“Things We Didn’t Say is impossible to put down, and even harder to let go of.”
—Julie Buxbaum, author of The Opposite of Love
Kristina Riggle’s star continues to rise. Tiffany Baker, the New York Times bestselling author of The Little Giant of Aberdeen County, says that Riggle, “writes women’s fiction with soul.” In her novel Things We Didn’t Say, the acclaimed author of Real Life & Liars and The Life You’ve Imagined (an Indie Next Notable Book) explores the messiness of life’s love stories, especially those involving teenage almost-stepchildren, a unreliable ex-wife, and the words no parent ever wants to hear: “Your child is missing.” A poignant, honest, and unforgettable novel that fans of Katrina Kittle and Elin Hildenbrand will take into their hearts, Things We Didn’t Say is exactly the sort of well-written, complex relationships story that women love to read, discuss, and share with their friends.
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About the Author
Kristina Riggle is a published short story writer and coeditor for fiction at the e-zine Literary Mama. She lives in Grand Rapids, Michigan, with her husband, two kids, and dog.
Read an Excerpt
Things We Didn't SayA Novel
By Kristina Riggle
William Morrow PaperbacksCopyright © 2011 Kristina Riggle
All right reserved.
My cigarette smoke twists through the predawn
November air, until a gust breaks it apart. My hair whips
across my face, so I turn into the wind, putting my
cigarette behind my back to shelter it. The effect is like leaning
off the prow of a ship.
The air is heavy with looming winter. Mornings like this, as a
kid, I'd curse and groan shivering at the bus stop in the cracking
cold before the sun even came up. Now? I'd take this cold
every day of the year if it always came with such exquisite quiet.
My boots crunch along the sidewalk in the gray stillness as
I cast a glance back toward the drafty, narrow house where the
children still sleep.
I thought one day they might be my children, or something
like that. The day I first met them, Angel was doing up little
Jewel's hair in crazy ponytails with pink glitter hair spray, then
they moved on to me and wound ribbons into braids all over my
head. I looked like a maypole. Dylan, though, reminded me of
my family's half-wild outdoor cat, Patch. You had to earn his
attention, and trying too hard was the worst thing to do. Dylan
didn't say much that first day. He started peeking at me from
under his dark, floppy bangs. By the time I left, I had earned a
quick half-smile granted when no one else was looking.
A square of weak yellow light flicks to life from the second
story. Even from a block away I can tell it's from Angel's room.
I've got time; she'll be in the bathroom for an age, emerging
in a puff of sweet-smelling bathroom steam when she imagines
My phone buzzes in the pocket of my parka, and I resume my
daily trudge around the block, feeling my last free moments of
the day burning down like my cigarette.
"Hey, Edna Leigh."
"I wish you wouldn't call me that."
"I'm just joshing with you."
"I'm not in the mood."
"Fine, Casey." Though I've been short with him, his voice has
a smile in it. I can always count on this, whatever else happens.
"Does your husband get to say your real name, or do you make
him use your last name, too? Shit, linebackers go by their last
"If your mother had named you after a great-grandparent, you
wouldn't like it, either. How'd you like to be an Otis? Anyway, he
calls me Casey, and he's not my husband."
"Yet?" he prompts.
Michael must have already left for the gym to work off his
worry about his job. Every day he comes home with more news
of cutbacks and layoffs and buyouts.
"When do I get to meet him?"
"I'm beginning to think you're embarrassed about me. Least
if we're going to sneak around we should screw around, too,
make it fun."
I laugh, because Tony is twice my age and then some. He's
a former neighbor but feels like my uncle, and these days is my
only genuine friend. "It's not you I'm embarrassed about."
I step over a cracked piece of sidewalk without having to look.
If they ever fix it, I'll probably fall and break my neck.
"How great can this guy be if he expects you never to have
made a mistake in your life?"
"Ain't it always."
"Whatever. What's up with you, Tony?"
"Five hundred days sober today."
"You get a cake for that?"
"Come to AA with me, and I'll make you a double chocolate
"C'mon, come with me. I promise to bake you a cake, or
whatever you want. Name your price."
"I can't be bought with dessert."
"How very high-minded."
"I'm not going to stand there in some dreary church basement
confessing to my past drunken sins, which, by the way, are
two years old now. I'm doing just fine."
