By Valerie Martin
(Nan A. Talese, Hardcover, 9780385515450, 304pp.)
Publication Date: September 18, 2007
List Price: $25.00*
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Chloe Dale’s life is in good order. Her only child, Toby, has started his junior year at New York University; her husband, an academic on sabbatical, is working at home on his book about the Crusades; and Chloe is busy creating illustrations for a special edition of Emily Brontë’s Wuthering Heights. Yet Chloe is disturbed—by the aggression of her government’s foreign policy, by the poacher who roams the land behind her studio punctuating her solitude with rifle fire, and finally, by Toby’s new girlfriend, a Croatian refugee named Salome Drago.
Raised in the Croatian expatriate community of New Orleans, Salome is a toxic mix of the old world and the new: intelligent, superstitious, sly, seductive, and confident. But Salome’s past is a mine of dangerous secrets, and the violence that destroyed her homeland is far from over. Chloe distrusts her on sight, and as Toby’s obsession with Salome grows, Chloe’s mistrust deepens, alienating her from her tolerant husband and besotted son. Rich with menace, the novel unfolds in a world where darkness intrudes into bright and pleasant places, a world with betrayal at its heart. In shimmering prose Valerie Martin raises the question: who shall inherit America?
Valerie Martin is the author of three collections of short fiction, most recently The Unfinished Novel and Other Stories, and seven novels, including Italian Fever; The Great Divorce; Mary Reilly, the Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde story told from the viewpoint of a housemaid, which was filmed with Julia Roberts and John Malkovich; and the 2003 Orange Prize–winning Property. She is also the author of a nonfiction work about St. Francis of Assisi: Salvation, Scenes from the Life of St. Francis.
- What is Chloe's initial impression of Salome? What about her does she find so threatening? Are these the same traits that make her attractive to Toby (and, incidentally, to Brendan)? Are Chloe's perceptions accurate? What clues does the author plant to suggest that she may not be entirely reliable? Conversely, about what does she turn out to be a more accurate judge—and not just of Salome's character?