Cloud Nine

Cloud Nine

by Luanne Rice


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What would you do with a second chance at life?

Sarah Talbot thought she’d never see another birthday. But against all odds, she beat the illness that could have killed her, reopened her bedding shop, Cloud Nine, and vowed to make the most of a fresh start that few are given. With Thanksgiving approaching, Sarah charters a small plane to take her to Elk Island, a remote spot off the rugged Maine coast where she spent some of her happiest days and where she hopes to reunite with the two most important people in her life. She arrives on the island with pilot Will Burke, a kindred spirit with whom Sarah forges a bond that will give them the courage to confront the past and have faith in the future…no matter how uncertain.

Once Sarah thought happy endings occurred only in books; now she believes they can happen for anyone. And as she and Will grow closer, and something unexpectedly real blossoms between them, she has him believing it, too. But is believing it enough? Is even love enough? Can real life be lived on cloud nine? In this stunning novel, New York Times bestselling author Luanne Rice tells a story you will cherish, peopled with indelible characters whose challenges are your own.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780553385847
Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
Publication date: 08/26/2008
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 352
Sales rank: 695,724
Product dimensions: 5.40(w) x 8.40(h) x 0.90(d)

About the Author

Luanne Rice is the author, most recently, of Last Kiss and Light of the Moon, among many other New York Times bestsellers. She lives in New York City and on the Connecticut shore.

Date of Birth:

September 25, 1955

Place of Birth:

New Britain, CT

Read an Excerpt

Another autumn had come to Fort Cromwell, New York, and Sarah Talbot was there to see it. She sat on the front porch of her small white house, drinking apple cinnamon tea, wondering what to do next. The college kids next door were washing their car. Spray from the hose misted her face. Wrapped in a red plaid blanket, she tilted her face to the sun, and imagined the drops were saltwater and she was home on Elk Island.

A blue sedan drove slowly down the street. It looked municipal, as if it might belong to an undercover police officer or street inspector. FORT CROMWELL VNA was stenciled on the side, and when it parked in Sarah's driveway, a small, trim woman in a white coat climbed out.

Sarah smiled to see her.

"What are you doing here?" Sarah asked.

"That's a fine greeting," the visiting nurse said.

"I thought you were done with me," Sarah said. Holding her blanket with one hand, she used the other to unconsciously ruffle her closely shorn white hair.

"Done with you? My daughter would kill me. Besides, do you think that's how I treat my friends?"

"I'm your patient, Meg," Sarah said, smiling.

"Were, Sarah. Were. We're here to take you for a ride."

"A ride? Where—" Sarah began. Glancing at the car, she noticed Mimi in the backseat.

"Happy birthday, Sarah," Meg said, bending down to hug her.

Sarah reached up. She put her arms around the visiting nurse and smelled her citrus-scented shampoo. Meg's pockets jangled with keys, pens, and a stethoscope. A colorful plastic teddy bear was pinned to her lapel, just above her name tag. Sarah could feel by the new padding between her bones and Meg's skin that she was putting on weight. The hug felt good, and she bit her lip.

"How did you know?" Sarah asked when they pulled apart. Today was her thirty-seventh birthday. She was having a quiet day: no party, no cards or calls from home. In the car's back window Mimi was waving with one hand, trying to paste up a bright pink sign with the other. In silver glitter she had written MANY HAPPY RETURNS OF THE DAY!

"I read your chart," Meg said, grinning. "Come on."

Will Burke stood in the hangar, his head under the hood of the Piper Aztec. Fall was his biggest season. He needed all three of the planes he owned serviced and ready to fly. The lake region was a tourist destination, with all the cider mills and foliage trails. He operated fifteen-minute aerial tours, especially popular during the Fort Cromwell Fair. The end of October brought parents' weekends at two area colleges, with scheduled flights back and forth to New York, shuttling parents to see the big games and visit their kids.

At the sound of tires crunching over the gravel outside, he wiped his socket wrench on a blue rag and placed it on his tall red toolbox. He checked his watch: four o'clock. A friend of his daughter's had booked a quick birthday tour, up and down, a fifteen-minute scenic loop of the lake and mountain. An easy thirty dollars, and he'd be back to the tune-up in no time.

Tucking his work shirt into his jeans, Will walked outside to greet his customers. He didn't really feel like taking a break, but the afternoon was sunny, and the fresh air felt good, so he found himself smiling at the car anyway. He waved as they pulled up.

Meg and Mimi Ferguson got out. Meg was the town visiting nurse, and she yelled hello with cheerful efficiency, making Will smile a little wider. He hung back, wondering which one had the birthday. His daughter sometimes baby-sat for Mimi, and judging from what he remembered, Mimi must be about ten.

But then someone new got out of the car, a woman Will had never seen. She was small and thin, the size of an underfed teenager. Her skin was pale and translucent, like high cloud cover on a fall day, and her head was covered with blond peach fuzz. It was the way she looked at the sky that caught Will's attention: with total rapture, as if she hadn't ever seen it so blue before, or as if she couldn't believe she was about to go up in it.

"Ready to fly?" he asked.

