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From Arizona, where a Native American is on a quest to connect with her culture, to Belfast, where a mother fights to bring her children to America, the world is united by the sight of the Agincourt comet, which blazes through the sky. Even IN THE COUNTRY OF THE GREAT KING, there is loneliness, lost identity, longing, and inspiration. Set in a variety of places in the world, Ardythe Ashley’s novel takes the reader on a journey through human emotion: reuniting with one’s culture, finding love, surviving the loss ...
From Arizona, where a Native American is on a quest to connect with her culture, to Belfast, where a mother fights to bring her children to America, the world is united by the sight of the Agincourt comet, which blazes through the sky. Even IN THE COUNTRY OF THE GREAT KING, there is loneliness, lost identity, longing, and inspiration. Set in a variety of places in the world, Ardythe Ashley’s novel takes the reader on a journey through human emotion: reuniting with one’s culture, finding love, surviving the loss of a loved one, and connecting with God.
Let what you love be what you do.
There are one hundred ways to kneel and kiss the earth.
There isn't enough sex in it, thought Arista Bellefleurs, slapping the manuscript down onto the polished expanse of her cherrywood writing table in dismay. It was a fine table. It had been hand-joined, and rather too intricately carved about the legs, in Ohio, before the turn of the century, by her great-grandfather, Shadrach Brainard. Now it stood as the high altar in her comfortable, slightly worn, otherwise modern Manhattan apartment. Arista rested her cheek on the slick wooden surface next to the unfinished novel and wondered what she would do with the rest of her life now that she couldn't write anymore.
Arista descended from long-lived people. Most of her forebears, including Great-Grandfather Shadrach, had survived into their nineties. Arista was forty-five. She sighed. The idea of living another forty-five years was exhausting; imagining, as she was, all the suffering she would necessarily witness and experience, some of which she would doubtless inflict herself, inadvertently, of course. She thought of herself as an essentially kind, but flawed person. She had battled in life, and where the scars had formed, she was insensitive. Now she was facing the accelerating decline into old age. It wouldn't be graceful, she thought.
The subject that had most interested Arista throughout her life was sex, and there would be less and less eroticism, she knew, as the years advanced. She had hoped, at the very least, to continue writing about it. But shehad been struggling now for over a year, unable to whip her current novel into any kind of passion. Worse, it was threatening to become a novel about a novelist. She loathed novels about novelists, which she judged, harshly, to be failures of sublimation.
She sat up and leafed through the pages helplessly. The book hadn't started out autobiographically. It had begun with a modern American Indian woman, a painter. Arista had intended to send out a sparse, intense novel about the souls of artists in a soulless culture: writers to be sure, but painters and poets and dancers and actors, and even a mime, like Katelyn had been in her youth--all the delirious, dysfunctional people who inhabited Arista's world. But the book had boomeranged back into her lap, where it now lay, limp, formless, refusing to pull itself into a seductive shape.
To her relief the doorbell rang. She admitted her friend Katelyn without ceremony. As prearranged, she handed the manuscript to Katelyn, who took it with undisguised pleasure.
"You've never let me read a work-in-progress before."
"Thanks for asking me."
"Katelyn, I've lost it."
"Next thing you'll say is, 'Maybe I never had it.'"
"Didn't you say it was about religion?"
"No. About people, searching. Some people find religion."
"Is this about that minister you had a crush on?"
"I don't know what it's about."
"Then, as I promised, I will read it and let you know."
"Thanks. I'll make you some tea."
"Arista, are you in it?"
"What choice have I got?"
Katelyn Wells smiled contentedly. She sank down comfortably into her accustomed place on the sofa, stretching out her long, still-graceful legs, and prepared to read. She liked Arista's novels. She often found bits and pieces of herself strewn among the characters. This time, Arista had warned her, she had been swallowed down and coughed up whole. She squinted at the title page, sighed, rummaged through her handbag, and put on her recently acquired, but often resisted, reading glasses. At least Serena had said she looked handsome in them. Arista hadn't remarked.
Arista Bellefleurs, having given her characters over to her friend for the day, began to putter uselessly about in the tiny kitchen. She had been hopeless as a housewife. She put on the kettle and then decided to chop some garlic for a spaghetti sauce, one of the few kitchen tasks she enjoyed. The smell of garlic on her hands reminded her of sex in Italy.