Popular palazzo-renovator Mayes (Bella Tuscany, 1999, etc.) sets aside a bowl of perfectly sun-ripened pomodori to rest for a while, picks up her hefty, beautifully balanced penna, and has a go at a romanzo. Can’t be too hard, can it?
Well. The recipe here is lots and lots of sweet, tender ingredients from the days of the mid-’70s, before so awfully much money poured in and just changed everything in Georgia beyond recognition. When there were still grateful family retainers—with the accent on family, don’t you know—friends really, and there were still places like Swan, Georgia, a pretty little mill town where the mill has, alas, gone silent, but where the mill-owning Mason family, what’s left of it, lingers with enough money that siblings J.J. and Ginger Mason and their aunt Lily are free to live moody lives of their own choosing. Actually, archaeologically gifted Ginger has chosen to go live in—can you guess?—Tuscany, but J.J. still lolls around the local swamp, coupling with but never really relating to the local girls. Ginger married once, but her wedding was—well—eccentric, and then she got divorced. Aunt Lily, who went to Agnes Scott, never married, although a boy looked at her once. The Masons are haunted by the suicide of beautiful, artistic Catherine Phillips Mason, who shot herself through the heart with a .22. And now, all these years later, Lily and her friend Eleanor, on a trip to the local cemetery, discover the headstone of Lily’s father, “Big Jim,” despoiled with graffiti and the late Catherine exhumed, de-coffined, and lying in the grass. Ginger must fly home, and it will take a sympathetic sheriff and many, many pitchers of iced tea and lemonade to sort things out so that everything is as sweet and well ordered as poundcake and free-range strawberries.
Pralines in a bed of melting homemade ice cream. Not a trace of humor.