In the hours after a bridge collapse rocks their city, a group of Boston teenagers meet in a hospital waiting room. In his riveting debut, "Vanity Fair" film critic Lawson guides readers through an emotional and life-changing night as these teens are forced to face the reality of their pasts...and the prospect of very different futures.
In the hours after a bridge collapse rocks their city, a group of Boston teenagers meet in the waiting room of Massachusetts General Hospital-
Siblings Jason and Alexa have already experienced enough grief for a lifetime, so in this moment of confusion and despair, Alexa hopes that she can look to her brother for support. But a secret Jason has been keeping from his sister threatens to tear the siblings apart . . . right when they need each other most.
Scott is waiting to hear about his girlfriend, Aimee, who was on a bus with her theater group when the bridge went down. Their relationship has been rocky, but Scott knows that if he can just see Aimee one more time, if she can just make it through this ordeal and he can tell her he loves her, everything will be all right.
And then there's Skyler, whose sister Kate-the sister who is more like a mother, the sister who is basically Skyler's everything-was crossing the bridge when it collapsed. As the minutes tick by without a word from the hospital staff, Skyler is left to wonder how she can possibly move through life without the one person who makes her feel strong when she's at her weakest.
In his riveting, achingly beautiful debut, Richard Lawson guides readers through an emotional and life-changing night as these teens are forced to face the reality of their pasts . . . and the prospect of very different futures.
Richard Lawson is the film critic for Vanity Fair and a co-host of V.F.'s Little Gold Men podcast. He has written for The Guardian, The Atlantic Wire, Gawker, and Out magazine, and has contributed to the Dinner Party Download radio show. Though currently living in New York City, Richard was born and raised in Boston.
"Chapters shift among Lawson's complex and carefully drawn characters, offering distinct points of view and providing aching insight into the personal pain that colors their perspectives....a gripping and emotionally invigorating story." --Publishers Weekly, starred review "A remarkable story that explores growing up through the lens of mortality...Young readers looking for a change of pace will be rewarded by this quiet yet powerful meditation on life and death." --Booklist
"A captivating example of what contemporary realistic fiction does best." --VOYA
"Moving, heartbreaking, hopeful, and touched with humor and insight into teen lives, this story will ring true and give readers pause." --School Library Connection
"A gorgeous, elegantly spare story about the genealogy of love and connection in a moment of crisis. Timely and stirring." --Jeff Zentner, Morris Award-winning author of The Serpent King and Goodbye Days
"A profound and empathic story about love, loss, and growing up, All We Can Do Is Wait captures both the magic and uncertainty of youth in all its beautiful and triumphant sadness. I wish I'd had it when I was young." --Sam Lansky, author of The Gilded Razor
"Tender-hearted, clear-eyed, full of the rage and wonder of youth, this novel does the dazzling work of bridging that delicate suspense between adolescence and adulthood. You will be moved beyond measure." --Amber Dermont, New York Times bestselling author of The Starboard Sea
"All We Can Do Is Wait sparkles with wit and tenderness as it takes us on a mysterious and unexpected journey to the place where grief and longing meet. Lawson's characters are heartbreakingly human--sharp edges and all--and readers new to his work are sure to come away as fans." --Bennett Madison, author of September Girls
Prologue The Bridge IT WAS CLOUDY when the bridge gave way, about a hundred cars crossing the Mystic River on the Tobin. People who saw it said it just suddenly happened, but how sudden could something like this be? It must have been years of bad maintenance, years of some important part being worn away by rust or stress or time. Really, the only sudden part was the very end. From far away, it seemed to go softly, one section dropping down, and then another, splashing into the river, dust falling like snow after it. Up close, of course, it was a different matter: a terrible, quick quaking and then the horror of plummeting. It was hard to say who was less lucky, the ones who fell into the water or the ones who fell onto Charlestown, debris tumbling on top of them. Was it better to be swiftly crushed or to slowly drown in your car? It''s easy to forget, seeing a stream of cars on the highway or stuck in city traffic, that each of them represents a person, or several people, all trying to get somewhere of their own, home or to a meeting or to a funeral or starting out a trip. When the police and rescue teams arrived on the scene of the Tobin Bridge collapse, one of their first jobs was to determine how many people were involved. They needed to know who to look for, how many cars had gone in the water, how many had crashed down onto land and been buried by metal and cement. They needed some idea of the lives involved, of all the people they were searching for. Kate Vong was driving back from a morning shift at the restaurant where she worked, tired and stressed about school, racing to make an afternoon class, worried about finding parking, thinking she''d love to quit her job and be a full-time student like so many of her friends. She was on the phone with her younger sister, who was complaining about wanting to use the car, a fight they had often. Kate honked at a car that cut her off, and was almost across the bridge when it juddered and broke. The last thing she saw before her car tipped toward the ground and everything went black was a few spatters of rain on her windshield, and she wondered if she had an umbrella. Theo and Linda Elsing were on the other side, heading to their daughter''s school for a meeting. Theo was on the phone with his office, annoyed that he''d been pulled away in the middle of the day. His wife was reading e-mails on her phone, gently putting her hand on Theo''s arm and telling him to slow down, that they weren''t going to be late. They''d had to take a detour because of traffic, and weren''t even supposed to be on the bridge. Theo slowed the car and told work he had to hang up. He gave his wife an apologetic look, and then the road cracked underneath them, the car sliding to the edge and toppling over the side, Linda saying, "Theo . . ." and grabbing the dash as the car fell. Aimee Peck was a few cars ahead, out over the water, heading north to Salem on