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The Chapel

A Novel

List Price: $16.95

April 12, 2016 | Paperback | 6 x 9, 304 pages | ISBN 9781619027404
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Recently widowed, unhappily stuck on a pricey whiplash tour of Italy, Elizabeth Berman comes face to face with the first documented painting of a teardrop in human history, and in the presence of that tearful mother, and the arresting company of the renowned and anonymous women painted by Giotto in the Arena Chapel, she wakes up to the possibility that she is not lost.

Mitchell left me everything, just as he promised. “Everything,” he liked to say during his last month on the sofa, “everything will be yours,” as if it wasn’t yet. I was left with that and two adult children who could not tolerate my sitting in my home by myself—admittedly, rather too often in a capacious pink flannel nightgown and the green cardigan Mitchell was wearing on the afternoon he died.

That’s how Elizabeth winds up on a tour better suited to her late–husband, a Dante scholar. Mitchell masterminded the itinerary as a surprise for their thirty–fifth wedding anniversary.

Itching to leave as soon as she arrives in Padua, Elizabeth’s efforts to book a ticket home are stymied by her aggressively supportive children, the ministrations of an incomprehensibly Italian hotel staff, and the prospect of forfeiting the sizable

About Michael Downing

MICHAEL DOWNING is the author of nine books, including the national bestseller Perfect Agreement; Breakfast with Scot, which was adapted a feature film; Shoes Outside the Door: Desire, Devotion, and Excess at San Francisco Zen Center; and Spring Forward: The Annual Madness of Daylight Saving Time. A frequent commentator in the national media on Congress and the clocks, he teaches creative writing at Tufts University.

Praise
"Downing's latest work combines art, art history, and Italian allure into a cerebral romance channeling love, loss, and the complexities of emotional closure . . . Line drawings, photographs, blueprints, and some exceptionally witty prose and banter complement this affecting story . . . vividly entertaining." —Publishers Weekly

"Downing's rich descriptions of the chapel in Padua and fastidious art lectures are reminiscent of the work of Dan Brown, but the mysteries here are mostly of the heart. This story of life after loss delivers equal measures of history and hope."—Booklist

"The Chapel is a rich and rewarding novel, by turns comic, thoughtful, nostalgic, and exuberant. I only put it down to browse airfares to Italy." —Valerie Martin, bestselling author of Italian Hours and Property

"It's moving, funny, and memorable: a tale of the baggage we all travel with, a portrait of grief and regeneration, and a bittersweet love story in which the beloved is a 700–year–old work of art." —Joan Wickersham, bestselling author of The News from Spain and The Suicide Index

"There are art lessons, history lessons, and life lessons here, and the amazing and original thing is how all the entanglements sustain the possibility of romance. Downing gives us a witty female narrator with the smarts to make us trust her story. It's bumper cars with biscotti and Prosecco."—Dennis McFarland, bestselling author of Nostalgia and The Music Room

"At last, a love story for adults – wrapped in a sophisticated mystery about art, religion and the fragility of the human heart."— Elizabeth Benedict, bestselling author of Almost and The Practice of Deceit

"Clever, acerbic Liz is both terse and obliquely flirtatious with the many men she meets who tend, surprisingly, to be voluble, kindly and sometimes sexy . . . playful and erudite "
Kirkus Reviews

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