I've spent the last year in the Italy of my mind ... a remembered place that I couldn't resist at first writing essays about, and finally using as the setting for a novel. To answer those who've asked what the book's about, here's a short summary:
A month-long art history tour promises its organizer, middle-aged professor Norman Wesley, a new life of freedom from his abusive marriage and deadening career, but what he gets is his old life in shambles. His fellow colleagues at Mount Antioch Community College, The Renaissance Club, wander through Italy with him, following broken loves and unsatisfied desires. Enter some down-to-earth saints come alive from their sculptures and paintings, and four couples find the marital deck shuffled and love and art proved to be chameleons. Their enigmatic tour guide, George St. James, keeps losing his gold cigarette lighter, which, passing through many hands, kindles surprising transformations. This tale’s imps include a cranky Michelangelo, Theresa of Avila arising out of ecstasy to give an earthy lecture, a young Francis of Assisi in a Venetian herb garden, and the Facebook page “Be a Franciscan,” guiding travelers to new lives of love, beauty, and self-sacrifice.