The Carousel is about what happens when life doesn't turn out the way that we planned. Beyond a love story, it is about faith, loyalty, and sacrifice.
My hope is that you, and those with whom you share this book, might find the message of this story meaningful and applicable to your own life.
And that in some way you might feel changed.
Richard Paul Evans
|Product dimensions:||4.90(w) x 7.90(h) x 1.10(d)|
About the Author
Richard Paul Evans is the #1 bestselling author of The Christmas Box. Each of his more than thirty-five novels has been a New York Times bestseller. There are more than thirty-five million copies of his books in print worldwide, translated into more than twenty-four languages. He is the recipient of numerous awards, including the American Mothers Book Award, the Romantic Times Best Women’s Novel of the Year Award, the German Audience Gold Award for Romance, five Religion Communicators Council Wilbur Awards, The Washington Times Humanitarian of the Century Award, and the Volunteers of America National Empathy Award. He lives in Salt Lake City, Utah, with his wife, Keri, and their five children. You can learn more about Richard on Facebook at Facebook.com/RPEFans, or visit his website RichardPaulEvans.com.
Hometown:Salt Lake City, Utah
Date of Birth:October 11, 1962
Place of Birth:Salt Lake City, Utah
Education:B.A., University of Utah, 1984
Read an Excerpt
Chapter One: Della
There was another death tonight at the Arcadia. Della
Estelle Gifford. There were no family or friends at her side,
only us employees. As many times as I have experienced such
lonely passings I still do not understand how, with so many
people on this planet, so many die alone.
MICHAEL KEDDINGTON'S JOURNAL
ARCADIA CARE FACILITY. OGDEN, UTAH.
There was a moon that night, a pale crescent that hung low above the canyon and shone weakly into the dying woman's window. Della's was not a spectacular death, if any death can be described as spectacular. She made several attempts to blow out a flameless birthday candle, then reclined in her bed, rubbed the translucent skin of her liver spot-flecked forehead, and mumbled something about Errol Flynn. Twenty minutes later she gasped twice, then died.
There was no family present at her passing, just the three of us, all paid to be there: Sharon Holt, Brent Griffin, and myself, sitting around her in that dimly lit fourteen-foot square. Sharon was the nurse on duty and I was glad for that. Sharon knew death -- more so than any of us. In her twenty-year tenure as a hospice nurse Sharon had eased the passage of the dying hundreds of times, holding their hands and administering pain relief as they took their final breaths. Likely more times than she could remember, except I would wager that she could remember; could put a name to each resident, maybe even the time their vitals failed. She was as compassionate as an angel. "No one dies alone," she would say, and she saw to it that no one on her watch did unless a resident stole off in their sleep. I was grateful that she had been at Esther's side when she passed away.
Without word Sharon pressed her index finger over Della's wrist, then placed a stethoscope to her chest, straining to hear a heartbeat. Then she checked her watch and recorded the time. It was Brent who was the first to break the silence.
"She died on her birthday."
Brent's comment was meant as a joke. I shook my head. Sharon ignored him completely, something she did instinctively.
It was no great coincidence that Della died on her birthday, as every day was Della's birthday. As dementia had conquered her ninety-six-year-old mind, two things took root and refused to be extricated -- the first was that every day she woke to her birthday. Della didn't actually remember the date of her birthday or even the current day -- just that it was the day.
In truth, we didn't know what day Della's birthday was. A quick glance at her resident record would have enlightened us, but no one ever bothered to do it. Some delusions, even in the clear-minded, are best left unchallenged.
We had a candle, Della's candle, that we would put into her dessert each day at suppertime, be it yellow cake or a green square of gelatin. I once saw it stuck into a scoop of mashed potatoes. It didn't matter to Della.
Because of her oxygen tank, fire was not allowed near her, so one candle lasted indefinitely. The eternal flameless. Each evening one of us would take Della her meal with the candle affixed, delivered with a hasty verse of "Happy Birthday," and Della would beam and sometimes join in, her voice as inconstant as a cell phone in a mountain pass. Then she would smile and clap her hands together and say in a quavering voice, "Thank you for remembering."
