Posted in 4 paws, excerpt, Review, women on September 12, 2015

wake up call


Sarah Winslow wakes up with a terrible hangover… and a kid in her boyfriend’s bed. She makes the horrifying discovery that, due to a head injury, it’s not a hangover. She’s got memory loss. Overnight, five years have disappeared, and she’s no longer the hard-living, fast-track, ad executive party girl she thinks she is. Now, she’s the unemployed, pudgy, married, stay-at-home-mom of three kids under five, including twins. As she slowly pieces together the mystery of how her dreams and aspirations could have disintegrated so completely in five short years, she finds herself utterly failing to manage this life she can’t imagine choosing. When Sarah meets the man of her dreams, she realizes she’s got to make a choice: Does she follow her bliss and “do-over” her life? Or does the Sarah she’s forgotten hold the answers to how she got here… and how she can stay?




The moment I wake up, I know I’m in trouble. Nothing feels right. I’m nauseous. Everything is blurry. I try and focus my eyes so I can find my way out of here. I finally manage to make out an image. There is a massive lump beneath the covers beside me. It rises then falls in rhythm to a rumbling snore. This intensifies the loud thumping in my head. With a sinking heart, I realize that the man in bed with me is too large and unruly to be my boyfriend.

What have I done? 

I become lightheaded with the thought of what must have happened. My stomach turns. I think I’m going to be sick. I take in a few short breaths. I can’t think straight. What happened to me? Where am I?

I must have had too much to drink last night because my memory is so fuzzy. I can’t seem to remember how I got here.

Kofi will never forgive me. I couldn’t ask him to. My eyes well up. My chest tightens while thinking about all the things I’m going to miss about him. The way he looks at me when I enter a room. His ambition. He inspires me to work harder and be a better person. He has this sarcastic sense of humor I often don’t understand, but he accompanies it with a laugh that’s quiet and contagious, like a yawn. I miss him already.

I need to get out of here. I want to get up but my head feels like it’s going to explode. Moving makes it pound harder. I have a charley horse in my neck. There’s shooting pain in my eye. This is the worst hangover ever.

I mine for deeper reserves of strength. I roll myself off the bed because my head is too heavy to lift. I hit the floor with a thud. Through scrunched up eyelids I look around for my belongings, but I can’t seem to find any of my things. Where is my bag, my shoes, my clothes?

A twinge of guilt trickles down my spine as I borrow a shapeless shirt and sweatpants from the floor. I pause for the poor girl who owns these garments. Not only did I sleep with her big fat man last night, but worse, her personal taste is appalling. She has enigmatic style and is awfully un-savvy.  Because her clothes identify her as a husky woman, I best move fast before she returns. I’m quite certain she can kick my skinny ass. Cardio Kickboxing keeps me perfectly toned, but I am afraid the heavily practiced punches, jabs and side-kicks have no street use.

When I look for the emergency exit, I can’t help but take in this distasteful environment. I’m surrounded by a terribly decorated room with cheap imitation Anne Geddes baby photos and mismatched furniture. I’ve seen garage sales with better interior design elements.

I creep to the door. I twist my ankle on an oversized Lego. I tumble to my knees then mime a silent scream. Now eye level to the carpet, I’m better able to survey the final course of my escape route. I stay low and slither across the floor, appreciating the breathable fabric and freedom of movement of the clothes on loan.

Once I make it past the threshold of the bedroom, I’m faced with a minefield of toys planted in the hallway, obstructing my passage to the outside world. I trip over a stuffed dinosaur. He squeaks and then there’s silence…the snoring has ceased. As this could further complicate my departure, I begin my high-speed pursuit towards the front door, forgoing all thought of injuries and hangover.

“Sarah?” says a recognizable voice.

I cock my ear at the door. “Kofi?”

“Where are you going, babe?”

I weave my way back through the house to my boyfriend.

“Where are we?” I breathe a heavy sigh when my eyes meet his.

Kofi has intense smoldering charcoal eyes and behind them there is a light that sparkles whenever he is excited. He’s got impeccable, lustrous ebony skin, full kissable lips, and high cheekbones—a fascinating combination resulting from his African American-Cherokee heritage. He is over six feet tall with slim hips and a v-shaped torso. He oozes with unadulterated maleness. But in spite of his appearance, he has this quiet confidence that’s devoid of arrogance. In fact, he is so smooth that the Isaac Hayes’ theme song for Shaft plays in my mind whenever I watch him from across a room.