"Which plane, Mr. Burke?" Mimi asked, excited.

"That one," he said, pointing at the two-seater Piper Cub.

"We can't all fit?" Mimi asked, disappointed.

"Now, Mimi—" Meg began.

"Sorry, Mimi," Will said. "The big plane's getting an oil change. If I'd known . . ."

"You know what, Mimi?" the woman said eagerly. "Why don't you go up for me?"

"It's your birthday flight," Mimi said. "It was my idea, and we want you to go."

"Happy birthday," Will said to the woman.

"Thank you." Again, that expression of amazement, as if she had never been so happy. She stared at him directly, and he had that shock he felt when coming upon a person he knew from somewhere, hardly at all, but who has undergone a drastic change of appearance. A weight gain or loss, a different hairstyle, a drop in health. He had seen this woman around town looking quite different. Then, for some strange reason, he pointed at the sky.

"Ready?" he asked.

"I am," she said.

"Let's go," he said. Then, speaking to Mimi in a voice he tried to keep from sounding overly hopeful, he said, "Hey, Susan's in the office. She'd be glad to see you."

Secret's dad had brought her to the airport. Her allergies were out of control, and the school nurse had tried to call her mother, but of course she wasn't home. So Secret had told her to call Burke Aviation and ask for Will: Her father would definitely pick her up. And he had. She'd felt better almost immediately upon reaching the airport, but there was no point in going back to school: the day was almost over. She slouched at his desk, painting her nails. Craning her neck, she could just see the action outside, through the big window. Mimi and her mom and their friend were standing by the landing strip, talking to him.

Of all the kids Secret baby-sat for, Mimi was the best. She was a nice little kid. She listened to her parents, never tried to get Secret to pierce her ears in weird places, and wanted to be a veterinarian when she grew up. She had Dreams and Goals, she knew there was more to life than Emma Turnley, the only school in this one-horse town, just as Secret herself did.

"Hi, Susan," Mimi said, bursting through the door.

"'Susan'?" Secret said, barely looking up. "There's no one named Susan here."

"That's right, I forgot," Mimi said, grinning. "Secret. You changed your name. What're you doing?"

"October is the month for witchy doings, and since you know I'm a witch, I'm painting my nails accordingly," Secret said patiently, as if she were explaining something terribly obvious to a dim but cherished friend. She wiggled her fingers at Mimi, casting a spell.

"Wow," Mimi said, admiring the artwork. Secret had used India ink and a crow-quill pen to paint delicate spiderwebs on her iridescent pale blue nails. Being right-handed, her left hand was more intricately done, with microscopic spiders clinging to the silken strands.

"You brought that lady here for her plane ride, I see," Secret said, looking out the window again. The airport was tiny, and there wasn't much activity. "Was she surprised?"

"Very surprised," Mimi said. "I'm glad you suggested it."

Reading Group Guide

One of Luanne Rice’s most emotionally powerful novels, Cloud Nine tells the story of Sarah Talbot, a cancer survivor who beats the odds and vows to make the most of her second chance at life. Her family presents big challenges, though, especially her son and her father. Both of them are reeling from previous losses, hardening their hearts against Sarah because they nearly lost her too. With Thanksgiving approaching, she charters a small plane to visit them at the family home in a rugged corner of Maine. The pilot, Will Burke, is immediately captivated by her courageous spirit, sparking a passion that burns brighter than anything they have experienced before. The love between Will and Sarah begins to heal their families, granting the strength to face their darkest fears … even when the future threatens to shatter their fragile new bonds.

The questions and discussion topics that follow are intended to enhance your reading of Luanne Rice’s Cloud Nine. We hope they will enrich your experience of this deeply moving novel.

1. Discuss the novel’s title. What did Sarah hope to give the customers of her bedding shop? How does the world look to her from the sky, with Will piloting? Where do you find your perfect bliss? Which people in your life help you attain it?

2. How does Sarah approach her illness? What gives her the courage to be optimistic during her recovery? What can she teach everyone who faces a daunting challenge?

3. How does Susan cope with the loss of Fred? What is reflected in her wish to change her name, and in the rage she sometimes expresses in front of her parents?

4. How was Sarah affected by the death of her mother? Is George’s response to grief typical of most spouses? Why does Mike feel more comfortable being with George than with Sarah?

5. Discuss Will’s ex-wife, Alice, and her newfound wealth with Julian. What is missing from her life, despite the financial success? Were she and Will ever a good match?

6. What does Mike need in order to feel secure in the world? How did your opinion of him shift throughout the novel?

7. Why were Will and Sarah drawn to each other so quickly? How do they forge common ground between her past and his–including his history with the navy, and the loss of parents?

8. How is Sarah changed by being reawakened sexually? How did illness and recovery influence her perception of her body?

9. Many of the novel’s characters grapple with the question of why bad things happen to good people. What approaches have you seen to tragedies such as the ones that unfold in Cloud Nine?

10. How has Sarah’s relationship with her family changed by the novel’s closing chapters? What kinds of homecoming experiences did she have? How did the Talbot’s Thanksgiving gathering compare to yours?

