Don’t touch that dial! You’ve landed on Lisa Burton Radio. The only show that brings you interviews with the characters from the books you love.
I’m your host Lisa the robot girl, and my special guest today is a cat. A very special cat named Marmaduke. “What brings you to the show today, Marmaduke?”
“Diana, my human, has been acting strangely. We’ve rubbed along fine for years, just the two of us, she does her thing, I do mine. Different hours, different lifestyles, but checking in over a saucer of milk or coffee a couple of times a day. A pair of bachelorettes …”
“Oh! So you’re a girl cat.”
“I certainly was last time I looked. Is that relevant, do you suppose?”
“I just thought. You know, Marmaduke is typ—. Why would you be concerned about Diana?”
“I knew something was up when she went on a cleaning blitz at the weekend. Bought new crockery and sheets for the bed. Started studying recipe books. Let’s face it, she’s no cook. But last night she left three pans bubbling on the stove, dashed upstairs and came back down in a dress. And make-up. Then the doorbell goes and there’s a man standing on the doorstep. Turns out she’d invited him for dinner. Why?”
“Humans do things like that. Sometimes a girl has to cut loose.”
“Not Diana. She’s always been the quiet type. Stays at home most evenings. Sleeps alone. She’s forty-five, that’s seven and half in cat years. She’s set in her ways. Respectable. Staid. The riskiest thing she ever does must be getting on her bike to cycle to her Brainiac job at the university. But she’s losing it! Last night, when I walked in through the cat flap my food bowl was empty. I had to jump onto the counter and lick the leftovers from the dinner plates.”
“You poor baby! I don’t have any kibble, but I can open some tuna if you like.”
“It’s fine, thanks. I don’t mind making do now and then, even if it was vegetarian risotto. As long as she doesn’t make a habit of it. But when I went upstairs to remind her I have standards, she wasn’t there. Wasn’t anywhere in the house, even though it was far too early for her to leave for work. The bedding was crumpled as if she’d slept there or whatever she got up to with Simon, but her new sheets smelled sour. No wonder, Lisa, they were covered in blood.”
“Oh my God! Who is this guy?”
“Simon? He seemed harmless when I first met him a few months ago. I thought he was a gentleman – he’d given Diana and her bike a lift home from some party, but she didn’t invite him in. I think she liked him, though – her voice would go higher when they talked on the phone. But there was tension whenever Cairo cropped up in the conversation. He had to go there on business for a while – he was supposed to leave today. He wanted Diana to go with him, but she couldn’t even promise to go out for a visit.”
“Diana could be in danger, or worse.”
“Don’t worry, she’s safe in her room, fast asleep. Arrived home with the milk float at dawn. But she should be at work right now. It’s not right – she’s a woman of routine.”
“I hate to suggest this, but now it’s time to be concerned about Simon’s well-being.”
“Shouldn’t you be concerned about my well-being? Diana’s fine. She injured herself last night, but someone’s bandaged her up. A hospital, presumably – I hope they realized she’s going to need that arm to wield a tin opener. I do like my rabbit chunks.
“The odd thing is, I think she cut herself deliberately. Something or someone upset her last night, and it must be Simon, because it wouldn’t be me. I think it has something to do with this Cairo business. I reckon Simon’s pushed her over the edge.”
“That is mysterious. Some guy shows up out of the blue. Leaves just as fast, and she resorts to self-harming. That usually isn’t something a person her age suddenly starts doing.”
“She has done it before, I believe, although not in all the years she’s lived with me. Her forearm’s a patchwork of scars and I don’t think they’re scratches from another cat. Unless it was a tiger. I don’t like to bad-mouth my human, but that woman has issues going right back to the womb. Did I mention she went to Cairo, years ago, when she was a kid? Something momentous must’ve happened there but I haven’t a clue what is.”
“There are people who can help with problems like this. I really hope you can get her to see someone.”
“They stitched her up at the hospital, if that’s what you mean.”
“I’m talking about the issues on the inside. There are special doctors for that.”
“I’ll try and persuade her. It would certainly make my life easier if she gets herself fixed. Thanks for listening, Lisa. And thanks for having me on your show.”
“Will Diana get the helps she needs? Will she go to Cairo, and if she does who will take care of Marmaduke? What deep mysteries does Simon hold? To find out, you’ll have to read the book ‘Sugar and Snails’ by Anne Goodwin. I’ll include all the deets on the website after I log off.
“Make sure to use those sharing buttons today, too. I know Anne and Marmaduke would do it for you, when your character appears on the next Lisa Burton Radio.”
At fifteen, she made a life-changing decision. Thirty years on, it’s time to make another.
When Diana escaped her misfit childhood, she thought she’d chosen the easier path. But the past lingers on, etched beneath her skin, and life won’t be worth living if her secret gets out.
As an adult, she’s kept other people at a distance, until Simon melts her heart. But his work is taking him to Cairo, the city that transformed her life. She’ll lose him if she doesn’t go out for a visit. She’ll lose herself if she does.
Sugar and Snails describes Diana’s unusual journey, revealing the scars from her fight to be true to herself. A triumphant mid-life coming-of-age story about bridging the gap between who we are and who we feel we ought to be.
absorbing, clever and heartening Alison Moore
truly impressive Fleur Smithwick
Anne Goodwin’s prose is at once sensitive, invigorating and inspired Rebecca Root
exudes authenticity The Psychologist
a pleasure to read from start to finish North East Lifestyle magazine
tantalisingly grips the reader The Contemporary Small Press
a brave and complex story Literary Sofa
complex, fascinating and highly contemporary Shiny New Books
heart-rending Claire Thinking
absurdly brilliant Tales From A Bruce Eye View
Anne Goodwin’s debut novel, Sugar and Snails, about a woman who has kept her past identity a secret for thirty years, was shortlisted for the 2016 Polari First Book Prize. Her second novel, Underneath, about a man who keeps a woman captive in his cellar, was published in May 2017. Her short story collection, Becoming Someone, on the theme of identity, was published in November 2018. A former clinical psychologist, Anne is also a book blogger with a special interest in fictional therapists.
Twitter @Annecdotist https://twitter.com/Annecdotist