CEMENT HEARTby Beth Ehemann
The old saying goes that two wrongs don’t make a right . . . or do they?
I found a bench right outside the door at the very moment my legs decided to give out. Who knew a hard-ass concrete bench could be so comforting? I ran my hands through my hair and rested my elbows on my knees, staring at the concrete slab below me. An ant slowly walked up to my foot and stopped. I wondered what it was like to be an ant. Did they have friends and families? Did they accidentally hurt each other? Did they feel guilt? I’d fought like hell my whole life to keep my feelings in check and never let people see them, but the last two days were testing that more than any other time in my life. I didn’t know how much longer I could keep it together.
Praying was something we never did in my house growing up, but at that moment I felt the overwhelming urge to talk out loud to . . . someone.
Looking around to make sure I was alone, I took a deep breath and puffed my cheeks out, exhaling slowly.
I glanced up at the sky for just a second, quickly deciding I probably looked like a moron and that whoever I was going to talk to would probably hear me no matter where I was looking.
“Hey, whoever’s up there. My name is Lawrence Finkle, but you probably know me as Viper. Anyway—” I cleared my throat, suddenly feeling very stupid that I was talking to myself, but so desperate I was willing to do anything. “—we’ve never had what I would call an active relationship, but right now I’m feeling pretty alone down here. I’ve fucked up a lot in my life, as you probably know, but I’ve always been able to talk myself out of any trouble I got into. Well, I’ve finally done something I can’t fix. It was an accident, but I still can’t fix it, and I could really use it at the moment. I don’t really know how this works, but I’m willing to bargain. I’ll do anything—go to church, donate time and money, stop fucking strangers. I mean it, anything . . . just please . . . save my best friend. He’s a good man with a wife and kids who need him. If you need to take someone, take me. No one gives a shit whether I’m here or not.” My eyes started to feel hot and sting as I took another shaky breath.
Startled at the sound of my name, I stood and turned as a camera flashed in my eyes. Squinting and holding my hand up, I tried to block out another flash. “What the fuck?” I growled.
“Hi, Mr. Finkle. I’m Warren Sanders with the Star Tribune here in Minneapolis.” He held his hand out for me to shake. I glared down at it and then back up at him without saying a word. He quickly pulled his hand back and continued, “We heard about what happened yesterday and we were just wondering if we could ask you a few questions. Like, maybe what exactly happened? What’s his current condition? Anything you’re willing to give us.” He held a microphone in my face as the cameraman lifted a different camera onto his shoulder to film me.
Rage shot through me like a bullet shoots out of a gun.
“You want anything I’m willing to give you?” I asked coldly. “Well, I’m going to give you ten seconds to get that motherfucking camera out of my face before I shove that mic up your ass.”
“Uh . . .” he stammered. “We won’t keep you for long. We just want a quick statement.”
Without hesitation, I took three steps and grabbed the camera from the guy behind him, lifted it above my head, and smashed it on the concrete. They both jumped back, their mouths hanging open as they stared at the ground.
“There!” I pointed to the shattered camera as I walked away. “There’s your fucking statement.”
Well, well, well. Beth Ehemann. I bow to you. Cement Heart – I hardly have words. A little over a year ago I read about Brody, Kacie and the twinkies and honestly did not think I could have fallen more in love with Beth’s writing than I did at that point. I was wrong. I can not express enough how much I loved Cement Heart, Viper and the rest of the gang.
I refuse to give away anything to this story because it would just ruin it completely. So I will tell you about the people, the feels (lots of them) and the incredible heart that lives in Viper.
First of all, Gam. I mean… just… ok, I want Gam in my life. She is hilarious, witty, and just superbly awesome. I honestly wish I had a Grandma like her in my life. If Beth does, I’m super jealous. She’s a 90 year old lady who puts Viper in his place, who not only can give a crazy amount of grief and sarcasm, but she can receive it, too. I fell harder for Viper because of his relationship with her. Not because of the “oh, how sweet, he loves his Grandma.” It was the admiration and respect they held for each other.
Ok, second… I was so incredibly glad that we got more of the entire gang. Brody, Kacie, a little of the Twinkies. You know, it just wouldn’t have been the same if we didn’t get some of Brody’s heart but also his humor and wit.
Viper – oh have mercy. Who would have thought? If you’ve read the Cranberry Inn series you know Viper isn’t a relationship kind of guy. But, he’s a friendship kind of man. He’s going to stand behind his friends, not tease them or make fun of them for their choices, even if they’re not the same as his. He’s supportive and encouraging and then he might go about and do his own thing. I loved him. Man alive did I love him. Viper is one of those men who is funny, determined and just when you think you have him figured out, that he’s going to have a heart of stone, he opens up, he’s willing to work on himself.
The Feels!! Oh, holy wow, the feels! I cried, I hiccup-cried, to be exact, and I laughed (very hard and out loud – had to read several excerpts to my husband) and all around swooned. But in the end, the feels is what got to me. What Beth created was a group of people that most of us can relate to. The women and men both were so honest and real… and comical. And I know that’s one of the reasons why I fell so hard for this book (and the Cranberry Inn series).
I will warn you, this is one of those books that you’ll want to ignore your family so you can read. You’ll be agreeing to ice cream for breakfast if they’ll let you continue reading uninterrupted (I may or may not have been guilty of that one). I could not put it down, even though I would move from tears to laughter in the matter of a few pages. Absolutely wonderful.
If you haven’t read the Cranberry Inn series, I highly recommend it. This can be read as a standalone but having a bit of the backstory from the series made this story even more appealing.
Five absolutely positive and glowing stars for Cement Heart by Beth Ehemann!
Beth Ehemann lives in the northern suburbs of Chicago with her husband and four children. When she’s not sitting in front of her computer writing, or on Pinterest, she loves reading, photography, martinis and all things Chicago Cubs. She’s represented by Jessica Watterson of the Sandra Dijkstra Literary Agency.