My heart is dancing inside my chest. I’m relieved I haven’t ruined the opportunity to see where this relationship will go. I want to leap into bed with him, pin him down, and smother him with kisses, but I’m still feeling off balance. Instead, I rest my shoulder against the doorframe for support.

Kofi, moving sluggishly, sits up. I watch him closely. I notice I can’t hear the music playing in my head. Instead I hear my brain beating against my skull. My eyes are still trying to coordinate with each other. “Where are your braids?”

Kofi jerks his head up. “What do you mean?” he says, in a loud whisper.

Kofi once described his hair as an expression of originality, but it is now something approaching respectability and uniformity. “You look like a Marine and yesterday you looked like Lil Wayne.”

After a pause, he says, “Huh?”

“Why did you shave off the cornrows? A buzz makes you look…” fat, is what I want to say. Old, conservative, boring, also completes the sentence accurately. “Different. You look different,” I finally say, and then wince on his behalf.

Before Kofi can answer, the covers start rustling. Out pops a child rubbing his eyes.

“What is that?” I scream and point at the boy. “Why? Why?” is all I am able to say.

“He had a nightmare.” Kofi exaggerates a long drawn-out yawn and stretches out his lengthy arms.

“What do you mean?”

“Mama, what’s wrong?” says the boy in the bed, in a tiny, weary voice.

“Kid, I’m not your mom,” I say, followed by an uncomfortable chuckle. I share a look with Kofi and gesture towards the door. “I’m going home.”

“That’s a good joke, Sarah, but I don’t have time for it this morning.” Kofi digs into the corner of his eyes with his fingers. “I have to be at work. I’m in trouble enough as it is.”

The boy turns to Kofi and asks, “Daddy, why’s Mama acting weird?”

“Daddy? Daddy! You have a kid? Shit, Kofi, you never told me you have a kid.” I study the child closely; there’s no denying the resemblance. He’s all but a miniature clone of Kofi with lighter skin and one-third his stature. Both are sitting cross-legged, with heads tilted slightly to the left, the same single eyebrow raised, and now pouting petulantly.

I retreat into the hallway. I’m trying to answer all the questions running through my mind. Why wouldn’t Kofi tell me he had a kid? Why does this kid think I’m his mom? Why is Kofi looking at me as if I’m crazy? But my thoughts feel crippled.

“What’s shit?” the child asks.

“Oh sorry, kid, I mean…” I search for a more child-friendly vocabulary. I come up with nothing. I look at the boy blankly as he looks back with wide saucer eyes. The silence stretches too long. My nerves burst with nervous energy. “Shit,” I repeat—I can’t help myself.

Kofi’s expression is instantly angry. “Sarah, what the heck is wrong with you?” he grumbles.

“Me? What the heck is wrong with you? You just sprung on me that you have a kid. We’ve been together six months. You wait to tell me now?” The last thing I want to be is some poor confused kid’s stepmom. “I didn’t sign on for this! Where’s my stuff?” I stalk back and forth like a caged animal. “I want out of here.”

“Okay. Ha, ha, you’re funny. I never told you I have a kid.” Kofi and the child exchange puzzled looks.

“Let’s talk about this later. I can’t deal with it now. God, my head is killing me,” I tell him. “I have the worst hangover, and I think I’m going to throw up.”

“Hangover?” Kofi draws back sharply. “Babe.” He squints his eyes at me. “Maybe you should get back into bed?”

“With the young boy…that’s illegal,” I say, avoiding eye contact with the child. “Can you take me home?”

“Sarah,” Kofi says, in a slow, clear, soothing way; a tone I imagine a preschool teacher would use, or maybe a psychotherapist. “Are you okay?”

“What do you think? I just found out my boyfriend has a kid. I’m in some awful house and I have no idea where the Excedrin would be. I’m probably wearing your baby’s mama’s clothes.” I breathe in deeply. The smell is repugnant and the neurons in my brain seize.

Kofi gets out of the bed. He approaches me slowly. He’s wearing boxers and a T-shirt advertising Jones BBQ. I scrutinize his appearance for a moment and perceive a change, but my eyes feel like they’re burning behind my head. I squeeze them shut.

“Actually, don’t even bother getting up, Kofi. I’ll bus back to my apartment.”