My voice startles me with its volume. An early-morning dog
walker passing on the other side of the street jerks his head in my
direction. It's Tom with his floppy-haired dog, Tednamed for
the late senator Kennedyand he gives me an uncertain wave.
"You sure sound fine."
I toss my cigarette down and stamp it with my boot heel.
"Did you call just to hassle me?"
"Well, not just." Tony rattles off a cough and spits. "Talking
to you is the highlight of my day. I wouldn't get up this early for
"Then you have some sad days, my friend."
I'm already rounding the corner back to the house.
Claustrophobic city blocks are like that, and I've unwittingly sped up
my walk. My ego wants more time alone, my id wants out of the
cold. The bare November trees lean over me, and I wish I could
climb one and hide in its old branches.
The house's pitched roof and twin top-story windows create
an air of surprise that I've returned.
"You there?" Tony asks.
"You going to make it today, kid?"
I exhale a plume of white winter breath, considering. "I
"Think?" His voice bears the strain of concern. He knows
what stupidity I've survived. He knows about my old job, which I
used to lovethe only place I've ever excelled in spite of myself
the people I once considered friends, how I never see my family
anymore because all of it comes braided together with booze.
"Okay. I will."
"That's my girl. Stay strong."
It's too corny for me, but I'm glad he says it all the same.
"Some days, I just"
I have my hand on the rear storm door when the inside door
jerks open. I yank the phone away from my head and hang up.
"Who was that?" asks Michael, rubbing his eyes, then his
bare arms. He's still wearing what he wore to bed.
"My mother." I step into the kitchen's harsh yellow light and
shrug out of my parka.
"She called early. And you hung up on her?"
The phone is buzzing in my hand with Tony's number showing
on the display. I turn my phone over, his number toward my
palm. I nod.
"You'll hear about that later."
"I expect I will. I thought you were at the gym."
My phone chimes again, one brief tone, and I stuff it in my
pocket. "Angel is up, I noticed. You talk to her yet?"
"Before her ladyship has come down the stairs? Heaven
I don't rise to this. I once joined in with his half-larky, half
serious use of this title for Angel, and the conversation fell to
silence like a rock off a cliff.
"Going up to shave," he says, leaning in to plant a quick kiss
on my forehead. I would usually seize up and treasure this small
affection. Today, it stings.
When I've heard his steps go all the way up the stairs, I check
Tony didn't leave a voice mail. His text reads: Caught by
I send back one wordsorryand delete both messages.
So Michael hasn't seen Angel. He doesn't know yet. Maybe
she won't tell him at all, or maybe she's waiting. She's smart like
that, knowing how to hold her cards until just the right moment.
Like mother, like daughter.
That's another thing I'm not allowed to say.
In the kitchen, pouring Jewel a bowl of Honeycombs as the older
kids loll at the table, I offer Angel some breakfast, as casually as
I can. "Want something to eat?" I fight to keep my voice level
and mild, like I'm only the recorded voice on the phone, giving
out the time.
"Do I ever?" she spits.
I laugh, as if this is an amusing joke. I do this partly to deflect
her, partly for Jewel's benefit, since conflict gives her a tummy ache.
I rinse my cereal bowl in the sink. Michael is to my left, pouring
coffee. I don't know why I bother, but I cut my eyes over to
him, searching for him to meet my gaze. He glances up at me,
and I tip my head toward his daughter.
He sighs and turns around, flashing me a quick, shamefaced
look as he does, knowing his admonition will be too mild, too
"Angel, you really should eat. And watch your tone."
Angel barely hears him and grunts at her phone, where she's
texting. She pauses to push her white-blond hair behind one ear.
There are candy-pink streaks in it at the moment, though she's
promised the director of the school play she will bleach them out
by dress rehearsal. She stretches out long in her chair, her body
a graceful arcing swoop. She's gotten taller in the short time I've
known her, more graceful, too. Truth be told, she's a stunner of
a girl. Yet I've seen her scowl at herself in the mirror, caught her
patting her stomach and fiddling with her waistband as if trying
to check if she's thin enough yet, beautiful enough yet.
I try to ruffle Dylan's hair as I come back to the table, only he
ducks my hand so I just swipe through the air above his head. I
stuff that hand in my pocket.
"You've got music class today?" I ask Dylan.
I should know better than to ask yes or no questions. "What
songs are you working on?"
