Cecelia Ahern, author of PS, I Love You, is set to publish a sequel to her best-selling romantic drama with Grand Central Publishing, EW can exclusively announce.
The book is called Postscript, and it’ll hit the shelves in the U.K. this fall before bowing in the U.S. in April 2020. The story of Holly, a widow who discovers new correspondence from her late husband, PS, I Love You marked Ahern’s debut in 2004, and it went on to be a global best-seller and was adapted into a commercially successful film starring Hilary Swank. The Dublin-born author has emerged as a literary powerhouse since: Combined, her titles have sold more than 25 million copies worldwide in nearly 50 countries.
Here’s the synopsis for Postscript: “When Holly Kennedy is approached by a group calling themselves the PS, I Love You Club, her safe existence is turned on its head. Inspired by hearing about her late husband Gerry’s letters, the club wants Holly to help them with their own parting messages for their loved ones to discover after they’re gone. Holly is sure of one thing – no way is she being dragged back to the grief she has left behind. It’s taken seven years to reinvent herself, and she’s ready to move on with her life. But Holly comes to realize that when you love someone, there’s always one more thing to say…”
“It’s been fifteen years since I wrote my debut novel and I relished the challenge of revisiting the world of Holly seven years after her husband’s death,” Ahern said in a statement. “A deeply emotional project for me, Postscript is the PS to my PS and while it is a sequel, it is also a story that stands alone about living a purposeful life in the face of illness, grief and loss. I hope that new readers and PS, I Love You fans alike will embrace Holly’s new journey.”
But American fans of Ahern, who also co-created the Emmy-winning Christina Applegate vehicle Samantha Who?, won’t have to wait until next year for new material. Next month, the author will publish Roar, a short-story collection containing 30 tales “about the myriad ways in which women overcome adversity with wit, resourcefulness and compassion.” Ahern has shared an excerpt of the book exclusively with EW, and you can read it below. The book publishes April 16 and is available for pre-order.
Excerpt from Roar, by Cecelia Ahern
“The Woman Who Grew Wings”
The doctor said it was hormonal. Like the random hairs that had sprouted from her chin after the birth of her babies, over time the bones of her back had begun to protrude from her skin, stretching out from her spine like branches of a tree. She has chosen not to go for the X-ray her doctor suggested, nor has she heeded his bone density and osteoporosis warnings. It isn’t a weakening she feels in her body, it is a growing strength, spreading from her spine and arching across her shoulders. In the privacy of their own home, her husband traces the line of her bones on her back, and when she is alone she strips naked and stands before the mirror to study her changing body. Sideways on, she can see the shape that is emerging beneath the flesh at her shoulders. When she ventures outside, she is thankful for the hijab that falls loosely over her shoulders, hiding this mysterious growth.
She would feel fearful of these changes in her body were it not for the immense strength swelling within her.
She has not been in this country long, and the other mothers at the school watch her even though they pretend otherwise. The daily gathering at the school gate intimidates her. She finds herself holding her breath and increasing her pace as the gates come into sight; lowering her chin and averting her eyes, she squeezes her children’s hands tighter as she delivers them to their classrooms. The people in this nice town think of themselves as polite and educated, so there are rarely any comments made, but they make their feelings known through the atmosphere they create. Silence can be as threatening as words. Conscious of sidelong stares and uneasy silences, she pushes through the tension while the town quietly makes plans and draws up regulations that will make it more difficult for a woman like her to be in a place like this, for a woman who looks like her to dress as she does in a place like this. Their precious school gates. The gates protect their children and these mother-clusters are the guardians of those children. If only they knew how much they have in common with her.
Even if it’s not those mothers who are pushing through paperwork to make life difficult for her and her family, it is people like them. And the men they share their beds with at night. Perhaps, after their rounds of tennis and pots of tea, they shower and go to their offices to implement rules, stop refugees and immigrants from entering their country; these good people, these cappuccino-drinking, tennis-playing, coffee-morning fundraisers who care more about book weeks and bake sales than human decency. So well-read they start to see red when the alien invasions in their fiction start to manifest themselves in real life.
She feels her son watching her as they walk; their son of war, as her family called him, born into war, in a life consumed by pain on all levels: economically, socially, emotionally. Her anxious boy, always so uptight, always trying to look ahead and sense what terrible thing can happen next, what terrifying, degrading thing his fellow humans can surprise him with, the jack-in-the-box cruelty of life. He is always readying himself, rarely able to relax and revel in the joys of being a child. She smiles at him, trying to forget her woes, trying not to send those negative messages through her hand to his.
It’s the same story every weekday morning, and again at collection time; her anxiety gets the better of her and her son of war senses it. Then again at the supermarket when she is on the receiving end of an insulting comment, or when her highly qualified engineer husband is trying to politely convince someone he is capable of so much more than sweeping streets and every other menial job he scrapes by with. She heard a rumor once that the mosques in Canada do not face Mecca, that they are a few degrees off. Distressing, to say the least; but she can go further than that, she has a theory that the world’s axis is off too. If she could, she would fly up into space and fix the axis of the world, so that it would spin fairly.
Her husband is grateful for everything they get, which only fuels her fury. Why should they be so grateful for the things they work so hard for, as if they were pigeons pecking at crumbs tossed on the ground by passers-by?
She rounds the corner with her little girl and boy and the school is in sight. She readies herself, but her back is throbbing. It has been aching all night, despite her husband’s gentle massages; she’d waited until he’d fallen asleep then moved to the floor so as not to disturb him. Though it throbs and aches constantly, there are times when the pain levels escalate. She’s noticed it grows more intense whenever the fury rises within her, when things get her so angry she has to fight the urge to reach out and rattle the world, give it a good shake.
