In Sunlight in a Beautiful Garden
by Kathleen Cambor

Perennial, 2001. ISBN 0060007575.
Reviewed by Judith Helburn
Posted on 10/06/2003

Fiction: Historical

This New York Times Notable Book develops a lyrical love story within the context of the Johnstown, Pennsylvania, flood of 1889 that killed 2,200 people. Nora, whose family is one of 100 members of an exclusive gentlemen's club high in the Allegany Mountains behind an earthen dam, would rather roam the deer trails and discover wildflowers and strange insects than socialize with the other blueblooded children and teens. Daniel, a townie, trespasses on the grounds of the club, discovers Nora and her secret places and begins to leave her gifts and notes.

One of Cambor's exquisite paragraphs describes Nora wandering too far out of the bucolic lakeside grounds to look upon a valley where the leaves are covered with soot and the valley filled with smoke.

"A warning that things are not always as they seem, that everything she thought was predictable and certain was ephemeral, passing, and one day the life she knew would change unutterably."

The economic stirrings of the time, the lives of Henry Clay Frick, Andrew Mellon and Andrew Carnegie frame the imagined lives of those who live and strive in Johnston and those who play in the South Fork Club. Cambor develops living characters with simple strokes of her pen and places them in a totally real landscape.

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