Win a copy of Pearl! Details at the end of this post.

Henry and I get comfortable in our usual Days of Our Non Lives positions on his mother’s scratchy plaid couch in their tiny living room. We’re just in time for the familiar hourglass. Sally hushes us for the opening voice-over.

Like sands through the hourglass …

Henry and I look at each other and telepathically exchange a single, familiar phrase: We are pathetic.

… so are the days of our lives.

The small air conditioner duct-taped into the only window in the cramped living room hums mournfully over the tragedy about to play out on the TV, as well as the sagging couch the three of us sit on—Sally in the middle, as always. I close my eyes and feel the cool air against my sweaty face as the opening scene starts.

Sally leans forward to watch. Her huge breasts rub over the top of the metal mixing bowl filled with Doritos she holds in her lap. She grips the edges of the bowl, her dimpled arms blocking Henry and me from reaching in to grab a chip, as if we don’t know the rule or might try to break it: No eating during Days. Sally says the crunching is too distracting. Instead, we wait for the commercials and crunch during the ads while Sally fills us in on whatever we’ve missed since the last episode we watched with her. Her face always gets a warm glow when she talks about TV love, like it’s going to ooze into her own life any day now. Sally believes with every molecule that makes up her large pink body that somewhere out there is the perfect man for her. Henry always looks sad when his mom says this. Neither of us believes it. Even if that man did exist, how could he find Sally when she never leaves the house? There is only one man who knows where Sally is, and he left fifteen years ago, two months after Henry was born.

Henry doesn’t know much more about his father than I know about mine, and maybe that’s how we got to be such good friends, sharing our soap-opera-like dreams about who our real fathers are and how they might come back into our lives. The only things I know about my father are the hints I get from listening at closed doors. Not that I get that many opportunities. But sometimes, when my mom comes home particularly late from her waitressing job, I can get lucky. Whenever she’s late, it means she’s spent her extra tips at the bar on half-priced booze. If her keys jingle in the lock for more than fifteen seconds, I know it’s a night to listen for information. The first thing my mom does after going to the bathroom is head to her bedroom and call her best friend, Claire, to recap the last fifteen years of her life and all the places it’s gone wrong.

Excerpt© 2011 Jo Knowles

About the book:

Love can be a lot like a soap opera. Pearl (aka Bean) has watched enough hours of the TV version to know all about sudden plot twists and dark secrets… But this is real life, not a TV drama, and some things are too important to lose.

What people are saying:

“A touching family melodrama about the corrosive nature of secrets and the cleansing power of honesty.”–Kirkus

“Bean’s grief at learning the unfortunate situation surrounding her birth and its ramifications is deftly rendered, offering up a raw, unmitigated picture of a little girl lost… the hopefulness of Henry and Bean’s relationship is a welcome bit of optimism in this evocative tale that is sure to linger with readers.”—The Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books

“PEARL is so many things… it’s part family drama, part romance, and part mystery. It’s peopled with characters so rish, so beautifully imperfect, that it’s hard to believe they’re not real.”—Kate Messner, author of Sugar and Ice

“Quiet, powerful, and absorbing: this is a novel that will, like that tiny piece of grit, gnaw on the reader, driving her forward to find the pearl that awaits.”–Teri Lesesne, author of Reading Ladders

Released: July 19, 2011

About the author:

Jo Knowles is the author of the novels Pearl, Jumping Off Swings, Lessons from a Dead Girl and See You At Harry’s (spring 2012). She lives in Vermont with her husband and son.


Jo has been kind enough to contribute a copy of Pearl for a giveaway.

Just comment on this post to enter.

For extra entries:

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Please list your extra entries in the comments.

The contest is open in the US only and ends on August 3rd at midnight EST.

Good luck and happy reading!