An unforgettable portrait of a man haunted by memories of the woman who got away_blended skillfully with a searing look at the role of art and memory in our times. In a small, foundering town in central New York, Molly Howe grows up to be a seemingly ordinary but deeply charismatic young woman. As a teenager, she has an affair with a much older man--a relationship that thrills her at first, until the two of them are discovered, and she learns how difficult it can be to get away with such a transgression in a small town. Cast out by her parents, she moves in with her emotionally enigmatic brother, Richard, in Berkeley, California. At her lowest moment, she falls in with a young art student named John Wheelwright. Each of them believes--though for very different reasons--that this is the love that can save them. Then Molly, after being called home for a family emergency, disappears. A decade later, John has gone on to a promising career at a "cutting edge" advertising agency in New York.
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February 03, 2003
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Excerpt from Palladio by Jonathan Dee
A town called Ulster in central New York--west of the Hudson, but still closer to Albany than to Syracuse or Buffalo--prospered briefly in the 1960s and '70s when IBM opened a regional sales division on the site of an old dairy two towns away. Ten minutes off the thruway, the abruptly thriving area wasn't long removed from its earlier life as farm country; most of the old sagging barns were bought up and knocked down to make way for new construction, but a few of the better-preserved ones were left on the vistas to go about the picturesque business of their own slow decline. They stand there today, swaybacked, holes punched in their steep roofs by years of snowfall; and the regional sales division has shut down. Roger Howe was offered a job there, a job that effectively represented the promotion which had not been forthcoming in his four years at the office in Westchester. He and his wife, Kay, with a small relocation allowance from the company and what remained of her inheritance from her father, moved upstate in the fall of 1970, when their son Richard was three years old, and Kay, though she didn't know it at the time, was pregnant with Molly.
The older homes in Ulster were well separated from one another, built for the most part on the apexes of the rolling, stony hills that had led its earliest settlers to hit upon livestock farming as their path of least resistance. A number of the IBM families, though, including the Howes, bought into a new development called Bull's Head, laid out at the wide end of a valley which narrowed toward the bald mountain that gave the venture its name. Roger and Kay, who were both twenty-eight and had never owned a home before, first saw Bull's Head on a Saturday in June, at an open house their realtor had scheduled from the hours of eleven to one. By the end of their first winter, when they had seen how the sunlight disappeared behind the mountain at around two in the afternoon, how the open end of the valley funneled perfectly the noisy, persistent winds that rattled the windows and leaked freely through all the casings, the house itself had become something of a sore subject, any mention of which seemed freighted with recriminations. Kay turned up the thermostat the moment Roger left for work in the morning; if she forgot to turn it down again before he came home, as she sometimes did, there were words. Downtown Ulster was an unplanned bloom of small enterprises--the gas station next to the drugstore next to the bank next to the IGA--which grew out of the town's main intersection but tapered off quickly to open land in every direction. In the evenings, a few minutes before each hour, the television antennas turned silently together like slow propellers atop the roofs in the valley.