About the Book
It begins with a bus crash.
Maggie is a funeral director from Indiana who lives a double life. Bug is a ten-year-old boy in the Pennsylvania foster care system who is sent to live with an aunt he doesn’t know. Jimmy is a former paramedic and prescription drug addict on his way to meet a woman he met online who thinks he’s a successful doctor. Helen is a Chicago insurance investigator who is leaving her marriage in search of the woman she wants to be.
Four strangers, all traveling to Boston in search of better lives, are tied together in ways they don’t even realize. Each are trying to fill the void of what’s missing in their lives. Sometimes it takes a tragedy to overcome all that we lack.
2015 Rainbow Award for Best Lesbian Contemporary General Fiction
2015 Rainbow Award for Best Lesbian Book
“With rich characters and movable landscapes (Moran was spot on in capturing the stop-start of a long, cross-country bus trip), this novel is a must read. As I closed the book after the last page, I was left wondering about my own insularity, my own unconsciousness.” — Review by July Westhale, Lambda Literary Review
“All We Lack gives us insight into the human psyche and the human condition. This story from award-winning author, Sandra Moran, starts out simply, eventually unfolding to reveal a rich tapestry of a tale, which takes up residence in the reader’s soul.” — Anna Furtado, Books on Fire
“Outstanding writing skills. Moran has those in spades! It is remarkably obvious that Moran pours over her writing and contemplates the choice of each word she adds to the story. Nothing is out of place. Nothing is superfluous. If a word is on the page, there is a reason for that word to be there. You won’t find anything that can be considered “filler” in All We Lack. Every scene builds tension and adds to the story. Flashbacks are appropriately revealing. Dialogue is natural and believable. Scenic descriptions are detailed and nuanced. Really, it’s quite wonderful.” — Carleen Spry, Frivolous Views
“The writing is, as always, imaginative and immaculate, every word considered and placed. The timeline is complex – a series of flashbacks, overlapping, layered and convoluted. But they flow from the page exactly how our thoughts flash across interconnected life experiences. The concept intrigues, pulls you forward and keeps you glued throughout.” — Velvet Lounger, Curve Magazine
SO THIS IS how it ends.
That was the totality of Maggie Anthony’s thoughts as the fifty-passenger express bus swerved, fishtailed, and then began what felt like a painfully slow series of barrel rolls down the steep embankment. She took a deep breath and gripped the armrests on either side of her seat. The woman in the seat next to her had done the same thing and their forearms touched.
“We’re all going to die.”
The murmured words were so low Maggie was surprised that she even heard them. She turned her head to stare at the woman next to her. Everything seemed to be happening in slow motion now and the elongation of time gave her an opportunity to take in the tiny details of the person with whom she had made pleasant conversation off and on for the past two hours.
The woman was small and efficient looking, with blondish hair that was glossy and probably very silky. She had green eyes . . . thick lashes . . . a blemish she had tried to cover with makeup. When the woman had slid apologetically into the seat next to her in New York City, Maggie had noticed that she had seemed anxious. Helen, Maggie thought suddenly. She had said her name was Helen.
The bus rotated and Maggie, who had the window seat, was thrown against Helen who let out a whoosh as Maggie’s right elbow and shoulder slammed into her chest.
We’re like those numbered balls in that round Bingo cage thing, Maggie thought as the force of the rotation flipped her upwards—or downwards given that the roof of the bus was suddenly below her. Helen was on top of her, but only for a second before they were separated and jerked sideways.
Everything happened faster now and suddenly, the noise was deafening—the groan of bending metal, the crunch of breaking glass, the screams and the rush of air as she was flung forward. Around her, the passengers bounced against each other and the seats of the bus. Purses and bags bounced, too, their contents spilling out and spraying like shrapnel.
It was, Maggie thought dimly, the little boy—the one she had seen with the sticker on his chest, his name written in Sharpie, sitting in the seat directly behind the driver. Unaccompanied minor, she had thought when she first saw him. Why that phrase occurred to her now, she didn’t know.
This came from the heavy-set man who had sat behind her. He had been on her connector bus to New York City. He’d boarded in Harrisburg, she remembered. She had gotten off the bus to stretch her legs and to use the bathroom at the station. When they got back on the bus, he had chosen to sit directly behind her. He had small brown eyes that were lost in the pale flesh of his face. Something about him made her uncomfortable and she had considered switching seats before deciding it would be too much work to move all of her things. When they changed buses in New York, he had again chosen the seat behind her.
Why these thoughts . . . not my life flashing before my eyes . . . tell Sarah.
The questions came to her in snatches—half-developed thoughts that she understood without completion.
The bus was flipping again, on the second, perhaps third rotation. Maggie wasn’t sure. And there was Helen again, her eyes wide, her lipsticked mouth in a perfectly round O.
Maggie thrust her arms out to soften the impact of their bodies crashing together again. One or both of them groaned as they came together and Maggie thought, oddly, that at least Helen was softer than the hard angles of the seats. They held onto each other and once again, Maggie was on her back on the roof of the bus.
Around them, coins and pens and a hundred other bits and pieces from pockets and bags rained down. The bus had stopped rolling and was now just gently rocking from side to side. Then silence for what felt like ten seconds as everything and everyone came to rest. And then the moans and cries began. Helen was sprawled halfway on top of her, loose-limbed and unmoving.
The thought occurred to Maggie just as a sharp pain shot through her head and down her spine. Her body tingled, every nerve suddenly aware and too sensitive. Adrenaline. Helen’s weight was too much. She tried to move but didn’t have the strength. Move, dammit. She tried again to force her body to do something . . . anything. She felt another stab of pain. This time it was excruciating and she moaned. She knew she had broken bones and likely internal injuries. She wondered what her face looked like.
I hope they do a good job on the restoration.
She imagined her naked body on the cold, shiny funeral home gurney—imagined the work that would go into making her broken body and damaged face look presentable. She should have gone with cremation. Besides, who would go to the funeral anyway? Ben? Sarah? Would Sarah even know that she had died? After the way Maggie had treated her, would she even care?
Now is not the time to feel sorry for yourself.
Maggie tried to raise her head again and gasped when the pain and nausea hit her simultaneously, followed by the white noise and tunnel vision. The chaos of the other passengers was obscured as she felt herself lose consciousness. The escape was welcome, she realized as she gave into it and felt herself let go.
Suddenly, she was looking down on the scene—at her bloody and broken body with Helen curled on top of her as if they were lovers. To her right was the man who had sat behind them. His face was bloody and his head was cocked at a strange angle. His eyes were open but he wasn’t moving. Maggie knew that expression. Toward the front of the bus was the little boy, curled into a ball, crying. The old woman who had taken so long to board lay sprawled limply on her stomach, her limbs at unnatural angles. Maggie saw all of it and felt nothing. It was a nice change to see death and not to feel sadness.
Maybe dying is not so bad after all. Maybe . . . She had trouble forming the rest of the thought. The scene below her faded and then, before she could be troubled to summon up the words to describe what happened next, there was nothing.