Cover image for Candles on Bay Street
Candles on Bay Street
McKinnon, K. C.
Personal Author:
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York : Doubleday, 1999.
Physical Description:
230 pages ; 20 cm
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A deeply moving story of love and loss by the author of Dancing at the Harvest Moon.

Author Notes

Cathie Pelletier was born in Allagash, Maine in 1953. She received a B.A. from the University of Maine in 1976. She has written books under her own name and the pseudonym K. C. McKinnon. The books written under her own name include The Funeral Makers, A Marriage Made at Woodstock, The Summer Experiment, and A Year After Henry. She has received several awards including the New England Booksellers Award for The Weight of Winter and the 2006 Paterson Prize for Running the Bulls.

Under the pseudonym of K. C. McKinnon she wrote two novels, Dancing at the Harvest Moon and Candles on Bay Street. Both were adapted into television movies by CBS and Hallmark respectively.

She writes country music lyrics. She has co-written several books with singers including 100 Ways to Beat the Blues with Tanya Tucker, The Christmas Note with Skeeter Davis, and The Ragin' Cajun with Doug Kershaw.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

Sam Thibodeau and his wife, Lydia, are both veterinarians in Sam's hometown of Fort Kent, Maine. The town is filled with rich memories of Sam's childhood, from the house he grew up in to the familiar people he still sees everyday. But memories of his first love, Dee Dee Michaud, who eloped to Wyoming at age 18, still plague him. When she returns to Fort Kent with her son, Trooper--and without her husband--Sam struggles against the feeling that his old crush might return. But soon Dee Dee's charm and the magic she creates with her candle-making classes bond her with Lydia and the rest of the town, and Sam is able to fully accept her back into his life. Then tragedy strikes, and Sam is again thrown into turmoil, forced to choose between life and death for his dear friend. McKinnon's sweet, sensitive story takes the reader on an emotional roller-coaster ride through Sam's pain and joy at rediscovering life with his childhood best friend and first love. --Alexandra Shrake

Publisher's Weekly Review

Again writing under the McKinnon pseudonym (Dancing at the Harvest Moon), veteran novelist Cathie Pelletier (The Funeral Makers) tugs at the heartstrings in a formulaic weeper with a feel-good message. "She was the childhood sweetheart I wanted to marry," says nice-guy Sam Thibodeau, a veterinarian in Fort Kent, Maine, of his childhood friend, Dee Dee Michaud. But back in 1982, Dee Dee drove off with local bad boy Bobby Langford in his gold Corvette, leaving Sam still carrying the torch. After an absence of 15 years, Dee Dee returns with her son, nine-year-old Trooper, and she sets up a store called Bay Street Candles in her home. Much to Sam's chagrin, his wife, Lydia, and Dee Dee become best friends and soul sisters, with nary a touch of jealousy over Sam. All too soon McKinnon's heavy-handed foreshadowing makes it clear that Dee Dee has chosen to return to Fort Kent for the saddest of reasons. Overused candle metaphors and Dee Dee's saccharine belief that every time you light a candle an angel is born illuminate the strikingly pale heroine's plight a bit too clearly. McKinnon skirts lugubrious overkill with some humorous touches, however, and the ending is quietly touching without being overly mawkish. Her strength here is the well-developed notion that while small town life, with its judgments and scandals, is often a place one escapes from, one can come home again for emotional and spiritual sustenance. (Apr.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

In Cathie Pelletier's newest novel under the pseudonym K.C. McKinnon, Sam Thibodeaux and his wife, Lydia, are both veterinarians in Fort Kent, ME, a small town on the Canadian border. They are progressing nicely toward the American dream when Sam's high school sweetheart, Dee Dee Michaud, arrives back in town with her nine-year-old son. Immediately, Sam is thrown back to an earlier time when he was smitten with Dee Dee and her flamboyant ways. Now a single mom with a big secret, Dee Dee reinserts herself into her circle of old friends. The story line is fairly predictable and the characters are difficult to care about until the very end, but fans of the earlier Dancing at the Harvest Moon (LJ 10/15/97) will enjoy this, as will most romance readers. The novel does succeed in portraying the French Canadian flavor of that part of the country. Recommended for public libraries. [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 12/98.]‘Caroline Mann, Univ. of Portland Lib., OR (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.



