Thursday, May 29, 2008

Roses & Daisies

Have you ever wanted to get in your car, drive away, and leave everything behind? When a sudden tragedy changes the life of strong, dependable, Laurel Tanner, she gets in her car and travels across the Trans-Canada Highway. She tells no one that she’s left, or where she’s going. In fact, she’s not entirely sure herself why she’s doing it.

Her bewildered husband Douglas, and her telepathically connected twin brother, Lin, set out on a journey to find her and hopefully bring her home.Told with both sorrow and humor, through the eyes of seven different characters, this novel examines perceptions and relationships, and finds that often what we believe about ourselves, or another, may not be the truth.


Laurel - Beautiful and talented singer, Laurel, has always been there for everyone. But when tragedy happens to her, she can't cope, and so she runs away -- after eating a package of double chocolate chip cookie dough.

Linden - Laurel's twin brother. They have a telepathic connection which Lin uses to contact her and Laurel wishes he would stop using because it's driving her nuts.

Douglas - Laurel's bewildered husband. He doesn't know what to do. He's jealous of Lin who understands Laurel better and has that weird telepathic thing going on with her. And there is the question in the air -- was he the reason Laurel ran away?

Sharon - Laurel and Linden's widowed mother. Sharon loves her garden and it has always given her peace, but the tragedy which she feels responsible for has made her turn elsewhere for solace. And it started with the blackberries.

Margaret - Sharon's neighbor and confidant. After years of living next door to each other, Sharon is just discovering how wise frumpy Margaret is, and Margaret has her own secrets.

Olivia - Linden's wife. Sweet soft-spoken Olivia struggles with her jealousy towards perfect Laurel whom she loves and admires and wishes she could be more like.

Perry - Linden and Olivia's twelve-year old son. Perry is carrying around his own feelings of guilt about the tragedy. And since no one is telling him anything about what's going on, he has to find out for himself.


I read Roses and Daisies in a weekend. I was captivated from the 1st chapter. I loved the writing style, very unique. Each chapter is told from the perspective of a different character intimately involved with the main character and the crises unfolding. I wondered how you were going to turn things around so that Laurel would finally allow the atonement to take effect in her life, and how she could possibly feel the comfort of the Holy Ghost. I was pleased that you did not conveniently tie it all together in a nice neat bow, while at the same time, satisfying the reader's need to see things resolved.

I would highly recommend (and have highly recommended) Roses and Daisies to friends and customers for private reading and also to use as the subject of book clubs. I think this book lends itself perfectly to group discussion, and dissection. It is very uplifting... Cindy, Generations LDS Bookstore

"Roses & Daisies" is a wonderful story told from the perspective of seven different people. It is the story of Rose, a little girl who is the only child of Laurel and Doug. She was visiting her "Gamma", Sharon, and together they were making a batch of cookies. It had been raining but the rain had stopped and Rose and Sharon were going to have a picnic lunch in the tree house in the back yard. Rose went out to climb into the tree house, she fell, hit her head and died instantly. Her death affected everyone who knew her. We get to read how Sharon, Margaret, Laurel, Doug, Linden, Olivia and Perry are coping with Rosie's death.

Sharon is the mother of twins, Laurel and Linden. Her neighbor, Margaret, is a mystery to her but she tolerates her and even learns to love and accept and respect her. Doug is Laurel's husband and Olivia is Linden's wife. Perry is their 12 year old son and very close to his aunt Laurel. Sharon, Laurel, and Perry all blame themselves for Rosie's death and deal with it in different ways.

The grief is too much for Laurel who after several days in bed gets into her car and leaves her home on Vancouver Island to go on a Canadian cross country road trip. Doug and Linden find out that she is as far east as Montreal so they get on a plane to go find her. Doug is terrified of being in a plane but deals with his fear in order to find his wife. Linden and Laurel have a twin connection that helps him communicate with her. Things get tense at the end and Linden has everyone praying for Laurel's safety.

There is humor in this sad story. The scene at the airport and on the plane were something I could relate to. I cried and laughed all through the book. It was hard to put down and I stayed up past midnight to finish it. I think that anyone who has lost a loved one, especially a child, will be able to read this story and relate to it. It is very well written and edited and the characters are well developed. I highly recommend it and advise that as you read it you have some tissues handy...
Marilee McQuarrie, Association for Mormon Letters

Told with both sorrow and humor, first-time author Anna Maria Junus surprises readers with her inspiring story of a mother, Laurel Tanner, coping with the loss of her only child. Masterfully written from seven perspectives...
Deseret Catalogue

Monday, June 25, 2007

Chapter 1

Chapter 1

First I must plant peace in my garden,
Plant seeds of patience and trust in you...


