Book Glow editors handpick every product we feature. We may earn commission from the links on this page.

Read An Excerpt From At The Seams By Pamela Gwyn Kripke

Read An Excerpt From At The Seams By Pamela Gwyn Kripke

Kate’s understanding of her world is shattered when she learns of an uncle who died inexplicably in the hospital just days after his birth. Below is an exclusive excerpt from the novel At the Seams by Pamela Gwyn Kripke.


As a child, my mother fell asleep listening to the adults at the end of the hall. It was the 1940s, when relatives visited each other in the evenings and sat up and talked. They spoke about the baby sometimes, the baby boy who had arrived a few years earlier than she did, with blue eyes and his mother’s skin, pearly and light.

He slept in the hospital nursery, as all infants did then. The nurses brought him to my grandmother at feeding time, delivered on a cart with the other newborns, in a row, swaddled up. Weighing nearly ten pounds, he was positioned on the end, where there would have been more room.

After a few days, he didn’t come. Instead, the doctors asked my grandfather to give blood. They didn’t tell him why, even while the tubing ran from his arm. Soon afterward, they said that the baby was dead. Without warning, without reason. Your baby is dead. Your just-born, healthy baby boy is dead. My grandparents begged, wailed, pleaded, but no one said anything. Not ever.

From her bedroom down the hall, curled up in evening’s grainy haze, my mother heard the rise and fall of voices, the careful words, the jittery words. The theories. She heard what her father came to believe but could not prove, that the baby had rolled off the end of the cart to the floor. That he rolled off the cart, and no one was there to catch him.

During the course of a routine conversation when I was eight, so routine that I cannot place its day or time or location, my mother told me the story. She said she didn’t know for certain what had happened, when it had happened, if the infant even had a name. But the voices sailed through the hall and into her consciousness. They said that the baby was robust and pink, but then he was dead.

Maybe there was no room in the middle of the cart for a baby of ten pounds, or maybe the nurses thought he’d push one of the smaller ones off the edge with his strong big-baby arms. There were no sides to the cart, no wall to roll into on a fast trip, a swervy trip, a careless trip. It was like a cart in a library, I imagined, or something from a restaurant kitchen. Maybe they used it to distribute meatloaf and peas when they didn’t pile babies on it, when they didn’t press them together, arm to arm like hotdogs in cellophane. Like cigars in a box.

Anyway, my mother told me she didn’t get out of her bed and ask the people about her brother; she didn’t even say that he was her brother. He was the baby. The dead baby. Hush. Don’t say anything. Don’t repeat this. Don’t ask a soul or say that you know. It will only upset Grandma Lilly. Again. We don’t want to upset her again.

She gave me no lead-up to the story, no situation that needed explaining, no rationale for the tale to be told. We could have been talking about vegetable soup, or dancing class. We could have been baking a cake and cutting it into shapes and turning it into an elephant, following the directions in the blue booklet, with the drawings of the lions and bears. We could have been saying or doing nothing at all.

It’s entirely possible that my mother simply said, “So, you know what happened? Grandma Lilly had a baby and the baby died, and Papa Sam chased a nurse down the street, right down the street to ask her why. But she ran away, she ran away so fast that he never caught up.”

It’s entirely possible that my mother said that, that she looked at me with her deep brown eyes and in a swoop flung open a curtain, snapped up a shade, revealed a world that I didn’t know existed or could exist so close to my family. So close to me.

Related: Interview With Pamela Gwyn Kripke, Author Of At The Seams


Posts Carousel

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked with *