Tired of mooching off her friend Lily, Jamie Shire determines to leave Grass Valley and find a life, if not fame and fortune, somewhere else. She winds up in the Sonoma area working for a mysterious millionaire philanthropist, Akasha Duval, at Duval's Fallow Springs mansion. Her job is to research causes that Duval might support. Akasha is beautiful but aloof, frequently gone from the estate, giving Jamie precious little guidance.
There are others caring for Fallow Springs. Beah is an older woman, Ana someone of few words, and Zahir tends the garden. As the story unfolds, so do the lives behind the names. Some have been physically mutilated and all have suffered terribly, including Jamie, whose daughter Clara was killed before birth by her father. Santos is in prison and Jamie, 27, is mired in regret and resentment.
In "Out Of The Shadows" ($14.95 in paperback from FirstSnowPublishingHouse.com) Kimberly Carlson mixes the intensely personal with Jamie's growing involvement in movements to stop genocide on the African continent. It's the Bush era, and Western eyes seem blind to the what is occurring a world away. Carlson herself, who has taught creative writing at Shasta College, is a member of "Genocide No More--Save Darfur."
Carlson will be talking about her writing, and signing copies of her book, at a free literary event tomorrow night at 7:00 p.m. at Lyon Books in Chico.
Jamie journeys to the refugee camps in Chad and falls in love with a doctor volunteering there. "Thad had a way of filling all my empty spots. When I was around him, I was consumed with desire and fulfillment at the same time. ... Thad was my Humphrey Bogart in Casablanca, my Ralph Fiennes in The English Patient. I was a woman with Thad. ..." Jamie, addicted to films, sees her life as if it were scenes from her favorite movies. Only later does she realize that she might write her own script, become her own director.
But that will require Jamie to confront the unsettling truths she discovers about her family. And the heartbreaking mistreatment of powerless humans haunts her and inspires her to make a difference. Ana, smelling of "peppermint and yeast," has a severed tongue. Will Jamie speak for her?