She was the childhood sweetheart I wanted to marry, but didn't. I blame General  Motors for this. In 1982, when their new line of sleek Corvettes came off the assembly line, Bobby Langford bought one, a shiny gold, the color of the sun. And he looked so good sitting behind the wheel that Dee Dee Michaud fell head over heels in love with him, instead of me. There I was, standing at the curb and about to make my big move. The rest, as Neanderthal man might say, is prehistory. I don't remember not knowing who she was. Hers is the very first face I can pull up when I flip back through the flimsy pages of my memory. She was part of my history, my family folklore, my roots: At times, it seemed as if she were a part of me.   We were both two years old when she moved in next door, accompanied by Estelle and Marvin Michaud, who were known around our little town of Fort Kent, Maine, as "older parents." They had just bought the two-story Victorian next door to us at 204 Bay Street. I'm told that we met for the first time, officially, at my third birthday party a few weeks later. I can't remember this, but I have the pictures as proof. Even then she was ravishing, a two-and-a-half-year-old flirt, her party hat canted to one side of her head, wheat-colored curls exploding from beneath the rim. And in her eyes a bright mischievous fire that I thought would never go out. When we were five years old we took a bath together, in a big galvanized tub in the backyard. That's a hot photo I've been carrying in my wallet since the seventh grade, when I slipped it out of my mom's scrapbook, unbeknownst to anyone but me. Ross Cloutier was the only person who knew about the picture. "What would you say if I told you that I have in my wallet a picture of Dee Dee Michaud naked as a jaybird?" I asked. We were sitting at the edge of the potato field, on the outskirts of town, smoking Salem cigarettes and getting sick to our stomachs. "I'd tell you pigs could fly," Ross answered. I didn't bother to prove him wrong. I told myself it was because I was defending Dee Dee's honor. But the real reason I didn't show him the picture is that I'm sitting in the galvanized tub, crying my eyes out with embarrassment, while Dee Dee is dancing like a dervish, silver drops of water cascading down her back. This has been the story of our lives. When we were in the third grade Dee Dee beat up Vincent Cyr for beating me up. She was taller than me in those days. I hadn't yet started "sprouting up," as my mother predicted I would, an act that sounded terrifying to me. I would lie in bed at night and imagine myself looking like a large, radiation-ridden potato after the "sprouting" was over. But it seemed I had no stomach for Salems or fighting, in those days before the sprouting could occur. So Dee Dee fought my battles for me. When she returned the comic book Vinny had taken from me, I should've been embarrassed that a girl had come to my rescue. But I wasn't. "Here, Sammy," she said, "I think you dropped something." I looked up into those blue-gray eyes, deeper and bluer than the old swimming hole in the St. John River, and they were so sincere that I really believed I'd dropped the comic book after all. That was her power. That was Dee Dee. In the fifth-grade talent show we were Bogey and Bacall in Key Largo. We fought about it for almost a month, right up to the night of the performance: Dee Dee wanted to be Bogey. It was the only time I never gave in to her. Our freshman year of high school she was expelled for a week, for using profanity and smoking cigarettes in the bathroom. Her mother asked me to talk to her, so I did. "Your mother says you're running with some very wild girls," I said to Dee Dee. "Would you please introduce me to them?" We formed a band our sophomore year, called the Acute Angles, because all four of us had geometry together. Dee Dee sang, I played lead guitar, Ross Cloutier played bass, and Brian LeBlanc played drums. We even managed to get a few gigs in town, but then Brian moved away and we couldn't find the heart to go on without him. Yet my greatest concern in those days was finding a way to get Dee Dee to stop the "buddy" thing and get straight to the sex. Otherwise, I feared I might die. On my tombstone would be the words: Here lies the only male virgin in the Class of '82. A month before we graduated from high school Dee Dee started dating Bobby Langford. His parents were divorced and living in Connecticut, so they'd sent him north to the wilds, to live with his grandparents, thinking it would be good for Bobby. It was disaster for me. On the morning of our graduation, Dee Dee jumped into the passenger seat of my truck--a 1954 Ford pickup, an inheritance from my Grandpa Thibodeau that had taken me months to restore. On the drive to school, I decided to make my move. I would do it with humor--humor was what Dee Dee loved best. I'd be Woody Allen. I'd tell her, "Listen, I know we've been friends. Hell, we've been Bogey and Bacall. But maybe it's time we were something more. I tell you what. This time, I'll let you be Bogey." But before I could say anything Dee Dee showed me her engagement ring. "It's a secret," she said. "Nobody knows, so don't tell. Okay, Sammy?" I didn't wonder where Bobby got the money for a diamond ring or the Corvette. He was making trips to Co nnecticut twice a month and a lot of good pot was suddenly going around the streets of Fort Kent, Maine. I looked at the ring. "O Great God Cannabis, thank you for your rewards," I said. I thought it would make her laugh, but it didn't. "Don't believe rumors, Sammy," was all she said. "Talk is cheap in small towns." The very next day after our high school graduation--and much to the disappointment of her parents and everyone who loved her--Dee Dee packed her suitcase. Then she and Bobby and the sun-colored Corvette sneaked out of Fort Kent during the night. I heard from her two weeks later, when I received a picture postcard of a huge ball of string sitting above the words: Visit Jennings, Louisiana, Home of the World's Biggest Ball of Twine. On the back she'd scribbled these words: Dear Samuel Louis Thibodeau. Ain't life a hoot? Love, Dee Dee. The next we heard she and Bobby Langford had gotten married. Mrs. Estelle Michaud, Dee Dee's mother, crossed the hedge that separated the Michauds' yard from ours and came