11. Why is it important for Will to marry Sarah? What pain from the past is washed away in that moment?

12. How did you react to the novel’s epilogue? What legacy is left for Susan, and for all of the novel’s characters?

13. Luanne Rice often draws on the unique landscape of New England in crafting her novels. What makes the setting of Cloud Nine appropriate for the characters’ lives? What are the beauties and shortcomings of Elk Island and its remote location?

14. In what ways does Cloud Nine underscore the wisdom of love that is evident in each of Luanne Rice’s novels? How does this novel offer a new definition of a happy ending?

Customer Reviews

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Cloud Nine 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 34 reviews.
cowboys0724 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
One of my favorite books I have ever read. The story sticks with you long after you read it.
samuraibunny on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Typical 'escape from societal restraints and recover amidst nature' romance, yet it manages to connect its characters to me. There are characters that make you want to blame for everything that is wrong, but you can't, because they try their best to make things work. Truly an emotional and touching book. I read it in one sitting. Death is always lurking in the future, but knowing and accepting it as the inevitable is what allows us to appreciate life, and everything that it brings, that much more.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I loved this book. Don't believe I ever read Luanne Rice before but this won't be my last.
GvDaisies More than 1 year ago
I fell in love with the characters. I cried, I laught. A must read book
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I found Cloud Nine to be a thoughtful and inspirational book. People will be able to relate to the story line but if your looking for the happy uplifting book, this book is not the way to go. Throughout the book issues such as cancer and divorce are brought up in almost every chapter. And these are the sort of issues that many people in America and anywhere else in the world can relate too. The way some of the characters react to the problems they face are great examples of courage and strength.
TIACIA16 More than 1 year ago
KI48 More than 1 year ago
I was very disappointed in this book. This is not Luanne Rice's earlier style of writing. Beach Girls, Fire Fly Beach, Home Fries and Summer Child just to name a few were great reads, books with characters and situations that you could relate too, plots that were similar but diversified enough to hold your attention. I was bored reading Cloud Nine and skimmed the last couple chapters. This could have been a great read if the character personalities and events were not repeated so many times through out the book. It was a good plot with strong characters but they really did not advance. Susan's Mother and Step-father could have been stronger and more involved in the plot. But Susan's real father was lost his credibility expressing his undying love. Come on Luanne no one talks like that. This is the second book of her that I have to give thumbs down.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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Guest More than 1 year ago
I've enjoyed many of Luann Rice's books, and this one got off to a nice start with Sarah meeting Will on her birthday flight, but then things began happening way too fast to be believable. The course of Sarah's illness was weird--she is in complete remission but then suddenly has a devastating recurrence that puts her close to death? The whole thing happens over one Thanksgiving weekend! The author could have spent more time letting the relationship between Sarah and Will evolve, and the recurrence of Sarah's cancer could have happened a bit more gradually. Highly dramatic events happen in rapid succession, and then the conclusion of the story comes immediately afterward. All of the talk about the bonds of love between the characters rang false because the main characters only connected with each other for a few weeks! Too cheesy. When I started the book, I loved the characters almost immediately but then I felt cheated by the lack of development. I can recommend several of Luann Rice's books, but I would definitely skip this one.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book was very sweet and touching. Her stories always make me want to find a life like her characters. Cloud Nine, however, gripped you from the beginning and you get to know the characters. When I got to the end I cried and cried and cried like Sarah was someone I knew personally.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This story was beautifully written. I think this is one of her best.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Some people say that hard times make hard people, but this book shows that there must be exceptions, Sarah is a loving person who's only show of her rocky life is her halo of yellowish grey hair and her too skinny frame. Sarah's cancer has been in remission for a short time and she decides to seize the life she still has and hold on for all she's worth. Leaving her pride and joy, a bedding store called Cloud Nine, she impulsively vacations back to the island she grew up on and brings a man along who she has just begun to know... As much as Sarah loves being on the island with her son, father, aunt, snow and Will, the questions always seem to creep in like the tide from the ocean surrounding their island. How can she fall in love with Will in such an uncertain future? Will her father ever lose his fear of attachments long enough to show his love for his daughter? Then a sudden accident occurs, and Sarah makes a promise she must keep, one with fatal consequences. Will she find the true meaning of home and love in the short time she has left?
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is the best Luanne Rice book I have read yet. I was hooked from the first chapter and was I couldnt put the book down until I reached the end. Very emotional and touching.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is my favorite book of all time. Luanne Rice has shown her talent most of all through this book. I never cry at the end of a book, but I suppose Sarah is like my mom. Rice makes everything seem so real, it will inspire you in so many ways and make you realize that true love is out there somewhere. Hoag was definitely right when she said Rice touches the deepest corners of the heart.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I have read several of Luanne Rice's novels, but this one was ruined with the ending. Too sad for me...too much to bear. Although it is a slice of life, I like to read something with a brighter ending.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I think this is the first book that has ever brought tears to my eyes. I enjoyed every page and couldn't put the book down. I will read other books by Ms. Rice. Thanks to my coworker for loaning this book to me!
Guest More than 1 year ago