“Save What’s Left,” the “outrageously funny” debut novel of author Elizabeth Castellano, is our “GMA” Book Club pick for July.
Kathleen Deane was in search of her dream life when she moved to the Long Island beach town of Whitbey after her marriage of nearly 30 years fell apart. Instead of the picturesque, quaint life from the postcards she imagined, she’s now found herself embroiled in the trials and tribulations that come with living in a beach house -- and the neighbors next to her.
As Kathleen becomes more involved with the small-town politics, she realizes her new life may not be the fairytale she hoped for, but it just might be what she needs.
In the critically-acclaimed novel, Castellano writes an original witty tale that has kept readers laughing.
Dive into “Save What’s Left” with an excerpt below and get a copy of the book here.
This month, we are also teaming up with Little Free Library to give out free copies in Times Square and at 150 locations across the U.S. and Canada. Since 2009, more than 300 million books have been shared in Little Free Libraries across the world. Click here to find a copy of "Save What’s Left" at a Little Free Library location near you.
Read along with us and join the conversation all month long on our Instagram account -- GMA Book Club and #GMABookClub.*****
Never buy a beach house. Don’t even dream about one. Don’t save your money or call real estate agents or pick out a white couch. If you must do something, pray for the people who do own beach houses. Pity them. Certainly don’t, under any circumstance, envy them.
Maybe it’s too late for you. Maybe you’ve gone ahead and picked up some starfish tchotchkes and turquoise nonsense, and you feel you’re in too deep. Well, then let me tell you right now that those warm summer nights you’re dreaming about will be spent arguing over parking restrictions and beach access. You won’t paint or write or play tennis. You’ll be too busy filing code enforcement complaints in the town attorney’s office. You’ll wake up to the sound of leaf blowers and you’ll either spend half your life trying to protect a tree or cut one down. The village will be charming. The view will be beautiful. You’ll attend countless meetings about how to keep them that way. Do yourself a favor and put a lawyer on retainer. Don’t waste any time about that. You will, without question, not be on speaking terms with at least one of your neighbors in a year’s time.
And, if you’re like me, you’ll eventually end up in a courthouse conference room in some godforsaken town, nervously clutching a tattered, overflowing, cardboard Christmas box with a picture of a dopey snowman and the words, “Bring on the Snow!” The box will be filled with letters and emails and blueprints and surveys and photos that began as minor grievances, but are now exhibits in a money-laundering scheme. And what you’ll think to yourself as you stare at that stupid snowman and search frantically for a tissue to wipe away the sweat, which now routinely rockets from the top of your head is this: Why did I ever buy that house?
The worst part about all of this, I mean the really worst part—worse than the alleged wire fraud or the ruined view or the mounting therapy bills—is that now I am one of these people. I’m now the kind of horrible person who genuinely cares about what so-and-so had to say about the traffic from the chowder festival. I’m the kind of person who has an opinion about whether the beach sticker should be placed on the front or rear bumper of the car. I know more than one person named Bunny. I spend weekends reconstructing osprey nests. I carry around Freedom of Information forms in my purse. I fantasize about a tsunami sweeping away my neighbor’s house and floating it out to sea (preferably with them in it). I, honest to God, look forward to town board work sessions airing on Channel 36. I’m the kind of person who has the town supervisor’s cell phone number posted on my refrigerator and who has cried more than once in the town attorney’s office. I’m that kind of person. The worst kind of person. I’m a beach person.
Three years ago, I didn’t have a beach house. Three years ago, I was a normal person. I had a husband, a job, and a house with no view in Kansas City. Every Sunday, my husband and I would go to the same diner for breakfast. We’d order two omelets. We’d request the same waitress. We’d eat at the same table. We’d leave the same tip. We’d talk about work or we wouldn’t talk at all. Then, one day, we went to a different diner and Tom ordered pancakes, and he left me.
I don’t know about you, but I’d like to think that if I were rotten enough to leave someone over pancakes after 30 years of marriage, I’d have the decency to have a good, juicy reason for it. I’d, at the very least, have the decency to make something up. You’d like to think there’d be some seedy affair or coming-out proclamation or witness protection situation. But, Tom didn’t have any reason at all. He just looked up at me while he very casually poured his maple syrup and asked me, “So... do you think this is working?” I thought he meant the restaurant. I said I thought it was wonderful. I really did. I said, “I think it’s wonderful.”
I guess Tom hoped that I would say something like, “No, I see what you’re saying. It’s not working. Let’s get a divorce.” That would have been better. Then, we could have gone on enjoying our breakfast and possibly could have still made that stop at the estate sale on the way home to buy yet another old radio to add to Tom’s collection. Instead, Tom launched into a twenty-minute monologue about feeling trapped and stuck and in a rut and weighed down and a few more metaphors meant to say, “I just can’t stand you anymore.”
Tom said he needed adventure. He said he felt suffocated. He wanted to “find himself,” a phrase he no doubt picked up from one of his many self-help manuals about breathing and thinking and eating and general basic living. Whether Tom’s “self” was lost or never found in the first place, I don’t know. But, either way, he felt the most likely place to find it was on the Queen Mary 2 ocean liner. So, he went ahead and booked a solo ticket for a four-month world cruise. It was setting sail from New York in a week. “It’s the only way,” he said. “I’ve had a paradigm shift.” This was the man who needed the butcher to put pieces of paper in between each slice of American cheese—the one who had me ironing his boxer shorts for 30 years. It was the man who told me every summer that a beach vacation was not necessary because we belonged to the YMCA and that traveling to Europe would be nothing but a headache.
While Tom continued to walk me through all the reasons why he now considered our life to be unbearably dull, I started thinking about a pain in my rib that I had for about three years in the ’90s. I started thinking about it because the pain came back right around the time Tom mentioned that he was planning to purchase a tiny home, and trailer it across the country when he returned from his world cruise.
SAVE WHAT’S LEFT • Elizabeth Castellano. An Anchor Hardcover 304 pages • $26.00 • On Sale: 6/27/23 • ISBN: 9780593469170 Anchor Books, A Division of Penguin Random House • 1745 Broadway New York, NY 10019