"Thirty today, Della?"
At this she would bring her hand to her chest and laugh as hysterically as her frail frame allowed. When the last of her chuckles had subsided, we would ask, "Is Errol going to make it this year?" She would suddenly frown and say, "No, Errol is in Hollywood. He's making another picture-show, you know. He won't be coming today."
That was the other peculiar aspect of Della's dementia. She believed she and Errol Flynn had been married for thirty-something years. In all that time he never once made it to her birthday. Sometimes she'd cuss him out, but she'd as quickly forgive him, vocally reminding all present (even if it was only herself) that it is a husband's role to provide and Errol was a fine provider and had many fans that proved a considerable distraction. "One must take the bad with the good," she would say.
A newly hired orderly (I don't remember her name; she didn't last long) once took it on herself to correct Della's delusion. She informed Della that Errol Flynn was not her husband and had been married to three women in all, fathering children with each of them. Also that he had died thirty years previous. At first Della would not hear the heresy, but after several weeks, the orderly apparently had some success in convincing her. Della became sullen and despondent. After a week of this I decided that I couldn't bear it any longer and went in and told her that she had been lied to by a jealous orderly who was angry because Errol refused to sign an autograph for her the last time he came by. I told her that Errol had called with his regrets for missing her birthday, but would be in town soon and wanted her to save him some cake if it wasn't too much trouble. She was happy again after that.
I was genuinely saddened at Della's passing. Sharon, as resident nurse, pronounced Della dead, then phoned the house physician and obtained a release for the body while Brent and I gave her a bed bath and changed her gown. About an hour later two men from the mortuary arrived. They carted her body off enclosed in a faux velvet bag on a gurney. We saw to it that such things were done as discreetly as possible. A death caused a curious reaction at the Arcadia, a peculiar combination of melancholy and envy. At times roommates of the departed became morose and refused to eat and we would have to put them on special watch.
I stripped the sheets from Della's bed. In the morning, housekeeping would sterilize the room in preparation for its next tenant. The Arcadia was only a thirty-bed facility and there was always someone waiting to get in.
It was nearly eleven o'clock and the home slept. The common-area lights were dimmed or turned off, and the hallways were lit by exit signs and staggered fluorescents.
Night is not especially kind to the elderly infirm. In the quiet darkness they would often wake disoriented or afraid. Some would shout out for someone to help them or call for a long-deceased spouse. Some would groan incessantly. Though I was used to it, I remember my first night shift. I thought the place sounded like a haunted house. It would scare children, I thought. Some adults too.
Most of the residents went to bed around seven-thirty, after dinner, though some of them did not wait to finish their meals before falling asleep. We would wheel them up from the dining room and lift them into their beds.
The most notable exception to the bedtime routine was Hazel. Hazel was as nocturnal as a possum. She had been a pharmacist for more than fifty years and was programmed for the graveyard shift. Dressed in overalls and white canvas sneakers, she would push her aluminum walker up and down the halls, inevitably settling at the nurses' station. She believed that she was more employee than resident and would refer to the other residents as "them crazy old farts" with deliberate self-distancing.
At least once a night she'd talk about her sons (They grew up mean. It was her own fault; she never disciplined them), ask to check on her money in the Arcadia's safe to be sure someone hadn't absconded with it -- an event she fully expected -- or ask for a case-by-case review of the residents' medicine charts. When we were not at the station she would sit near the counter where she would watch the call light board with the intensity of a Tijuana cabdriver eyeing a traffic light. The moment a light would blink she would start shouting, "Hey, isn't someone going to get that?! Don't neglect them. Do I have to do everything around here?"