At her husband’s insistence, she’d gone to the doctor about the changes in her back. It had been such a waste of money for so little insight that she refused to go for a follow-up appointment. They need to save what little money they have for emergencies. Besides, the throbbing and aching reminds her of how she’d felt during her two pregnancies; it’s not the pain of deterioration but of life blooming inside her. Only this time the new life her body is sustaining is her own.
She straightens up, but her back feels heavy and she’s forced to hunch over again. The school gate is in sight now, surrounded by clusters of mothers, standing around talking. There are some kind eyes, of course there are; she gets one hello, one good morning. Some eyes don’t register her at all, they rush past, preoccupied with keeping to their stressful schedule, lost in thought, making plans, trying to catch up with themselves. Those people don’t offend her. It is the others. The cluster. The tennis bags on their backs, the white skirts stretched over their plump bottoms and gym leggings, flesh squished at the seams, squeezed so tight it is trying to find a way out. That group.
One notices her. Lips barely move as she speaks. The discrimination ventriloquist. Another set of eyeballs. And then another. Some more ventriloquism, less talented this time. The whispers to each other, the stares. This is the daily reality of her picked-over life; she’s observed in everything she does. She’s not from here, she could never change that, she doesn’t want to be like them, she doesn’t want to be part of their cluster, and they distrust her for that.
She is late this morning and she is angry with herself. Not because her children will be a few minutes late, but because she is arriving during the most dangerous minutes. The mothers, having delivered their children to their classes, now mill around the gates, heads together, making plans, organizing collections, play-dates, parties that her children will not be included in. She can see no way of getting to the school without walking by them, but they are a large group and the path is narrow and so she would either have to squeeze by the wall, walking single file with her children, or by the cars, brushing up against the dirty SUVs. Or through them. She could go through them. All of those things would mean drawing their attention, possibly having to talk.
She is angry with herself for hesitating, for the growing fear inside her at a small cluster of silly women. She didn’t flee from a war-torn country, leave everything and everyone she loves behind, for this. She didn’t sit on that overcrowded inflatable boat with nothing from their old lives except the clothes on their backs, while seawater sloshed at their feet threateningly, and her children trembled under her grasp. In the darkness. In silence. Hoping for the coastline to appear. To endure that and then to sit in a container, in the dark, with no air, and not enough food, the stench of their waste in a bucket in the corner, and the fear in her heart—not for the first time—that she had sealed her children’s fate, that she had dug their graves with this decision. She didn’t go through all that so that she could be stopped in her tracks by these women.
The throbbing in her back intensifies. It spreads from her lower spine all the way to her shoulders. Shooting pain, that aches but also brings a strange relief. Like contractions during labor, coming and going but building in intensity all the time, powerful waves of super strength.
As she nears the women, they stop talking and turn to her. They are blocking the path, she will have to ask them to move aside. It is childish, but it is real. The pain in her back is so intense it prevents her from speaking. She feels the blood rushing to her head, her heartbeat loud in her ears. She feels her skin straining on her back, tightening. She feels as though she will be torn open, just as when her babies were born. And it is because of this she knows that life is coming. She lifts her chin, she straightens up, she looks the women directly in the eye, not afraid, not intimidated. She feels immense power, immense freedom, something these women don’t understand—and how could they? Their freedom has never been threatened, they have no experience of how effective war is in turning men, women and children to ghosts, in turning the mind into a prison cell, and liberty to a taunting fantasy.
The skin on her back is taut now and she can feel the fabric of her black abaya stretching and stretching. Then there’s a ripping sound and she feels air on her back.
“Mama!” her son says, looking up at her wide-eyed. “What’s happening?”
Always anxious about what’s next. She delivered him to freedom but he is still in custody, she sees it in him every day. Not so much her daughter, who is younger and adapted more easily, though both will forever see all life through the gauze of truth.
The abaya rips completely and she feels a violent surge from behind, as she’s pulled upward. Her feet leave the ground with the force of it, then land again. She takes the children with her.
Her son looks fearful, her daughter giggles. The women with the tennis bags look at her in shock. Beyond them she sees a lone woman, hurrying away from the school, who stops and smiles, hands to her mouth in surprise and delight.
“Oh, Mama!” her little girl whispers, letting go of her hand and circling her. “You grew wings! Big beautiful wings!
The woman looks over her shoulder and there they are: majestic porcelain-white feathers, over a thousand of them in each wing, she has a seven-foot wingspan. By tensing and untensing her back muscles she discovers that she can control her wings, that all this time her body was working in preparation for flight. Her primary wings are at the tips of her fingertips. Her daughter squeals with delight, her son clings to her tightly, wary of the women staring at them.
She relaxes her muscles, folds her wings closer to her body and wraps them around her children, cocooning them. She lowers her head and huddles with them—it is just the three of them, wrapped in white warm feathery delight. Her daughter giggles. She looks at her son and he smiles shyly, surrendering to this miracle. Safety. The elusive treasure.
She slowly opens her wings again, to their full grand span, and she lifts her chin in the air, feeling like an eagle on top of the highest mountain. Proud, reclaimed.
The women still block the path, too shocked to move.
The woman smiles. Her mother once told her, the only way to the end is to go through. Her mother was wrong; she can always rise above.
“Hold on tight, my babies.”
She feels their trusting grips tighten around her hands; they cannot be torn apart.
Her wingspan is enormous.
Those little hands gripping hers are all the motivation she needs. Everything was always for them. Always has been, always will be. A better life. A happy life. A safe life. Everything they are entitled to.
She closes her eyes, breathes in, feels her power.
Taking her children with her, she lifts upwards to the sky, and she soars.
Excerpted from ROAR by Cecelia Ahern. Copyright © 2019 by Greenlight Go Unlimited Company. Used by arrangement with Grand Central Publishing. All rights reserved.