The berries reminded me.

Round, plump, and black with a pebbly texture; the juice was sweet and stained our mouths, our fingers and the fronts of our shirts. Mother would pretend to be cross when we came home without the promised berries for the pie we had begged her to make. She would shake her head at our sticky fingers, our scratched arms, and the stained shirts. Then she would smile and tell us to get washed up for supper.


I wiped my hands on a kitchen towel and walked over to the large French doors leading to my garden. The blackberry bushes were heavy with fruit and I suddenly had the urge to bake a pie. Armed with bucket and hat, I ventured out into the warm midday sun.
"Sharon," I looked up. My neighbor, Margaret, smiled at me over the fence.

"It's nice to see you up and about."

"Don't tell me you've been standing on an overturned orange crate, peeking over my fence, and waiting for me to come out for the past two weeks?"
"No," she replied, "It's an overturned apple crate."
Margaret was the type of woman who didn't seem to exist anymore. Overweight, with a cheery disposition and hair that wouldn't answer to a comb, it wasn't unusual to find her at my door with a pan of brownies, a casserole, or a loaf of bread. One time she came with an armload of flowers that looked suspiciously like the ones in my garden, especially since her yard, although well kept, wasn't exactly a showplace. She would laugh and say it was a good thing she never had children or they would end up as dead as her flowers. I think that all those times when she came over with her arms full, her heart was empty and she just needed someone to talk to.

"Your roses are beautiful," she commented. "I can never get my roses to grow, never mind look like that, and I do everything you tell me to."

"Well, thank you. You have lovely daisies in your front yard."
"Daisies ain't roses."

"Daisies don't have to be."
Margaret smiled. "I guess you're right. Say, what are you doing?"
"I thought I'd bake a pie, so I'm going to pick blackberries. Would you like to join me?"
"Hmm." Margaret cocked her head to one side and her eyes looked heavenward, as she appeared to be mentally running over her appointment book. "I have so many things to do today, but I guess a couple of minutes picking berries won't hurt. Be right over."
As Margaret's head disappeared from view, I looked around my yard. Someone had mown my grass recently, and although my garden needed weeding, the plants were fresh and strong from regular watering. I had no idea who had done it, since I hadn't even looked out my windows for the past couple of weeks. Had it been a couple of weeks? It seemed like an eternity ago, yet then it also seemed like yesterday when it had happened. I wished I could thank whoever had taken care of my garden. My eyes carefully avoided the corner where the oak tree stood, protective of the tree house residing in its branches, and the tire swing hanging over bare patches where grass should have been. People told me my garden would win awards if it weren't for the “eyesore” in the corner. But I loved the “eyesore” and I felt it was the heart of my garden. It made my garden real, alive. At least I had felt that. But now... I couldn't bear to look at it. Not now. Not yet.

The back gate creaked as Margaret, in a frumpy floral housedress, the kind no one wore anymore, came into the garden. I had tried before to make her over in a more fashionable way, but today I was grateful for my failure, for her frumpiness was somehow comforting.
"Your gate needs oiling."
"I meant to do that. Lately it hasn't seemed so important."
Margaret nodded. "Sometimes things that seem so important end up not mattering at all."
I turned to the berry bushes and plucked one off a branch. It was round and blue black with a pebbly texture. I looked at my berry pail, then at Margaret, and then popped the berry into my mouth. The sweet juice burst over my tongue, bringing back warm memories of long, hot, summer days and no responsibilities. “They’re early this year,” I said. “Almost as if…”
“As if what?”
“I don’t know. It sounds silly. But it’s almost like a gift.”
Margaret grinned, raised a plump berry to her mouth, and tossed it in.

"Mmm," she said. "It's been years since I ate a blackberry."
"It has not! Just last summer I saw you standing right here in your nightgown one night, eating my berries."
"Why didn't you say something?"
"You looked like you were having fun stealing from me. I didn't want to disturb you."
"Well, next time join me."

"Well, next time I will."

When Ted and I first saw the house, it wasn't much to look at. It was smaller then. The roof needed fixing, the front porch sagged, and the entire place inside and out was badly in need of a paint job. But the house had character and the yard was big, with a beautiful old oak tree and an abundance of blackberry bushes. After our tiny walk-up apartment, it looked like a palace to us, so, with youthful enthusiasm and a new, long-worked-for job, we were able to ransom our futures to the bank. Linden and Laurel were born here, and before I knew it, the oak tree held a swing and a tree house, and football and soccer games were played in the back yard with the neighborhood kids. I had yearned for a beautiful serene garden with roses and hyacinths, but instead I had to content myself with vegetables and marigolds, and bare patches of grass, and laughing, shrieking children. Now I had the roses and hyacinths and serenity. But I wanted bare patches of grass with laughing, shrieking children. There's a song that goes “You don't know what you got till it's gone.” I guess it's true.

