Marina, a thirty nine-year-old master guilder and single mother, has been invited to speak at a prestigious art conference in Florence, Italy. She feels honored by the request, but does she have the courage to return to Florence and confront the secrets and lies she has harbored in her heart the past sixteen years?
At age twenty-three, full of optimism and adventurous spirit, Marina moves to Florence to study the art of gilding. In the church of Santa Croce, she meets Thomas, a photographer. He and his wife, Sarah, become Marina’s best friends. In addition to her art courses and gilding apprenticeship, Marina assists Thomas with photo shoots as he prepares for an upcoming show. She grows quite fond of Sarah and their relationship becomes complicated. Marina falls in love with Sarah. She’s confused by her feelings and Sarah’s mixed messages. One day in Thomas’s studio, Marina models for him, nude in the bathtub. Fueled by too much wine and her conflicting emotions for Sarah, Marina succumbs to Thomas’s seduction and becomes pregnant. She wants to tell the couple, but she’s afraid of losing their friendship. Without telling either Sarah or Thomas of her predicament, she returns home to the U.S., and starts a new life there with her daughter Zoe.
Marina keeps in touch with Sarah over the years, even announcing the birth of her daughter. But she tells Sarah she became pregnant after she returned to the States. Now Zoe is fifteen and she’s asking questions about her father. From the beginning, Marina had told Zoe her father had died before she was born. In a shocking mysterious motorcycle accident, Thomas indeed died when Zoe was four years old.
One day, Zoe digs through the attic and finds newspaper clippings reporting her father’s death. She discovers that Marina had lied to her. Zoe runs away from home and refuses to speak to her mother. Marina deeply regrets the secrets and lies and realizes the truth must come out. She decides to return to Florence and be honest with Sarah, as well, despite fears of the impact of truth on her relationships.
With the story beautifully set against the backdrop of Florence, the reader vividly experiences the ancient piazzas, sweet-scented cafes, art museums, sacred churches, colorful markets, and old-world charm of the city. Mystery and relational conflict keep the reader engaged throughout the story. Why does Thomas’s friend, the contessa, have such a hold over him and what keeps him out so late at night? How will Marina tell Sarah the truth, after all these years and will they remain friends? Will Marina return the love of Peter, her best friend Lydia’s brother?
Kathryn Kay’s debut novel, THE GILDER, is a story about what happens when a good person makes a bad decision – a mistake – and covers it up. Secrets rarely remain secrets forever. How does a person live with the betrayal, lies, and deception clogging the way to her heart? How does she move forward? If she tries to right the wrong, will she be forgiven?
The book concludes with an author interview and book club discussion questions. Released December 2011. Highly recommended. Find Kathryn on her website.