Dylan shifts in his chair, shrugging like his clothes are making
him itch. His hair, dark like his dad's, flops over his light blue
eyes, a combination that really should send the girls swooning.
Maybe in a couple of years when his skin evens out and his voice
smooths over again. "I don't . . . know." I note the pause. When
he feels the stammer coming, he takes extra time to pronounce
"You don't know?" Michael interjects.
"I haven't heard you practice in a long time," I say quickly,
interrupting his dad. Dylan used to enjoy the company when he
played his sax. We didn't talk, in fact most of the time I'd just
work on my laptop, on the floor, propped up against his bedroom
wall. He said it made him play better knowing there were
"other ears in the room."
"It's okay," he says. "You don't have to."
The teen kiss-off. "You don't have to" equals "Please don't."
Jewel pushes her pink glasses up the bridge of her nose and
announces to the table in general: "Did you know that humans
have 206 bones in the body? And we're born with more. Some
of them fuse together, though."
I'm so grateful to her for cutting the tension with her factoid,
I want to sweep her up in a hug. I cross my arms instead and
She's wearing a French braid today, which she must have
conned Angel into doing. Apparently their mother was a whiz at
complicated hairdos. I've never been good at that, and the first
time Jewel asked me to fix her hair it took twenty minutes, and
she cried all the way out the door with uneven pigtails.
"Yeah," she replies, and I'm hoping she'll continue her lecture,
but she refocuses on her cereal. She doesn't have to be up as
early as her big siblings, but she likes to be, she says. She likes to
watch everybody head off for the day. Plus, she gets the television
to herself after they leave until it's her turn for the bus at
Dylan picks up his phone and reads a message, seeming to
flinch. But then says casually, "Hey, Dad, Robert is sick today.
Can you drive me?"
Robert is Dylan's ride to Excalibur Charter Academy. EXA,
the kids call it, like ecks-uh. Angel takes the bus to the magnet
school in town, having won entrance with good grades. Dylan's
grades aren't bad, nor are they exceptional. He went to the regular
public high school until that gun incident in the courtyard
there, and then Michael's father arranged for him to attend his
friend's charter school. In the tradition of communicative teenage
boys everywhere, Dylan says EXA is "fine."
"Yeah, sure," Michael says, roused from his work trance
where he was mentally rehearsing his day. "Angel, I'll take you,
too, as long as I'm driving." With a nod but no words, Dylan
trots up the stairs, probably to fetch his saxophone.
Angel hops up from her chair. "Thanks, Daddy."
In the bustle of bags and coats, I retreat to the corner of the
kitchen. It's too small for all of us in here.
Michael sweeps by me and tries to land a kiss on my cheek.
He misses, and is propelled out the door by the momentum of his
kids coming up behind him. Dylan says nothing on his way by.
Angel says, "Bye, Casey. I hope you enjoy this nice quiet
house today, all by yourself."
She's turned away from me as she says that, so I can't see her
How much did she read?
"Casey? Can I go watch cartoons now?"
"Sure, J. Go ahead."
I pick up her bowl and Dylan's Pop-Tart plate. Jewel wraps
her arms around my waist, her nose buried in my belly. By the
time I put the dishes back down to return the hug, she has fled
to the living room to turn on Sponge Bob Square Pants.
In the emptiness of the kitchen throbs the jagged emptiness
in my chest, steadily growing in recent months, which I've tried
to ignore but no longer can. It's where hope briefly flickered, in
the days when Michael still kissed me before he left, without fail,
busy morning be damned.
Excerpted from Things We Didn't Say by Kristina Riggle Copyright © 2011 by Kristina Riggle. Excerpted by permission of William Morrow Paperbacks. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
What People are Saying About This
“In this moving and captivating novel, Kristina Riggle explores with depth and honesty the question of how we define a family, and the myriad ways we all seek to shed our difficult pasts. THINGS WE DIDN’T SAY is impossible to put down, and even harder to let go of.”
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
This is the story of a contemporary family in all of its pain and insecurities. It is the father who tries to be the responsible, stable parent. He is there for his children, no matter the chaos that surrounds them. And there is plenty of chaos: divorce, alcoholism, mental illness to name only a few. The ex-wife and mother of the children, two teens and an adolescent, is a selfish, self-absorbed woman. She is unwilling to accept responsibility or blame of any sort. Casey, the girlfriend, is insecure which makes her irresponsible in her own right. Though she has love to offer and good intentions, she is weak. The children are struggling with the issues that come with youth: school, friends, family, but also they are forced to deal with the issues of the adults in their lives. As the title alludes, sometimes it is the things we don't say that affect us the most. Communication is everything. The things that people say often stay with us, but so do the things that never get said.
