A single event in her childhood irrevocably marked Catherine Gaillard -- and made it impossible for her to leave her cloistered mountaintop town in Tennessee for the next thirty years. But her devotion to her husband, Joe, and her desire to forever put the incident behind her propel Cat on a life-changing trip to Italy. Making their way across the countryside of Tuscany with two other couples, Cat and Joe soon feel themselves pulled in different directions, and the fabric of their marriage begins to unravel. Expanding beyond the bounds of a carefree trip, their journey takes them deep into the heart of their relationship...and becomes the ultimate test of their love.
``Americans behave badly in Italy,'' observes a perspicacious character in Siddon's ( Colony ) latest, an evocative, gothic tale of the dark ties binding a long-married couple. Cat Gaillard's life was irrevocably marred at age five when a truck plowed into her hedonistic parents, who were making love on a bridge. Raised in a small, southern hill town at the foot of the Blue Ridge mountains, Cat found safety within the rarified confines of its resident college and refused ever after to leave. Her agoraphobia entrances her husband Joe, a pedantic dean of English who revels in being Cat's strength and feels threatened when therapy frees her somewhat for a holiday abroad; they will roam across Italy as the unlikely companions of Joe's protege Colin and his new bride Maria. Other fellow travelers include Yolanda, a hilariously bitchy, oversexed Martha Stewart knockoff; Sam, a bluff, sweat-scented painter mesmerized by Cat; and his Machiavellian wife Ada, who will do anything to jumpstart Sam's creative motor. As a gritty, hot wind blows the group through Venice and into Tuscany, the hypocrisies cementing Cat's marriage are exposed. Siddons artfully conjures a violently seductive, sensual world peopled by characters boiling with elemental emotions: fear, lust, aching love. But the deliberately lyric cadences of her prose, though generally rich and enjoyable, are sometimes cloying and forced. $250,000 ad/promo; Literary Guild main selection; author tour. (July) -- PUBLISHERS WEEKLY.
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June 01, 1994
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Excerpt from Hill Towns by Anne Rivers Siddons
When I Was Five Years Old I Made A Coldly Desperate decision to live forever in a town on a hill, and so I have, from that terrible night in June until this one, thirty-seven years and one month later. If it has been bad for me, as many people these days seem to be telling me, I can only consider that anything else at all would have been worse.
"They never saw it coming; they didn't know what hit them," everybody said after my parents were struck and killed by a speeding truck on the old chain bridge over Tolliver's Creek. After that, I knew as simply and unalterably as a child knows anything that staying alive meant always being able to see what was coming. Always knowing what might hit you. So when my father's parents, kind and substantial Virginians from the Tidewater who might have given me every advantage, made to take me home with them after the funeral, I simply screamed and screamed until, in despair, they left me behind with my mother's eccentric people, who lived on the top of the mountain where my parents had died. I had great affection for my Virginia grandparents and little for the erratic, reclusive Cashes, who were strange even in that hill country, where strangeness is king, but the ramshackle, overgrown Cash house commanded the Blue Ridge foothills in all directions. From there I would always know what was coming. From there I would see it long before it saw me.