Though Hazel was our most consistent night walker, she was not our only one. There was Eva. At least twice a week Eva would wake from a sound sleep and make for the exit, intent on walking home. Our explanation that New Jersey is an intolerably long walk from Utah could not dissuade her in the least. Though she moved slowly and rarely got past the nurses' station, one night she slipped off unnoticed. She was discovered by a motorist a block down the canyon in her nightgown. We installed an alarm on the stairwell door the next day.
Then there was "Buzzsaw Raymond." Raymond had sleep apnea which triggered the loudest snores I had ever heard. Snores that could wake even Brent. Raymond burned through roommates nearly as fast as we could move them in. It was a problem that vexed the Arcadia's greatest minds until one of the CNAs thought to move Howard in with Raymond and solved the problem. Howard was deaf.
My coworker, Brent Griffin, was another hallmark of the night shift. Hiring Brent ("the Griff," he called himself) was an act of desperation on the part of the Arcadia. Like most care facilities for the elderly, the Arcadia had a high rate of employee turnover. Brent had been hired on a month before my return, during a drought of applicants -- a decision Helen, the Arcadia's director, questioned or rued each and every day of his employment. He had been assigned with Sharon and me to the second floor, and Helen still occasionally apologized to me for that. Brent was lazy, and though there were times all of us wanted to beat him, he was also amusing, which is worth something on a night shift.
Brent was a caricature of sorts, a man barely afloat in the murky waters of male self-doubt, forever bent on proving his manhood, usually with stereotypical manifestations of machismo. He had long sideburns and a scraggly bush of hair on his chin which he thought was cool. His weekly tales of female conquest, which he shared with any and all who would endure them -- including the less coherent residents -- were, when believable, more pathetic than inspiring. Sharon once called him "a man who had been pantsed one too many times in high school."
Ten minutes to eleven I found Brent in the break room. He was sprawled out on the couch, his eyes were closed, and one leg stuck straight out, propped up by the couch's arm. It hadn't been difficult guessing where to find him. Brent worked the usual night shift, from six to two, and despite his schedule, he never really cut back his daily activities, which we all paid for in the later hours of his shift.
I shook his foot. "Wake up, Brent."
One eyelid lifted above a grimace. "What?" he said groggily.
"I need you to finish the west wing."
"Huh?" He looked up at me. "I thought you were doing it."
"I'm off early tonight."
He groaned. "Is someone else coming in?"
"Not until midnight." Just like every night for the last two months, I thought.
He took an exaggerated breath then lifted himself to a sitting position. "Yeah, I'll do it." When he gained more consciousness he asked, "You workin' tomorrow?"
"No. I've got the day off. Faye leaves Saturday."
"I finally met her the other night. She was looking for you. Wish she was looking for me. Don't get mad or nothing, 'cause I didn't know she was yours, but I made a move on her. Laid down one of the Griff's sweetest lines."
I could only imagine it. The whole of Brent's five-foot-six, hundred-and-twenty-five-pound frame leaning against the front counter emphasizing each syllable of his come-on with a tilt of his head or raised eyebrow, "Hey, baby, ain't it a shame. All those curves and me with no brakes." It was probably all Faye could do to not burst out in laughter. Or beat him senseless. I grinned at the thought of it.
"...where's she off to?"
"Baltimore. She's studying medicine at Johns Hopkins."
Brent's mouth pursed. "Johns Hopkins. Man, I'm hanging out at the wrong bars. Those looks and a paycheck. How long will she be gone?"
"Four long years."
"Gotta be hating that, man. You guys like engaged?"
"No," I lied. "We're promised."
"Whoa. That's like four years of celibacy. Or sneaking around. Guys like us have our seeds to sow."
I cringed at being lumped into the same category as Brent.
"...'course that blade cuts both ways," he continued. "You can bet all those slicky-boy doctors are gonna be working her like a bad leg. You can't trust doctors. They're all just in it for the money and the chicks."
"I don't think Faye's in it for either."
"If that babe were mine she wouldn't be going nowhere."
"Probably why she isn't yours," I said.
He bobbed his head as he stood, though I doubt he knew what I meant. Brent was more stupid than malicious.