This is my first book by Kristina Riggle and it definitely won't be my last
I’ve know these people in real life even been Casey at times in my life
I started this book last night and couldn't put it down. When I had to put it down, I wondered what was going to happen next.It's the story of Michael a father of 3 children and Casey his girlfriend/fiance (after not many months) who live together. The mother, Mallory, an alcoholic, whom Michael recently divorced is still in the picture sharing custody. Also in the picture is Michael's parents - a local well-to-do doctor.The story starts with Casey being at the end of her rope in the relationship feeling taken for granted by Michael and treated poorly by the 16 year old daughter. She writes a letter of goodbye and leaves it for Michael. On her way out the door the son's school calls - he didn't show up at school that day even though Michael had dropped him off. Pretty much from there all hell breaks loose.There was alot going on -- alot of emotions, alot not being said. Something with all of them just clicked with me -- the father trying to keep it so altogether that he can't relax; the kids being torn between their father whom they know if right, and their mother who they love (but know is kind of crazy). Throw in someone new - someone 10 years younger than their father that they feel is trying to take their mothers place - and there's bound to be hurt feelings and anger.
The main character of this book is a young woman that goes by the name of "Casey", which is actually her last name. Her first name is Edna, which she hates, so everyone calls her Casey. She is engaged to Michael, a young father of two girls and a boy, and a volatile ex-wife named Mallory. Michael has a high pressure job as a journalist, and it stresses him out on a regular basis.Michael's father is a very successful doctor, and never lets an opportunity go by to make Michael feel as though his job is not a very good choice for making a living to support his children. Michael always feels as though his father is looking down his nose and flaunting his perceived superiority. Michael's stormy relationship with his father causes alot of irritation.Early on in the story, Michael's son Dylan, disappears. At first no one knows if he has been abducted by a stranger or if he has run away. Since Casey works with computers for her job, so she is recruited to get into Dylan's computer and see if she can find any clues as to where he might be. She discovers that he has been conversing with a girl, and they determine that Dylan has run off to meet up with her and run away together.When Dylan's mother, Michael's ex-wife Mallory hears of the disappearance, she becomes hysterical and blames everything on Casey, who has been living with Michael and the kids. Casey feels terrible, and begins to question herself and wonders if it might be possible that she did not pick up on Dylan's intentions, and that perhaps she might be to blame. Michael seems to coddle Mallory, which in turn frustrates and hurts Casey....but Mallory is a very volatile, high-strung, alcoholic who although she lost custody of the kids, still has very strong feelings about having Casey playing the role of "mother" and resents young Casey and feels threatened by her presence in her children's lives.Casey has issues with alcohol herself, but Michael does not realize to what extent alcohol plays in her life. Although she does not make a habit of drinking....in fact, she tries to avoid it due to the problems Mallory has had and the way Michael feels about it.....she begins to feel like she needs a drink to cope with all that is going on in the household with Dylan's disappearance.The story proceeds on, with lots of drama between Michael, Casey and Mallory. Michael's daughter Angel discovers some very personal things in Casey's journal and Angel lets Casey know that she knows about these things, which causes alot of turmoil in their relationship.Dylan is finally located and brought back home by Michael and his father. Mallory deceives Casey one night while the guys are gone and under the guise of friendship, gets Casey drunk on whisky and when Michael brings Dylan home, he sees Casey intoxicated and blames her for falling apart just when he needs her to be a stable force for the other children during the crisis with Dylan. Michael does not realize that Mallory has set out to cause problems between Casey and himself. Casey begins to feel as though she is not valued in Michael's eyes the way she needs to feel.....and begins to emotionally withdraw. Michael's continued reluctance to be firm with Mallory is taking it's toll on his relationship with Casey.Then, a near tragedy with Michael's youngest daughter choking on a piece of candy, sets a whole new thrust in the story in motion.....as Dylan stands up for Casey, who actually saves the young girl by doing the Heimlich maneuver. Dylan tells his dad that Casey saved her and Mallory was irresponsible in ignoring the risk to the young girl of jumping with candy in her mouth.Eventually, Michael begins to see things as they really are, the daughter Angel begins to soften towards Casey, and Mallory's crazy behavior is getting to be more than Michael wants to endure, and the ending brings Michael and Casey together once more, closer than ever.The book was extremely well written, it was hard to put down. I would highly recommend
