When the Mountains Dance

Christine Toomey

When the Mountains Dance
Orion Publishing Co
United Kingdom
11 April 2023

When the Mountains Dance

Christine Toomey

When the Mountains Dance is a journey through place and time to the heart of a community ripped apart by earthquakes in Italy, past and present. It explores the ways, when faced with uncertainty, we create protective niches for ourselves - physical, emotional, sometimes imaginative - and how we find the courage to move on and rebuild. Through Christine Toomey’s experience of the earthquakes and that of friends and neighbours and others she meets, When the Mountains Dance reflects on how our attitudes and response to challenging times have changed and how, when confronting crippling uncertainty and appalling loss, hope can still remain.

The narrative opens in 2016 with the moment the most powerful earthquake Italy has known for nearly forty years struck near Christine’s home in Amandola in the heart of the Apennines, 90 miles north-east of Rome. Her house had been virtually abandoned for a hundred years, and during its renovation Christine discovers an astonishing collection of personal memorabilia belonging to its last permanent resident, a priest named Don Federico Bellesi: two oil paintings, letters and a map referring to a series of devastating earthquakes in Sicily at the turn of the last century. Had Don Federico too, in a different way, become an earthquake detective?

The book then unfolds in sections entitled Faultlines and Fragility, On the Trail of Don Federico, City of No Memory, Forgetting and Remembering and Hidden Beauty before returning, in a final part entitled Moonlight, to where it began, and perhaps, as T. S. Eliot would have it, knowing the place for the first time.

In vivid, compelling prose, When the Mountains Dance explores how, although our minds constantly try to convince us otherwise, life-changing thunderbolts can come at all of us, at any time, from any quarter.

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