Roseanna Chaldecott spent her life as a driven, successful lawyer in Manhattan. One day she suffers a sudden, devastating loss. And shortly thereafter, she realizes that her life has to change. So she informs her secretary that she will not be coming to the office, gets in her luxury sports car, and starts driving upstate. She has no idea where she is going but is fairly certain she has no plan to return.
Lost in the foggy foothills of the Adirondacks, Roseanna stumbles upon and impulsively purchases a rundown, seventy-six acre farm. The property is full of surprises, including the fact that a young mother, Patty, and Willa, her five-year-old daughter, have continued lived on the property since the owner’s death. And they have nowhere to go and no one to help them. Even though Roseanna wants solitude, she reluctantly lets them stay.
Roseanna discovers that the barn is full of scrap metal and no one knows why the previous owner collected it. Willa begins envisioning metal sculptures of animals and Roseanna finds herself assisting. They amass a collection of zoo animals that intrigues locals and draws more newcomers. Eventually, a reporter from the New York Times lands on Roseanna’s porch. Against her better judgment, Roseanna agrees to be interviewed but the ensuing publicity allows her estranged son, Lance, and law partner, Jerry, to find her. Roseanna is eager to repair her relationship with Lance and build a new connection to him.
Although she is sure she has discovered where she belongs, Roseanna faces challenges, including possible financial ruin and the loss of the farm. Originally in search of solitude, she learns that her heart has found room for much more. Can she sustain the new life she has built?
Heaven Adjacent is a beautifully told story from the talented, best-selling Catherine Ryan Hyde. It is the story of Roseanna Chaldecott, who has spent decades practicing law with her best friend from college, Alice. But Alice died suddenly at the age of fifty-tree. Hyde does not immediately reveal how Alice died — only that her sudden death stunned and profoundly impacted Roseanna. So one morning, Roseanna looks out the window of her beautiful Manhattan apartment and knows that she cannot fact another day practicing law. After all, she is financially secure and no longer needs to work. She calls her office and notifies her secretary that she will not be coming in, gets into her Maserati, and starts driving. She ends up lost in a desolate part of the Adirondacks, looking at a seventy-six acre dilapidated farm boasting a “For Sale” sign. The main house is little more than a shack, but does offer a few pieces of furniture, as well as a functioning bathroom and kitchen. Roseanna is nothing if not decisive and very used to getting what she wants. Despite the realtor’s warnings, she purchases the farm immediately, negotiating both a short escrow and the right to immediately take up residence.
It turns out that the main house is in better shape than the guesthouse in which Roseanna soon discovers Patty and Willa residing. Roseanna’s introduction to the destitute mother and her precocious little daughter provides the first clue as to the depth of Roseanna’s story. After a nearly heartbreaking beginning, Roseanna relents, permitting them to remain on the property, and goes about settling into her new home.
Roseanna soon learns that the rundown barn is actually a warehouse full of scrap metal. Only the deceased former owner, Macy, knew why she collected it. But she has taken her rationale with her to the grave. Patty offers to help by clearing away the junk, but little Willa comes up with the idea of fashioning it into sculptures of animals. Before long Roseanna learns to weld and their metal menagerie grows. It also captures the attention of the locals, who don’t appreciate the gawkers it attracts, as well a that of a New York Times reporter.
Roseanna escaped New York City to find solitude, quiet, and be alone. But despite her best efforts, she manages to attract squatters — homeless, down-on-their-luck folks who need a place to lay their heads — and finds herself unable to evict them. Thus, the farm is constantly full of the noises of life — a squealing little girl, a rambunctious dog, and even an elderly horse that requires expensive veterinary care.
But it is the noise the reporter makes that really disrupts Roseanna’s new life. His piece on her increasingly famous metal sculptures leads not just her former law partner, Jerry, to her, but also her thirty-year-old son, Lance, with whom Roseanna has always had a tempestuous relationship. When Lance was growing up, Roseanna was a Type A, ruthlessly successful Manhattan attorney. She was not fully present as a mother. Over the years, their relationship devolved to the occasional telephone call or visit, and Roseanna knows very little about Lance and the things that matter to him. However, when he shows up at the farm — and is willing to stay for awhile — they both realize they have been given a chance to resolve old resentments and develop a new, stronger bond. Their dialogue is frequently humorous, completely natural, and fully believable. Despite their differences, they actually know each other quite well, and the new understanding they forge is the highlight of the story.
Roseanna is a multi-faceted, nuanced character. She is in many ways a typical attorney: tough, determined, and articulate. She is blunt — at times to the point of meanness, but without intended malice. As the story progresses, Hyde reveals Roseanna’s inner thoughts and struggles — her regrets about not being a better mother to Lance and feelings about her dear friend, Alice. Hyde reveals that Alice had a plan to work hard, become financially independent, and then start enjoying life. Roseanna decides there is nothing to be gained by waiting to defer enjoying life and everything — literally — to lose. She does not want to follow in Alice’s footsteps.
Hyde has populated Heaven Adjacent with a cast of quirky characters that keep the story interesting, entertaining, and endearing. In Hyde’s skilled hands, it is a lovely exploration of relationships, priorities, emotional openness, and what it means to be a family. It is a look at values and how we must determine what matters most to us and how we want to spend our days. It is a study in second chances, reconciliation, living a life that has meaning, and finding home.