"Why ain't you with her tonight?"
"Her girlfriends are throwing her a party. Girls-only deal."
"Oh," he said, bending the word as if he knew something about such functions that I didn't.
I watched him saunter over to the coffee machine in slow motion and knew there would be residents neglected. "I'll finish the first half of the hall before I go," I said.
Brent took his coffee and sat back into the couch, his legs spread apart and his head back. "No problem, man."
Copyright © 2000 by Richard Paul Evans
Table of ContentsContents
two The Chapel of Eternal Bliss
four Another Death
six Johns Hopkins
nine Weber State
ten Unexpected News
thirteen The Gift
fourteen The Fugitive
fifteen Christmas Break
sixteen The Calm
seventeen The Storm
eighteen The Funeral
nineteen Back to School
twenty-one The Drive
twenty-two The Reunion
twenty-three An Empty Bed
twenty-four The Pancake House
twenty-six Another Door
twenty-seven The Second Reunion
twenty-nine An Unexpected Visit
thirty The Twilight Carousel
Reading Group Guide
Reading Group Guide
Richard Paul Evans, bestselling author of the beloved classic The Christmas Box and The Looking Glass, writes the final chapter in the love story that began with The Locket, returning to the unfinished story of Faye Murrow and Michael Keddington in a tale that will delight and inspire readers everywhere.
1. What is the significance of The Carousel dream that opens the novel? What does The Carousel represent? When Faye's horse comes around and is riderless, Michael, frantic about her disappearance, asks the carnival man whether he will see her again. "I suppose that's up to you," he answers. How are we to interpret this exchange?
2. The Carousel is the third and final novel in the series that begins with The Locket and continues with The Looking Glass. Which of the three novels is your favorite? Which did you like least? Why? How are the three books connected stylistically and thematically? Each book stands on its own, but in what ways does each one take on a deeper meaning if you have read all three? Does the order in which you read the novels matter? To you? To the author's intentions? If you should happen to read the last book in a trilogy first, do you ever find yourself going back to read all three books in the sequence the author intended? Why do you think it might be profitable to do so?
3. In The Locket Michael, having learned valuable lessons about love and second chances through his friendship with nursing home patient Esther Huish, is able to surmount his insecurities and heal the rift between him and Faye. Yet, when another serious rift separates the lovers in The Carousel, Michael again allows his hurt feelings to fester. How does your knowledge of what happened in the first book affect how you respond to Michael and to the optimistic ending in the final novel? Are Faye and Michael doomed to keep failing to reach out to each other every time a crisis comes up in their lives? Do you think a reader is likely to interpret the ending of The Carousel differently having read The Locket?
4. In The Carousel, Michael writes in his diary of his love for Faye: "I have found home." Discuss the concept of love as the feeling of home. Michael also writes in his diary: "I'm no longer certain where I leave off and where she begins." Some people share Michael's view of romantic love as two beings becoming one, but many others reject that notion and see love as strengthening two individuals to grow into their own best selves. Which view of romantic love is more appealing to you? Why?
5. The characters in The Carousel face many modern problems related to birth control, adolescent depression and suicide, and the psychological effects of miscarriage. Why do you think author Richard Paul Evans has chosen to set the story in the year 1989, before many of these issues became widely discussed in the public forum? Would Michael and Faye have acted differently coping with pregnancy, miscarriage and Jayne's suicide in today's more open and informed atmosphere? Would their difficulties be any easier to solve?
6. After Jayne's suicide, Michael berates himself for keeping her confidence and not revealing their conversation to Faye. Should he have betrayed Jayne's confidence, or was he right to honor her wishes? Were those the only choices he had? Could he, or should he, have done more to reach out to her himself? How do you think the author expects us to feel about Michael's failure to act? Is Michael right to feel guilty or was it only natural for him to attribute Jayne's unhappiness to normal adolescent confusion?
