Burnt Mountain by Anne Rivers Siddons (Grand Central Publishing, $25.99, 325 pages; Hachette Audio, $34.98, 8 CDs)
This eerie story builds on a solid foundation of family history and human passions. The crushing disappointments suffered by main character Thayer Wentworth, a genteel young woman with a proper southern upbringing, are offset by the nearly hypnotic story telling from Anne Rivers Siddons. While Ms. Siddons has written many best-selling novels, Burnt Mountain was a first for this reviewer. The audiobook was brilliantly narrated by Kate Reading. As with many other audiobooks reviewed on the site, the story was enjoyed in two-hour segments on the open road.
Thayer Wentworth is an easy stand-in for the author’s southern childhood and college years. After a bumpy adolescence, Thayer falls in love with a quirky college professor, Dr. Aengus O’Neill. Angus is from Ireland and has parlayed his native folklore into a literary career. Thayer has a chilly relationship with her mother and when she brings Aengus home to meet the family, it is her beloved grandma who feels a connection with him. While the connection is comfortable, grandma warns Thayer not to let Aengus drift into his own folklore world. Too bad Thayer doesn’t pay better attention to grandma’s advice!
It’s grandma’s behest of a lovely house to Thayer that sets up the truly quirky turn in the story line. No spoiler alert needed here as the plot becomes sufficiently convoluted to preclude an easy reveal. Although the plausibility of the story is definitely questionable, the basic entertainment value more than held this reviewer’s attention. Sometimes suspending reality can lead to an otherwise unanticipated adventure.