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Excerpt From Moonlight on Butternut Lake


Mila got up from the desk, walked over to the dresser, took the ring box out of the bottom drawer, and then took the ring out of the box. She left the bedroom with the ring, padding softly down the hallway and stopping outside Reid’s bedroom door. There was a faint yellow band of light visible beneath his door, but there were no sounds coming from his room. She waited there a minute before walking quietly to the kitchen, where, following Lonnie’s instructions, she disabled the alarm she’d already set. Then she walked out of the kitchen, through the living room, and to the sliding glass door that led onto the deck. She unlocked it and opened it, slowly. She hesitated there, wondering if she should turn on the deck lights, but she decided not to. Some things, she thought, were best done under the cover of night. So she crossed the unlit deck to the set of steps Lonnie had pointed out to her that afternoon, and she started down them. As soon as she did, though, the night seemed to envelop her, and she felt suddenly defenseless in its bigness, and its darkness. Still, she kept going, climbing carefully down the stone steps, whose whiteness glowed faintly in the light of a thin crescent moon, and whose roughness felt cool beneath her bare feet.

When she reached the bottom step, she paused. The dock was much longer than she’d expected it to be. It jutted out, impossibly far, over the black, glassy surface of the lake. Did it have to be so long? she wondered anxiously. She’d always had a fear of deep water, and she knew that by the time she reached her destination, at the dock’s end, the lake’s depth would be well over her head. But she squeezed the ring in her hand to give herself courage, and when she felt it digging into her palm, she pressed on, careful to stay in the center of the dock, and careful, too, to stop a respectful distance from its end. And as she stood there, her bare toes gripping the smooth pine planks beneath them, she turned and looked back up at the cabin. It looked undisturbed, its outline only slightly blacker than the already black sky behind it. Good, she thought. She had the night to herself, and in more ways than one. She turned back to face the lake again, and, because she felt something was required of her now, something that would somehow mark this moment for the solemn thing it was, she gave a small, silent speech.

Brandon, I don’t know if it will ever be possible to legally end our marriage, especially if legally ending it means that you’ll know where I am. But the fact that somewhere there will be a piece of paper that says we’re still married isn’t important to me. What’s important to me is that our real marriage ends tonight. For good, and forever….

Excerpt from Moonlight on Butternut Lake, by Mary McNear

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Mary McNear

Mary McNear, the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of the Butternut Lake series, writes in a local doughnut shop, where she sips Diet Pepsi, observes the hubbub of neighborhood life, and tries to resist the constant temptation of freshly made doughnuts. Mary bases her novels on a lifetime of summers spent in a small town on a lake in the northern Midwest. She lives in San Francisco with her family.


Chérie Newman is a former arts and humanities producer and on-air host for Montana Public Radio, and a freelance writer. She founded and previously hosted a weekly literary program, The Write Question, which continues to air on several public radio stations; it is also available online at and
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