7. When Faye expresses her ambivalence about their secret marriage and her pregnancy, Michael is too hurt and angry to see things from Faye's perspective. Why are these two people who love each other unable to reach out and give one another the comfort and reassurance they need? After Faye miscarries and Michael drives across country to try to heal the rift between them, he is stung by her rejection. Both are hurting, both are being let down by the other. As a reader, do you sympathize with both of them equally, or do you find yourself choosing sides? Should we expect Michael to submerge his own hurt feelings because at this moment Faye-grieving over her sister's suicide and her own miscarriage-is the needier one? Do you believe there are times in a relationship when one person's needs must take precedence over the other's?
8. "The greatest shackles we bear in this life are those forged by our own fears," Hunter Bell writes in his diary in The Looking Glass. Discuss how their fears shackle the characters in all three novels.
9. In The Locket, when Esther asks Michael to read her his poetry, he tells her he has never shared it, to which she responds, "Then you don't share yourself." Why is Michael so reluctant to open up? What makes a person afraid to love? Michael, Esther, and Hunter Bell are characters in the trilogy who at one time or another have tried to construct walls around their hearts. But what success have they had? Have you known people who have set up barriers to guard against emotional pain? Do you think it works-or do you think that most of us become vulnerable and get our feelings hurt no matter how hard we may try to protect ourselves?
10. In The Locket Esther asks Michael if he believes in second chances. "If we've made a mistake in our lives, do you think that God or fate gives us a second chance to make it right?"she wonders. In the novel's most poignant scene, Esther, having learned of Thomas's wife's death in the morning obituary, has Michael take her to him. What is the lesson to be learned from the tragic reunion between the frail, blind, old woman who yearns for a second chance at the love she forsook long ago and the frail, grieving, old widower who doesn't even recognize her? When Michael tries to draw her away, saying they can return tomorrow, and she replies "I have no more tomorrows" and then breaks down sobbing inconsolably, are we to conclude that life denies us second chances? What is the message that Esther leaves behind for Michael in her final letter: "God does allow us second chances. But sometimes they're just best given to someone else?"
11. The theme of forgiveness is a common thread running through all three novels. In The Locket, Michael must find a way to forgive his alcoholic father, long dead, for abandoning him and his mother. Quaye in The Looking Glass and Faye in The Carousel must find a way to forgive themselves. "We are chained to that which we do not forgive," Esther tells Michael. What does she mean? Do you agree with her?
12. In The Locket Michael has trouble seeing himself as worthy of Faye's love; in The Looking Glass, Quaye has trouble seeing herself as worthy of any man's love. But as Hunter tells Quaye, "We do not see things in this life as they really are-only as we believe they are. It is as written in the Bible, we see through a glass darkly-but no glass is as dark as The Looking Glass in which we see ourselves." What is the significance of the title The Looking Glass? Discuss the message the book delivers about the distorted mirror in which we see ourselves.
13. "There would be less suffering in this world if humanity would learn this one truth: It is not what we receive but what we give that heals us," Michael writes in his diary. Talk about the ways in which characters in all three books -- Michael in The Locket, Hunter in The Looking Glass, and Faye in The Carousel, -- find the way to healing their own hearts by healing and nurturing others.
14. "The salvation of man is only in and through love. And where there is love, there God resides," writes Richard Paul Evans in the epilogue to The Looking Glass. What role do God and religious faith play in the novels?
15. The Orlando Sun Sentinel, writing about Richard Paul Evans's The Christmas Box, finds the novel "an artful blend of fiction and inspirational writing." "The nation's supply of Kleenex is bound to deplete after this book hits the shelves," wrote Publishers Weekly about Timepiece. "You will feel warmed and enriched by the story you have shared," said the Daily Sun about The Letter. Do the novels that make up this trilogy have the same heartwarming quality as those earlier Evans bestsellers? What do you like most about Evans's writing style? In what ways do you find the trilogy's message of love, forgiveness, faith, and redemption applicable to your own life? Would you recommend The Locket series to your friends? Why or why not?