Terrace Story – With Her Mind, a Woman Expands Her Boundaries

Hilary Leichter’s Terrace Story begins in a closet and ends up in space. Stories about three different families interlock, but raise more questions than provide answers. Not until the final chapter do all the pieces fall into place in a satisfying, yet disturbing, manner.

In the first section, “Terrace,” we meet a young couple, Annie and Edward, and their new baby, Rose. They move into a small apartment, so small that the new table they purchase barely fits. While Annie has been on maternity leave, her co-worker, Stephanie, has taken over her clients. Grateful, Annie invites Stephanie over for dinner who arrives with a bottle of wine. After a tour of the small apartment, Stephanie opens a closet door and rather than a pole and hangers, what Annie and Edward see is a beautiful terrace with vegetation, twinkling lights, a table with four chairs, a grill, and a sturdy umbrella for sunny days. Annie and Edward are speechless while Stephanie compliments the couple on their lovely backyard. The three sit outside long into the night enjoying their new terrace and the wine.

Annie and Edward invite others over for dinner, but only when Stephanie is there does the terrace appear. Annie becomes wary that Stephanie is after her job. Still, nights on the terrace are enticing and so Stephanie becomes a frequent dinner guest. The way this section ends is shocking, so I won’t reveal what happens.

In “Folly,” the pregnant Lydia and George attend a funeral although it’s never clear who has died. Talk of death follows on the ride home, some comments funny, some serious. A professor, George works with his students, Lydia on scientific articles exploring the extinction of marine creatures like shrimp, trout, salmon, and then snails. When Lydia has her baby, she’s named Anne. Rather than bring them closer, parenthood drives them apart. “Pretty soon she would be writing an essay about the death of dialogue,” reflects Lydia’s feelings in their relationship. 

They attend another funeral, this time for one of George’s female colleagues. They meet Patricia, the daughter, and her father, the widower. Soon Lydia is having an affair with the older man. When Patricia tells George, he’s not surprised or upset, probably because he’s having an affair with Patricia.

We learn more about Stephanie and her abilities in “Fortress,” the third section in the book. As an infant, Stephanie was mesmerized by a mobile above her crib and raised the ceiling, causing the device to fall on her. She wasn’t injured and her parents never noticed that the ceiling had moved. As a child, she made a sandbox grow and a playground larger. But when her little sister ran to the end of the grass, Stephanie could not make the area larger fast enough. Running into the road, her sister was hit by a car. At the funeral, Stephanie tried to make her sister’s grave bigger.

As Stephanie grows, so do the things she makes larger. Her college friends are amazed by her abilities, particularly Will. But after college, Will becomes upset and then frightened by what Stephanie can do. There are mentions of her sister being someplace far away. Is she alive, in another dimension, or is Stephanie imaging that she didn’t die? Despite her gift, Stephanie is troubled and lonely. No, not just lonely, but alone. Calls home end quickly and include no invitations to visit even on holidays. Her parents, too, are afraid of her.

The final section, “Cantilever,” is set on a space station where Rosie, known as Gravity One, works to keep a suburb in orbit. It’s clear that earth, if not gone, is in terrible shape and those who survive are living on moons or in pods kept in orbit. An older woman comes in for an appointment with Todd, but asks to meet with Rosie instead. When we learn more about the older woman, connections are made and the circle complete.

Terrace Story
Hilary Leichter

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About Charlene Giannetti (652 Articles)
Charlene Giannetti, editor of Woman Around Town, is the recipient of seven awards from the New York Press Club for articles that have appeared on the website. A graduate of Syracuse University’s S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications, Charlene began her career working for a newspaper in Pennsylvania, then wrote for several publications in Washington covering environment and energy policy. In New York, she was an editor at Business Week magazine and her articles have appeared in many newspapers and magazines. She is the author of 13 non-fiction books, eight for parents of young adolescents written with Margaret Sagarese, including "The Roller-Coaster Years," "Cliques," and "Boy Crazy." She and Margaret have been keynote speakers at many events and have appeared on the Today Show, CBS Morning, FOX News, CNN, MSNBC, NPR, and many others. Her last book, "The Plantations of Virginia," written with Jai Williams, was published by Globe Pequot Press in February, 2017. Her podcast, WAT-CAST, interviewing men and women making news, is available on Soundcloud and on iTunes. She is one of the producers for the film "Life After You," focusing on the opioid/heroin crisis that had its premiere at WorldFest-Houston International Film Festival, where it won two awards. The film is now available to view on Amazon Prime, YouTube, and other services. Charlene and her husband live in Manhattan.