"Sharon ... Sharon."

I started. "Hmm?"

"We just ate all the berries, and your bucket's empty. I'm sorry. I guess you won't be able to bake your pie."

"It's okay. I've never made a blackberry pie in my life. I don't think I've ever tasted one."

Margaret smiled at me with purple teeth and then, surprisingly, started laughing.

Trying not to laugh myself, I asked indignantly, "Just what is so funny?"

"," she gasped, "you have purple teeth!" The last words came out in a strangled squeal as tears streamed down her face.

I tried not to let her contagious laughter affect me. I kept my indignant stance and said with great sophistication, "Oh yeah! Well, so do you!" Then I, too, broke down and laughed.

Several minutes later the laughter died and I was left with mixed emotions of relief and guilt. Looking back, the situation wasn't that funny, but I guess we needed the release. At least I did.

"You know," said Margaret, after several moments of silence, "there's something I've always wanted to do."

"What's that?" I lazily mumbled. We were lying on our backs in the grass like two kids. Picture clouds hung in a brilliant blue sky. I could see an elephant giving itself a bath, and a dragon smoking a pipe.

“I’ve always wanted to go in the tree house.”

I lay there in the grass with my eyes closed, groaning inwardly. Why couldn’t she say she wanted to go to Spain, or deepest darkest Africa, or Jupiter, or, or, anywhere but the tree house? “The tree house?” I mumbled.


“I don’t want to go in the tree house.”

“Sharon, you’re going to have to face it sometime. Not looking at it won’t make it go away.”

I raised up on one elbow and turned towards her. A calm determined stare met my gaze. I knew I had lost. “Oh, all right.”

Margaret struggled to her feet. “Well, come on, but we need a ladder. There’s no way I’m going to be able to climb those rungs nailed to the tree.”

I watched, mildly amused, as Margaret’s chubby legs dangled from the opening in the floor of the tree house.

“Stuck?” I called up.

“No!” she grunted. Then with one determined heave her legs disappeared. I nimbly followed up after her.

When my head emerged through the trap door, I saw Margaret sitting on the floor with a thoroughly disgusted look on her face. “Show off!” she accused.

“You can blame it on my circus experience,” I replied as I sat down beside her.
"What's in the suitcase?"

I turned to the battered old valise sitting in the corner. "That," I said with great importance, "is a treasure chest."

"What's in it?"


Margaret crawled over to the suitcase and opened it up. "Archie comic books?"

"Laurel and I used to spend hours sitting up here and reading them. Linden and I used to read the horror comics."

"Linden read horror comics?"

I grinned. "Linden has always had a fascination for the unexplained, the macabre…the gruesome. His light side, and his dark side, I used to call it. Fortunately his light, spiritual side won out, although I occasionally catch him with a Stephen King." I thought fondly of Linden and Olivia and their five children. "Did you hear? Linden and Olivia have set up their own architecture firm."

"No, I hadn't."

"They announced the news just before ..." I stopped.

"How's Laurel doing?" she asked quietly.

"Laurel has crawled into her bed and she isn't seeing anyone. Least of all me."

"Sharon, I'm sorry."

"I can't blame her, I ..." I stood up and walked over to the window overlooking the garden. "This is where Laurel and I talked about everything … boys, schoolwork, jobs. Laurel first told me about Doug in this tree house. When I saw the glow in her eyes I knew he would be the one. We came out here and planned the wedding.

“We had the reception in the back yard. Remember?" Not waiting for a reply, I continued, "I knew before she did when she was pregnant. She named the baby Rose, because she said she knew I always wanted roses in my garden. Out of all the roses in my garden, Rosie was the most beautiful." I turned to find Margaret with tears silently streaming down her face.

"Gamma, when the blackberries come, will you bake a pie? I'll pick them."

I looked down at Rosie's upturned face. "I think it's a splendid idea." I knew I probably would never bake that pie.
"When will the blackberries come?"
"Oh, in a couple of months, or less." I tapped the hand reaching for the chocolate chips.

"What's a couple?" asked a mouth full of chocolate chips.

"Two," I replied as I stirred the chips into the cookie dough.
"Gamma," Rosie was looking out the window at the downpour that had started ten minutes earlier, "where does the rain come from?"

"It's the angels crying."

"What are they crying about?"

"I think some are sad because of the bad things people do to each other, and I think some are happy tears because of all the beautiful things in the world."

