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Stifled by the expectations of her proper Southern mother, there is only one place tomboy Thayer Wentworth really feels free—Camp Sherwood Forest. Nestled in the lush North Carolina mountains, the place offers her a warm respite from her chilly home life, a chance to ride horses, run wild, and fall in love for the first time. It also brings the kind of heartache from which she'll never truly recover.
Now an adult, Thayer is married to Aengus O'Neill, a handsome professor of Irish literature and folklore. Living in the grand river home she inherited from her grandmother, Thayer is content. That is, until Aengus starts to sour on his new job at The University of the South. When he's invited to a nearby summer camp to share folk tales around the campfire, it seems Aengus has found his true calling. But, the more time he spends at Camp Edgewood, the more unsettled Thayer becomes with the situation. Especially when it causes her to remember and confront some very dark secrets about her family, her first love, and her increasingly enigmatic husband.
I always like juicy Southern family sagas and Anne Rivers Siddons usually delivers a good one. Burnt Mountain (2011) starts out like a typical Siddons novel, with its slow-building introduction to its characters and plot. It's only around the middle that it starts to flounder. That's where the story gets ... weird. While I like the idea of an eerie, not-quite-right summer camp, Aengus' strange transformation comes way too out of the blue to be realistic. It just feels ... odd. And the novel grows more and more bizarre from there. I wanted to like this one, but the story's themes and plot lines seem too disparate, creating an unbalanced tale that did not satisfy in the end. Since I've enjoyed many of Siddons' novels, Burnt Mountain is a surprising disappointment. I'd advise readers to skip it and stick the the author's earlier books, which are much better.
(Readalikes: Other books by Anne Rivers Siddons)
If this were a movie, it would be rated:
for language (a handful of F-bombs, plus milder expletives), violence, and sexual content