Head on Backwards, Chest Full of Sand by Sandy Day #Extract

A tender story of love-obsession, the second novel from Sandy Day, Head on Backwards, Chest Full of Sand chronicles a young woman’s coming of age during the height of the 1970s women’s liberation movement.

Teetering on the edge of womanhood, clinging to the first love of her life as if her survival depends on it, 17 year-old Livvy is torn between subjugating herself for love and claiming her identity and independence.

When Livvy, lovesick and artistic, spends the summer with the aunt she adores, she crosses paths with a cast of memorable characters in the coastal community of Margaree, Cape Breton Island.

While Livvy’s cousins torment her, house renovations disturb her, an annoying young islander tries to befriend and teach Livvy to disco dance, Livvy prepares for the much anticipated arrival of her boyfriend, Kane.

With poetic fluidity and breathtaking revelations Sandy Day draws you into Livvy’s obsession. Such a deep dive into the dire and agonizing crannies of a love-obsessed young woman establishes Head on Backwards, Chest Full of Sand as a memorable coming of age story.

For fans of The Girls Guide to Hunting and Fishing, Lives of Girls and Women, and The Bell Jar, Head on Backwards, Chest Full of Sand promises to immerse you in the world of a troubled but observant young woman coming slowly to terms with love, life, and all its messy relationships

I'm delighted to welcome Sandy Day to Hair Past A Freckle today, particularly as it's Publication Day for her latest book, Head on Backwards, Chest Full of Sand (I love that title!) Having thoroughly enjoyed her poignant novella, Fred's Funeral, I'm really looking forward to reading this coming-of-age story. In the meantime, Sandy has very kindly sent me an extract from the novel  to share with you.

The morning sun on the porch felt so delicious that it was impossible to concentrate on the periodic table I was studying. I’d brought my Grade 13 Chemistry textbook with me from Ontario. I’d promised my mom I would try to read it before the summer was over. I’d never taken Chemistry before so I was going to be way behind the other kids but my mom insisted that girls could be good at chemistry — that I’d catch up. My father laughed when he heard her say that.
I was drinking coffee while my cousin Hellah slurped a big glass of orange juice, or OJ as she called it. 
Ladybird lay in front of my chair and I ran my toes through her thick fur. Her black patches were hot where the sun was soaking in. 
Heat crept slowly onto the old porch. Hellah and I peeled off our sweaters and socks and baked our bare feet in the Cape Breton sun. Hellah’s legs were hairier than mine were. Neither of us had given in to the pressure to wear makeup or shave our bodies. We didn’t even wear bras. We were a new generation, liberated and free!
Kane had never said anything but what he would think if my legs were like Hellah’s? Would he still think I was sexy? My hair was light — hers was darker and thicker, almost like a man’s. I briefly wondered if I’d be tempted to shave if my legs were as hairy as hers were.
My parents expected me back in Ontario in September for my last year of high school. It was unlikely that I would make it. Mom made sure I’d enrolled in Biology, Chemistry, American History, and a couple of English courses. She said the others were easy and if I could manage to pass Chemistry, I would graduate. 
I’d brought the textbook hoping to understand Chemistry but I was discovering that it was mostly memorization — and that was not how I learned. I needed to dive in and discover the cause and effect of things, the alpha and the omega. Atoms and molecules were too minute and they behaved under unscrupulous laws — too random for me to comprehend, and too complicated for me to memorize. This was not going to be easy.
I set the textbook on the floor. Why spoil the day? I was visiting Aunt Donna on her farm (although it wasn’t really a farm — just a farmhouse and a barn with nothing in it but old straw) and I was going to have fun. When he arrived, Kane would love sitting on the porch in the morning sun. I was certain of that.
I wrote a poem in my journal about missing Kane, with a few seagulls thrown in. At this rate, by the end of the summer, I’d have a fresh cache of poems to send out to magazines. Hellah was completing a questionnaire in the book of personality tests I’d brought. If I couldn’t figure out Chemistry, at least I could figure out myself this summer. 
“For this one I have to draw a self-portrait. Gimme.” Hellah waved at my sketchbook and charcoal pencils. I slid them across the floor toward her. She cracked open the spine of my sketchbook and I winced. Then with one continuous squiggle, she drew a barefoot figure wearing overalls — it had wild hair and waving arms. She said, “That’s me!”
I should have known Hellah was incapable of taking a personality test seriously. She wasn’t one for introspection. She’d never thought about a philosophy of life. She didn’t realize a person needed to choose a path and follow it deliberately. For Hellah, life was just random and you made the best of it. It was hard for me to believe that someone as uncreative and oblivious as Hellah was my Aunt Donna’s daughter.
Donna was my idol. Even when I was little, I’d had a vision of Donna in my mind that I’d conjured from the floating love in my heart. With it, I’d crayoned the most beautiful portrait my five-year-old hand could muster — a picture of Donna — a pink lady with dangle-ball earrings and black hair bunned on top of her head. My eyes saw, and my mind captured, Donna’s blurry green eyes, her soft mohair sweater, her 1960s pale lips, her Jackie Kennedy vibe. My beloved Donna. To go along with my drawing I’d written a poetic message confessing my love for her but my mom had intercepted it because what five-year-old knows how to mail a letter? I’d lied and told my mom that the drawing and message were for her even though she would never look like my vision of Donna but I didn’t want to hurt my mother’s feelings. 

Doesn't that just make you want to read more?! Head on Backwards, Chest Full of Sand is available now and can be purchased from Amazon UK, Amazon US, Kobo and other online bookstores.

About the Author

photo by Tony Hicks

Sandy Day is a recovering chatterbox living in Georgina, Ontario, Canada. She graduated from York University, with a degree in English Literature sometime in the last century. Sandy then took 20 years off from writing to run a gift store and raise a family. Now relationship-free and un-self-employed she finally has time to write and publish.
Sandy is a trained volunteer facilitator for the Toronto Writers Collective’s creative writing workshops. She is a developmental editor and writing teacher who sells dog halters on the side. Tech savvy, a born marketer, entrepreneurial, and a big picture thinker, Sandy is a dedicated indie author, publisher, and book coach.
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