving wet footprints on the stairs that vanished within minutes.
Diane closed the door. She walked, unseeing, toward their well-worn couch. She pushed aside a pile of Ella’s paperback fantasies and sat. Rested her head in her hands, her elbows on her knees. She would wait until morning to tell Ella, she decided. Let her daughter sleep these last few hours in peace, her yellow hair flung across the pillow, her mouth wide open, her breath milky.
She went to the microwave and heated up a mug of tea, watching the numbers tick down. When it beeped, it took her a minute to remember to open the door and retrieve her cup. The sides scalded her hands. She sat at the counter. She allowed herself exactly one hour to stare into the cup while its heat dulled to room temperature. And then, she hurled the cup against the wall. She wasn’t strong enough—only the handle broke off. She could see the tea dripping down the wall in a sad, pathetic trickle through the scrim of her tears. How could he be gone? How could he possibly be gone? Her eyes and throat burned.
She forced herself to think. She wondered if she could crawl into bed with Ella unnoticed. The girl had developed a habit recently of pushing Diane away—sometimes physically—embarrassed of her mother. She was far too young for that, Diane thought. She was only nine. She was far too young for any of this.
She wondered if this was finally her chance to escape Devil’s Purse and get out of this town that had claimed her husband so fully, right up to the very end. God knew, she did not want their daughter falling in love with a fisherman—or worse, becoming one herself.
And she wondered, in a small, sure voice that slithered up her spine in the dark house, if Jess was lying. Jess, tagging along with John all those years. Maybe she knew he’d written her into his will. Maybe she knew what would happen if John disappeared. There was an irrational bitterness to this thought, Diane realized. But how else to explain it all? John never would’ve left them like this.
“Never,” she whispered to herself and knelt to the floor to collect the mug and its handle.
Something was wrong with Lacey. It was the end of the night. The guests had picked up the auction items they’d won and left empty glasses and plastic plates in their places, crowing at each other on their way out the door. Ophelia, having waved off the last of them, sat in the corner in a folding chair and pecked at her phone. Normally, Lacey would be scooting around collecting napkins and wiping tables by now.
Instead, she stood in the kitchen doorway, bowing her head toward Jude. He held her elbow and whispered something in her ear. Her hand swept up to cover her mouth, then her eyes. Even from the other side of the room, Maureen could tell she was close to tears.
A dark and vicious part of Maureen that she preferred not to look at head-on hoped it was about Matt. He was just a kid, though, she reminded herself as she crossed the room. A kid whose parents would now be told the worst imaginable news.
“Lacey,” she said, touching her daughter’s hair when she didn’t look up. “Honey, what is it?”
Jude slipped away to pack up more pots. He picked up a pair of their big metal tongs and stood still, staring at it with more concentration than was strictly necessary.
Lacey scrubbed at her eyes and wiped her nose with the back of her wrist. “It’s John Staybrook,” she said. “Ella’s dad.”
Maureen’s muscles went rigid.
“Jude just got a text from his cousin. He’s lost at sea.”
“No,” Maureen said. She braced herself against the doorway. “Oh, shit.”
Their silence on the way home was a different one, more echoey and watery. Maureen drove more deliberately than usual, her foot pressing the brake a full half block before the red lights. Lacey’s hands were still. Maureen wondered if she, too, was remembering the last time she’d talked to John.
Maureen had been drawing herself a bath to reward her aching muscles for pulling off another wedding season. She only allowed herself these moments when Lacey wasn’t home. She worried a little about what Lacey would say if she found out her mother took bubble baths, like the overworked mom in a scented candle commercial. How odd that she worried about what her daughter thought. After all, she’d cradled Lacey’s tiny naked body in the kitchen sink in the weeks after she was born and had coached Lacey through her first tampon from the other side of the bathroom door. In less than a week’s time, Lacey would be off to college, and Maureen would be able to sit in the bath until all her fingers pruned. Maureen tried to look forward to it.
The phone rang. Maureen left the water running to pick it up.
“Hey, Maureen. It’s John. John Staybrook.”
“Oh, hi, John! How’s it going?” She perched on the edge of the closed toilet seat and studied her cuticles. She hadn’t seen John in months, not since the last time she picked Lacey up on her way to somewhere else. He was probably calling to ask about Maureen’s plans with Diane. They were meeting up that night to watch a movie.
“It’s good, it’s good.” He paused. “Um, listen,” he said. “I was just walking across the parking lot at Dunkie’s, and I saw Lacey. She didn’t look so good.”
Maureen’s spine straightened. “What do you mean? Is she sick?”
John took the longest breath she’d ever heard. It echoed down the tunnel of the phone line. “I don’t know. She was passed out in someone’s car. I don’t want to accuse her or anything, but it really looked like she was high.”
She almost laughed. Impossible. She’d just seen Lacey that morning. Her eyes had twinkled the way they always did over the rim of her coffee mug. She’d joked with Maureen about one of the regulars at Dunkin’ Donuts, the man who sat at the counter every morning and read just the obituaries in the Boston Globe. Hadn’t she?
John cleared his throat. “I would stay put and wait for the ambulance, but”—he lowered his voice to a dull rumble—“I’ve got Ella here with me. She’s the one who spotted Lacey on our way out the door from the store. I had to tell her she was just sleeping, you know?”
“Yes,” Maureen said, or thought she said.
She stared at the water still gushing into the tub. Droplets flew off the surface and clung to the walls. Lacey had helped her paint them. “Let’s do a more muted shade in here, Mom,” she’d said. “You want it to be nice and calming, right?”
John was still talking, something about recognizing the signs from one of his former crew. Also an addict. Maureen could only nod. Her hand dropped into her lap with the phone in it. His voice was manageable from a distance. Eventually, it was replaced with the tinny whine of the dial tone and the whoosh of the faucet. She sat until the water lapped up over the lip of the tub. Until it crept across the floor and reached, tentatively, for her bare toes.
They didn’t speak until Maureen had pulled into their driveway. “We have to go see them,” Lacey said as Maureen tugged the keys out of the ignition.
Maureen was tempted to ask who, but she knew who. To ask might snap this thin thread of conversation in two. “I’m sure they’ve got plenty of friends to help them,” she said into the ticking of the engine.
“I need to make sure Ella’s okay.”
Maureen sighed and pressed the edge of her forehead. “Fine. We can head over tomorrow. Just for a few minutes, okay?”
Lacey nodded, her ponytail a dark furl against the streetlight outside. She opened the door and dropped out into the night.
Maureen watched her walk up the front path. “Dammit,” she said under her breath.
You’ll have to wait until spring 2020 to read the rest, but you can preorder now.
Erica Boyce has been writing since she was in third grade and wearing badass cowboy-boot dresses. She wrote an illustrated story about an awkward encounter between a Thanksgiving turkey and a hunter and never looked back. Since then, she’s written angsty poetry in high school, angsty short stories as an English/Creative Writing major at Dartmouth College, less-angsty legal memos as a student at Harvard Law School.