a sort of field trip with her friends, their favorite song blaring. They were laughing about something that had happened at play rehearsal the day before, Aimee''s friend Taissa driving fast, saying she couldn''t believe the show was going up in only a few weeks. Aimee was excited about the trip, and about the play, but she was distracted. She was staring out the passenger seat window when she felt the car shake, heard Taissa screaming as she twisted the wheel and the car went flipping down toward the river. Aimee closed her eyes. There were many others, nearly two hundred in all. A mother taking her children to her parents'' place in Portland. A lawyer headed home after a frustrating morning in court. A newlywed couple on their way to the airport, suitcases in the trunk packed with warm-weather clothes. There was a woman fighting on the phone with her daughter in Arizona, a man crying about the dog he''d just put to sleep. There were three babies, there was a taxi driver taking a long fare to Revere, there were truck drivers heading north, others heading into the city. There were more. That''s what they--the paramedics, the police--found when they went looking in the rubble of the bridge, once they''d determined it was safe enough to do so. A whole panorama of lives--people trapped or injured or killed together. They dug people out as carefully and as quickly as they could. They set up triage onsite; they put the direst cases in a phalanx of ambulances, sending them off to the closest hospitals. They sent divers into the water, afraid of what they would find. The attention of the city, the great eye of Boston, swooped down and watched with grief and concern, helicopters whirring overhead, news crews trying to get the best angles. Slowly, all across Greater Boston, the phone calls began. Loved ones getting word, rushing out of offices and homes and classrooms to make their way to the hospitals, reeling with panic and fear, tearing through a city once again roiling with tragedy. They descended on emergency rooms, pleading for answers, but instead were forced to wait for word of parents and sisters and girlfriends. To find out who, exactly, had just been lost. Chapter One Jason THOUGH HIS PARENTS could be dead, lost to him forever, there was only one voice Jason wanted to hear just then. As he stood outside the hospital, the day darkening and surreal around him, Jason reached for the familiar, comforting talisman of his phone and opened a voice mail. "Hey, you. I''m driving to Laurie''s, wanted to say hi. I know you hate voice mail, so I don''t know why I''m leaving you one. But--" There was a little pause, the rumble of the car going over a pothole, a faint bit of melody from whatever song had been turned down to make the call. "This is corny, but I think about you all the time. And right now is part of ''all the time,'' right? So, I''m thinking about you now. Does that make sense? I hope it does. Anyway, as Carly Rae says, I really like you. O.K.' O.K. This is embarrassing. Goodbye! I like you! Goodbye." Jason took the phone from his ear, tempted to restart the message. But then an ambulance siren blared next to him, jolting him out of the warm world of the voice mail, and Jason remembered where he was: standing outside Boston General, five p.m. on a Monday in November, waiting to find out if his parents were still alive. Jason could, he realized for maybe the hundredth time in the last hour, be an eighteen-year-old orphan. His parents were missing, or unaccounted for, like so many other people. Surveillance cameras had captured their car inching up the bridge in midday traffic, and then it disappeared with everything else when first one section, and then another one, gave way. Jason had seen the footage, somehow already leaked online, small and black-and-white and fake-looking. His sister, Alexa, had found out first, of course--and now here they were, along with all the other clueless, crying loved ones, waiting to find out just how much the world had suddenly changed. But Jason couldn''t even really begin to think about his parents, about where they might be and in what condition, if they were just bodies in bags somewhere, if they were hurt and bleeding, if they''d asked for their children. That was all too much to comprehend, to even consider processing, so Jason found himself reaching back, not dwelling on tangled metal and crumbled concrete but instead on the ski slope of a boy''s nose, his gravity-defying hair, the way his mouth drooped down just a little on one side, into a pout or a sneer depending on his mood. He missed him all the time, of course, but now that ache felt profound--physical, elemental, molecular. This was what it was to love someone, Jason figured, but there was nothing to be done about that now. Except, maybe, to listen to the voice mail one more time. He tapped the arrow button and pressed the phone in close, losing himself again in the melodic, confident voice, twinged with that bit of giddy nerves, saying to Jason what Jason wanted so much to say back. The voice mail ended and Jason began to feel himself emptying out again. The high of the message was quick, lasting only a few seconds before the realities of the day came crashing, thudding, screaming back in. Jason looked up and saw the beginnings of chaos. People on phones--or clutching spouses or children--were hurrying toward the emergency room doors. Nurses and doctors were waiting expectantly for the first wave of ambulances from the site. I''m too young for this , Jason thought. Most of the time, Jason tried to assert a worldliness, a cultivated jadedness. It was a pose he struck at school. (Or rather, schools--he was on his third school in as many years.) It was probably how Alexa would say he treated her. Jason suddenly remembered a brief conversation he''d had--tense and a little sad--with his mother, a year or two before. They were in the library, what Jason''s mother called the sitting room or parlor at the front of the house. Jason was sitting there in some fog, fiddling on his phone, when his mother came in, saying goodbye on her way to some event or other. She looked at him with that half-concerned, half-bored look of hers for a moment and then turned to leave, before remembering that, oh right, this was her teenage son, being left home alone, and she should probably make sure he wouldn''t burn the house down. "You''ll be all right?" she asked, fastening a tasteful gold earring to an earlobe. Jason looked up at her, gave her one of his withering looks. "Will you?" His mother seemed a little stung, and was certainly annoyed. "You know," she said, her eyes cold and piercing, or as much as they
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