Kofi walks toward me looking troubled. “Can you.” He nervously shifts his eyes and says, “Can you…can you…” Then he stops, looks at his son, raises his voice an octave. “Sweetness, why don’t you go use the potty and give us a minute.”

The boy jumps several times across the bed, as though on a trampoline, and then darts out of the room.

Kofi turns back to me. His stutter returns. He finally manages to spit out, “Can you tell me what you did yesterday?”

The only thing I know for sure is how brutal this headache is. I attempt to reconstruct the events of last night’s drunken debauchery. The memories are fragmented, like piecing together a dream the morning after. “I…um…oh yeah, I interviewed for that promotion I’ve been talking about for weeks, which went really well by the way. I’m pretty sure I got it.” I stop, concentrate harder. “Afterward, I must have met up with the girls for happy hour, like every other Friday for the past four years.”

Kofi’s mouth falls open.

I think back on the night, but nothing jumps out as odd: the drinks went down in the usual way. My girlfriends and I covered the typical topics: men, fashion, office gossip, and celebrity current events. When the spirits took us over, we took over the dance floor. I remember Jo-Jo dancing to a seven count rather than the conventional eight. Piper’s good judgment was lost somewhere between the funky chicken and the robot. Celia was jiving and using her hand as a microphone, lip-syncing with the house band. It appears in my recall, however, that I was an expert dancer.

I shrug my shoulders. “I must’ve blacked out after that because I don’t remember coming here.”

Kofi stares at me hard. “Are you serious?”

“Yelling isn’t helping, Kofi.”

“I’m not yelling,” Kofi says. He looks me firmly in the eyes. “I think we have a problem. Nico told me you fell when riding his skateboard yesterday. You hit your head, maybe you…” His voice trails off.

Instinctually, I put my hands up to my head. I pat around. I feel a bump the size of a golf ball beside my ear. When I touch it a blinding pain shoots through me and momentarily paralyzes my entire body. “Ow!” I cry out. Then a tingling takes over, similar to the sensation after hitting my funny bone, but it’s inside my skull.

Kofi rushes to my side. He guides me to the bed and lowers me down gingerly.

“Did you say Nico was riding a skateboard? You mean Grandpa? He just got a hip replacement. He can’t even bocce ball anymore.”

“You haven’t been to a happy hour in, well, forever.” Kofi speaks slowly and maybe even a little sadly. “Last night we watched The Hunger Games: Mockingjay on DVD. We were in bed by nine.”

“Wait a minute…this is a prank.” This must be another one of Kofi’s jokes, although I’m not really sure how it’s funny. “You totally had me going for a second. Bravo.” I applaud his originality, creating his own Hunger Games title, Mockingjay, that’s detailed. “Where’d you get the kid? He’s a good little actor. Did you rent him? Did you drug me to get me here? That’s a little bit excessive, but man, you really had me going there for a while. I almost believed you.”

I wait for him to break into laughter and say “Gotcha!” Instead he holds a poker face for an unbearably long time.


What happens when you wake up and the last 5 years are missing? Sarah is about to find out! An accident on her son’s skateboard leaves her with amnesia and the last 5 years are gone from her memory and what she thinks her life should be like is not what is reality.

Sarah is definitely on a journey over the 2 month time period the book spans (approx.). Will she learn that the past is the past and not everything stays the same? Will she regain her memory? You’ll only find out if you read the book!

Sarah is a character that you will sympathize with, but also dislike at times. While it is a shock to realize that how life as you remember is nothing like reality, it doesn’t give a person the right to act like a spoiled child! But the flip side is that some of the traits she remembers having aren’t what she is life today (neat, clean) and perhaps that will translate to a change.

I could relate to the book in the fact that our lives change over time and friends come and go. I can’t imagine what I would think if I was in Sarah’s shoes.

I give this 4 paws up!


About the Author

Amy Avanzino received a Bachelor’s degree from UC Berkeley and a Master’s from the University of Washington.  She is a former advertising executive, who has spent the last several years writing, while doing extensive hands-on research for her WAKE-UP series.  She’s a contributing writer of Hap Scotch, a play performed at the 2008 Frigid Festival in New York, which won two Audience Choice Awards.

Amy currently lives in the stands above the football fields, basketball courts, and baseball diamonds around Folsom, California, with her husband and four children.

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