I have been fascinated by the backlash from Hurricane Camille in Nelson County ever since it happened August 19th, 1969. How COULD 29 inches of rain fall in 5 hours, which NOAA says is close to both the physical and theoretical limit of the possible. In the heart of the county I care deeply about, lives were eclipsed and landscapes devastated in the blink of an eye.
So a combination of fascination, love and a too-vivid imagination pulled me into writing a novel set during the backlash of Hurricane Camille. These characters are fictional, but what happens to them comes right out of the histories recorded at the time.
I am passionate about horses, so naturally the horses in this book have personalities too. They and their riders take off on a camping trip in the Blue Ridge Mountains ignorant of what they are riding towards. A just-ignited love affair between the outfitter, Sam, and his summer intern, Lisl, is a secret held from Lisl’s Swiss boyfriend who has come with her for the summer, but not from Sam’s wife, Elsie, whose peculiar upbringing has left her in a self-protective cocoon of apathy.
The guest riders bring their own anxieties, pre-dispositions and luckily, courage. Sam is a headstrong, impatient leader who tangles with Lenore, a writer who has come on the trip to write an article about it.
When Meg, another guest, breaks her leg, the group must separate in order for Sam to get her back to civilization. The storm hits and Lisl finds herself in charge of the remaining riders and horses. She gets in trouble trying to rescue the horses, and Elsie is presented with a terrible choice while trying to rescue Lisl. When Sam catches up to them no one knows who is alive and who is dead, and Sam himself is a changed man from what he has witnessed while separated from the group.
There isn’t anyone in this story who comes out of the experience of this ride the person they were when they went into it. They have witnessed horrors that will take them a lifetime to absorb, and have come face to face with the knowledge of how insignificant human life is in the great scheme of geologic time.
“Sex, love and emotional entanglement ride smack into Hurricane Camille. It will blow you away.”
–Rita Mae Brown