This is the story of a contemporary family in all of its pain and insecurities.It is the father who tries to be the responsible, stable parent. He is there for his children, no matter the chaos that surrounds them. And there is plenty of chaos: divorce, alcoholism, mental illness to name only a few.The ex-wife and mother of the children, two teens and an adolescent, is a selfish, self-absorbed woman. She is unwilling to accept responsibility or blame of any sort.Casey, the girlfriend, is insecure which makes her irresponsible in her own right. Though she has love to offer and good intentions, she is weak.The children are struggling with the issues that come with youth: school, friends, family, but also they are forced to deal with the issues of the adults in their lives.As the title alludes, sometimes it is the things we don¿t say that affect us the most. Communication is everything. The things that people say often stay with us, but so do the things that never get said
Things We Didn't Say reads like a Jodi Picoult book. Each chapter is narrated by a different character as they tell the story of the Turner family. Michael is a newspaper reporter who lives with his three children Angel, Dylan and Jewel. His ex-wife, Mallory is an alcoholic and his fiancee, Casey is a recovered alcoholic (although no one is aware of that fact...) Instead of going to school one day, Dylan runs away from home. This forces Mallory and Casey to be under the same roof for a few days while the search for Dylan goes on. I found this book to be interesting, and would recommend it to anyone who is a fan of Picoult's writing.
The book, although a quick and easy read, is similar to so many other books I've read. It's the common theme of new wife/girlfriend meets crazy ex-wife and/or rude step-kid. In this particular case, the ex-wife was just a little too far-fetched to be taken seriously and the step kid was just too quick witted and mouthy. I had fun reading the book but was turned off at how ridiculous the ex-wife and step child were portrayed in the story.
I couldn't even get through half of this book. The main plot revolves around a missing teen boy and his dysfunctional family, which includes two siblings, a mother and a father who are divorced, and the father's fiance. At the beginning of the book, we learn that the father's fiance is prepared to end the relationship because she dislikes essentially everyone in the family and everyone except for her fiance dislikes her. Dislike is the entire undercurrent of the book, which is why I couldn't tolerate it. No one likes anyone else in the book and everyone is totally miserable although, in most instances, it wasn't clear why. Because of the general mutual hatred all of the characters have for each other and the absence of any character development prior to the teenage boy going missing, I couldn't bring myself to care about where the missing boy went or why. All I knew is that I wished I were with him as it had to be a place that was happier and more interesting than the household he came from.
Some people lead lives full of problems. In Things We Didn¿t Say by Kristina Riggle, 26-year-old Casey has a mess of them. She¿s engaged to Michael, a man 10-years her senior, who has three children with an ex-wife who is a non-recovering alcoholic with multiple mental disorders. Casey¿s secrets come back to haunt her when Michael¿s middle child, Dylan, disappears after being dropped off at school one day and his oldest child, Angel, finds Casey¿s journal and reads it.It¿s infrequent that there are no sympathetic characters in a novel, but I feel like Ms. Riggle may have wanted it this way. The novel is often gritty and you can truly relate to Casey¿s need to get away from the overbearing Michael who has not an ounce of empathy in his self-absorbed body. While Casey is the youngest adult in the novel, she¿s often the most accepting and tolerant and I found myself wanting to leave this novel to get away from her situation. While they search for Dylan, Casey is forced to deal with Michael¿s ex-wife, who is vilified in her need for her children and her oppositional use of them to get Michael back into her life. Casey, herself, seems at odds with her care for the children and her wanting of them to get away from her so she could have Michael to herself and this novel takes the wicked mother/exhausted-wicked stepmother idea to the edge of what it can possibly be without leaving reality.Overall, this is not your beach read and it can be mentally exhausting at times. However, for those that are looking for a realistic portrayal of a difficult situation made more difficult by a crisis, this is going to hit all of the emotional buttons. My only catch was that the ending felt inauthentic to me, but the character wasn¿t mine to choose her path.Disclaimer: I received this book for free in order to review it! Thanks for letting me share my thoughts.
The book was good and quick to read. I didn't want to put it down. I might even read another one from the author.