sadly up the steps and into our kitchen to tell my mom the heartbreaking news. She didn't even bother to stop, as she usually did, to pick up any candy wrappers that might have blown into the yard, or empty pop cans that might have rolled in off the street. She didn't bother to pinch the dead leaves from around the flowers she'd planted in narrow beds along the hedge. Instead, she came directly into my mother's kitchen, the screen door slamming behind her like a bang of reality. "That crazy girl has finally done it, Margaret," I heard her tell my mother. "That crazy girl has gone and ruined her life." I was sitting with one leg up over the side of Dad's easy chair, counting the seconds until my first semester at college would begin and my life could be saved from the most complete and utter boredom ever wished upon an earthling--now that De e Dee was gone from next door--but this got my full attention. This turned life interesting again, for I knew right away who that crazy girl was. I came to stand in the doorway, leaning in just enough to catch Mrs. Michaud's words, and that's how I learned that the love of my life, Diana Catherine Michaud, voted Biggest Class Flirt and Prettiest Girl for four years straight, had married the man behind the wheel of that golden chariot of a Corvette. "She's just a baby," Mrs. Michaud said, wringing her hands and looking generally miserable. A week later I got a second postcard, this time from Mankins, Texas. On the front was a picture of an enormous shoe: Home of the World's Largest Cowboy Boot, the heading read. On the back she'd written: Dear Sammy. I'm so glad to be out of school and finally learning things about the world. Love, Dee Dee. I pinned the postcard to the wall over the desk in my bedroom, next to the first one she'd sent, the ball-of-twine wonder. Then I took out the acceptan ce letter I'd received earlier that year from the University of Maine at Fort Kent, the small college in my hometown, and I reread all the words carefully. Some folks love to travel, it's true, but I knew then, a short time after graduating as valedictorian of Fort Kent High School's Class of 1982, that I would stay in my own town to finish college, aiming for a degree in science and biology. Then I would go off to vet school in Boston--as close to home as possible--for the four years it would take to complete a doctorate of veterinary medicine. But I would come home to my roots, and open a small animal practice in Fort Kent, where there was none. Like a lot of New England males I've known in my life, I'm the kind of man who stays close to hearth and kin. There's something in this northern Maine soil that has held me firmly to it. I should have known back then what this meant: A crazy girl who is wild as the wind wants a boy who is just as wild. Yet the unfairness of it all overwhelmed me. I couldn't compete with Bobby Langford by driving around in Grandpa Thibodeau's truck. A 1954 pickup against a new Corvette? What woman besides Grammie Thibodeau would turn down the 'vette? Bobby Langford wasn't much at all without that car, but cars have a lot of power. Let's face it. Who would remember James Dean if he had died in a rusting, dented Volkswagen Rabbit? That silver Spider Porsche did it. My eyes filling with warm tears I never wanted anyone to see, I looked up at the two postcards again: Ain't life a hoot? Dee Dee had asked me. I tried to imagine her sitting atop the world's biggest ball of twine, or lying flat out on the toe of the largest cowboy boot, but the images wouldn't come. My only regret in life up to that short point of eighteen years had been that Dee Dee Michaud never slowed down long enough for me to tell her that she was the love of my life. I looked back down at the acceptance letter, and the catalogue newly arrived from Boston's School of Veterinary Medicine. I touched the tip of m y index finger to each one. "There's the rest of your life, Sammy Thibodeau," I said aloud. "Get used to it." How could I have known then about life's tricks, about those smoky mirrors and false doors, one of which would bring Dee Dee Michaud home to Fort Kent and back into my life again? I couldn't. Just as Dee Dee couldn't know that her shaky marriage to Bobby Langford wouldn't last. In 1987, one year after I would graduate summa cum laude from the University of Maine at Fort Kent, word went around town that Dee Dee had opened some kind of crafts shop in Wyoming--which sounded like the other end of the universe from northern Maine. The world spun on. In February of the following year, Dee Dee's father died of a heart attack. I didn't come home from Boston for his funeral. I had an exam that week and vet school was tough. But Mother phoned to say that Dee Dee hadn't changed much. Now that Mr. Michaud was gone, Mrs. Michaud was making plans to move in with her widowed sister. She would rent out the house at 204 Bay Street. Mother would miss her old neighbor of so many years. So would I. Somehow, the notion of Dee Dee's folks still next door to mine had kept her memory alive for me. Before she hung up my mother said, "Oh, Sammy, I almost forgot. Dee Dee's eight months pregnant." A month later, in March of 1988, two full years before I moved back to Fort Kent and opened my own practice, Mother wrote that Dee Dee Michaud had had her baby, a son she named Martin. No one seemed to know if Bobby Langford was passing out cigars. The news of the birth was followed months later by news that Bobby had gotten a good job working on the Alaskan pipeline. I imagined that he and his gold Corvette had headed north together, toward the Land of the Midnight Sun. After that, no one seemed to know anything about Dee Dee Michaud anymore. Months passed, and I woke up one day to realize that I'd heard nothing from her, or about her. The ties that bind seem to have been finally severed. I imagined that the gossips were busy back in our hometown, digging for details of her life. But I was busy, too. I had my final and hardest year of vet school yet to live through. And, oh yes, I had asked a vet student named Lydia Newhart to marry me. Ain't life a hoot? To this day I have never bought an automobile from General Motors. It's just a matter of principle. Excerpted from Candles on Bay Street by K. C. McKinnon All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.