A transformative story about life’s vicissitudes. Midwestern Angela moves from a small farm to the West Coast, marries a marine biologist, and has three children. When her father dies and the family farm must be sold, she is brought up against the betrayals, small and large, that have formed the course of her life. The story is told in flashbacks and through the medium of snake stories and mythology that depict the vital relationship to oneself and to the earth.
The story opens as her Midwestern mother arrives for a first visit after the father’s death. Angela narrates the novel to her father. She and her mother try to dispel the awkwardness by the telling of snake stories that the family has enjoyed over the years, stories that reflect fear of snakes and often result in the snake’s demise. However, Angela is surprised to discover something has changed within and that the stories are no longer funny.
After an unexpected encounter with a French storyteller, she faces the fact that something is missing. Soon after her mother cuts her visit short to return for the farm sale and Angela discovers that Jake is having an affair. It is only when the men she has trusted all her life fail her through death and betrayal, that she begins to discern the pattern of her own life.
When her mother sickens with pneumonia, Angela returns to care for her. She realizes that what she experienced as betrayal by her father was, in fact, two way, a necessary act of separation, and, following a mythological snake story theme throughout the book, of creation.
Upon returning to California Angela is able to consciously accept the cycles of life, sloughing off what is old so that life may continue. Angela and Jake discuss where they go from here. Angela’s father, so omnipresent in her life, takes his rightful place as one of the ancestors. In being able to relinquish the past, she is able at last to feel the Spirit of Place of that earth upon which she lives, often depicted by a serpent.