Livie Saunders is fluent in the language of flowers; she taught the meanings to her fiancé, Cotton O'Dell, but then Cotton vanishes without explanation on their wedding day forcing Livie to learn the language of desolation. Heartbroken, she buries her wedding gown beneath a garden pond and resolves to move on, but there are nights when she slips . . . into a sequined red dress and a pair of stiletto heels, a stranger's bed, a little anonymous oblivion that is not without consequence. Still, she recovers a semblance of ordinary life and imagines she is content. But then, six years later, Cotton returns and her carefully constructed world shatters. The old questions bite like flies. Questions that Cotton O'Dell prays he can answer. He prays that Livie, whom he has never stopped loving, will be moved to forgive him. But there is more than Livie to be concerned about. There is Cotton's act of cowardice that caused him to become a fugitive in the first place . . . that crime he committed for which the legal clock is still ticking. That thing he did that will shock Livie to her core once she learns of it. Livie is desperate to trust Cotton, but then he goes missing again. Time telescopes, avenues of escape close, and as lives hang in the balance, choice dithers between mercy and revenge. And a decision that will take only a moment will carry the consequences of a lifetime.
The Ninth Step is a story of redemption, of being brought to your knees in the sober light of day to face a monstrous error and yet somehow finding the strength to stand up, to try and make it right. Even if that decision breaks your heart, endangers your freedom and ultimately threatens your life.Read an excerpt (pdf)
"Barbara Taylor Sissel crafts a sure-handed, beautiful garden of a novel on ground tilled by Jodi Picoult and Anita Shreve. Firmly confronting issues of human frailty, redemption, and letting go, The Ninth Step is a story about what is, but it aches with the stories of what might have been as one man's quest for forgiveness leads him to the impossible task of forgiving himself, and the lives of the people he's wronged are drawn into a shattering spiral of events. Sissel's vibrant voice, rich characters, and deft plotting draw the reader in and keep pages turning to the gripping, unexpected end."
—Joni Rodgers, NYT best selling author of Sugarland, The Hurricane Lover, and memoir, Bald in the Land of Big Hair
"Heartfelt, compelling and unforgettable."
—Colleen Thompson, Bestselling author of Phantom of The French Quarter and The Salt Maiden
"A hauntingly beautiful story of choices, loss, forgiveness & redemption."
—Kathleen Anderson, Jersey Girl Book Reviews
"Move over, Jodi Picoult, Barbara Delinsky, et al. There's a new women's fiction author in town, and her name is Barbara Taylor Sissel!"
—Joan Reeves, Bestselling author of Just One Look and Jane I'm Still Single Jones
"A novel of extraordinary beauty."
—Glen Cantrell, author of The Resume
"... a beautifully executed story that is poignant yet hopeful...."
—Book Reviews and More by Kathy
"... filled with intense drama and emotions."
—The Book Diva's Reads