"Like flowers and chocolate chip cookies?"

"And little girls named Rosie."

"That's not what Daddy says. He says rain is made from perspiration."

I smiled, "Your Daddy is a very smart man."

"I think rain tears are nicer than rain sweat."

I turned my back to Rosie so she wouldn't see me chuckle.
"What's that noise?"
"What makes it thunder?"
"Well, it could be the angels tap dancing, or bowling, or maybe they're riding horses."
"They sure are busy up there."
"I'm sure angels are always busy. They're just not so noisy all the time."
"Gamma, are you making all this up?"
I turned to look into her warm brown eyes. "Well, maybe some of it. But I will tell you what is true."
I picked her up and carried her to the French doors. "The angels are happy with you, and -- look."
"I see a rainbow!" The rain had stopped, and the sun shone dazzlingly through the clouds. We could see the entire rainbow from one end to the other, its colors crystal clear through the raindrops on the window. "It's boootiful!" she exclaimed.
"It's God's promise he will never flood the earth again, like he did with Noah."
"Gamma, is that true?"
"That," I looked into her eyes again, "is true."
"Good!" She kissed me on the nose. "I still like the story of rain tears better than rain sweat."
"Me too," I replied as I put her down on the floor and walked back to the cookies we were making.
"Gamma, do you have peas in your garden?"
“Yes. Would you like some for lunch?"
"No, I don't like peas. But Mommy sang about peas in church the other day.
"She did?"
"Uh-huh. It went …" Rosie started singing, "Make peas on earth, and be the first, to reach out a helping hand." She stopped. "Like that. Does that mean I have to plant lots of peas? 'Cause I don't like peas."
"No darling, that's not peas, that's peace."
"A piece of what?"
"This peace means happiness, or joy."
"Ohhhh!" I could almost see the wheels working in her brain. She started singing in a clear voice like her mother had when she was little. “Make joy on earth, and be the first, to lend a helping hand …” Her face brightened.
“Oh, I get it!” Then her face clouded over. “Does that mean I have to make friends with the girl in my kindergarten class who pulls my hair?”
“Well, it would be nice.”
“Gamma, her name is Joy.”
The oven timer dinged.
“The cookies are ready! The cookies are ready!” Rosie sang and danced around the room. “The cookies are ready! The cookies are ready! I loooove cookies! Gamma, can we eat them now?”
“We’ll eat them at lunch time.”
“Is it lunch time?”
Can we eat lunch in the tree house?"
"I don't see why not."
"Goody! Goody! Goody!" She jumped up and down. "I'm going out to the tree house now."
"Okay." Rosie started running out the door. "Just be careful. It might be slippery from the rain!"
"I will!" she called back.
I enjoyed the few moments of quiet. While I was making the sandwiches, I heard the scream.

"They called it a freak accident,” I said to Margaret. "Her head hit the tree. The doctor said she died instantly. She felt no pain." I looked away from Margaret. "Do you know how many times kids have fallen out of this tree and not suffered anything worse than a bruise? Do you know how many times in a life a child bumps his head? It doesn't make any sense."
"Sharon, have you cried yet?"
"I cried when Ted died, but you sort of prepare yourself for losing husband. You know it's possible, even likely that you'll survive him. But a child-­-it's different."
"Sharon, have you cried yet?"
"It was my fault! I was supposed to be taking care of her. Laurel trusted me, and now I've lost them both!"
"You haven't lost either one of them. You'll see Rosie again, and Laurel is in so much pain right now, she has to blame somebody. She'll come around when she realizes how much she needs you."
I sat down on the floor beside Margaret. "I spent my life protecting my children from pain. I wasn't always successful, but I never thought I would be the cause of ...of..."
"It wasn't anybody's fault." Margaret's arms went around my shaking shoulders as I tried to control the sobs I felt rising up in me. "Sharon, I would give anything to trade places with you right now."
"You have been loved, and you've given love, and you will continue to give and receive love. You've had a husband, and children, and now grandchildren. You will never be alone, and all the heartaches you will go through are worth all the joy you have received." She paused, letting it sink in. "Sharon, would you rather have not had Rosie in your life? You wouldn't be hurting right now like this if you had never known her."
I'd always known Margaret had been a little lonely. I hadn’t realized how lonely until I looked into the eyes of a woman who had never known family. Through my pain I saw a woman with unfulfilled hopes and dreams, a woman who would die alone.
We cried all afternoon, long heartbreaking sobs that bound us close together. Long after the sun went down that summer day, we carefully inched our way down the ladder in the dark and went home.
As I walked into my kitchen, the phone rang.