Bestselling novelist Danielle Steel takes us on a harrowing journey into the heart of America's hidden shame in a novel that explores the power of forgiveness, the dark side of childhood, and one woman's unbreakable spirit.
From her secret perch at the top of the stairs, Gabriella Harrison watches the guests arrive at her parents' lavish Manhattan townhouse. At seven, she knows she is an intruder in her parents' party, in her parents' life. But she can't resist the magic. Later, she waits for the click, click, click of her mother's high heels, the angry words, and the pain that will follow. Gabriella already knows to hide her bruises, certain she is to blame for her mother's rage--and her father's failure to protect her. Her world is a confusing blend of terror, betrayal, and pain. Her parents' aristocratic world is no safeguard against the abuse that knows no boundaries, respects no person, no economic lines. Gabriella knows that, try as she might, there is no safe place for her to hide.
Even as a child, her only escape is through the stories she writes. Only writing can dull the pain of her lonely world. And when her parents' marriage collapses, Gabriella is given her first reprieve, as her father disappears, and then her mother abandons her to a convent. There, Gabriella's battered body and soul begin to mend. Amid the quiet safety and hushed rituals of the nuns, Gabriella grows into womanhood in a safe, peaceful world. Then a young priest comes into her life.
Father Joe Connors never questioned his vocation until Gabriella entered the confessional and shared her soul. Confession leads to friendship. And friendship grows dangerously into love. Like Gabriella, Joe is haunted by the pain of his childhood, consumed by guilt over a family tragedy, for which he blames himself. With Gabriella, Joe takes the first steps toward healing. But their relationship leads to tragedy as Joe must choose between the priesthood and Gabriella, and life in the real world where he fears he does not belong, and cannot cope.
Scandal, betrayal and treachery do little to animate this dreary saga from the prolific Steel (The Ghost). By the time she's six, Gabriella Harrison has known nothing but torture at the hands of her battering mother, Eloise, a socialite who hates children?especially her own. Gabbie's alcoholic father is incapable of dealing with the madness that rules the mansion and soon escapes with another woman. Then Eloise decides she's tired of mothering and abandons 10-year-old Gabbie at St. Matthew's convent. Gabbie blossoms at the nunnery, where she finds unconditional love from the sisters, a talent for writing and, later, illicit passion in the arms of a priest. When discovered, the affair leads to the priest's suicide and Gabbie's eviction from the convent. Always one to make lemonade of life's lemons, however, Gabbie assuages her grief with new friends, a new lover and her burgeoning talent as a writer. Still, tragedy tails her like a lost puppy, and her monstrous mother casts a long shadow over her triumphs. Steel's latest attempt at a redemption story falls flat because of repetitious prose and two-dimensional characters. The inevitable happy ending, when it finally arrives, can't make up for a plodding narrative lacking in any real suspense.
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March 01, 1999
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