When Foster Lanier and Ben Phelps are released from a professional baseball team in 1904, it is the only experience they have in common, until they meet a runaway -- a girl-woman named Lottie Parker -- on the train that takes them from Augusta, Georgia, and away from their dreams of greatness.
Foster will marry her and father her son.
Ben will escort her home.
And Lottie will change the lives of everyone she meets, from the day she runs away until she finally finds the place where she belongs.
Set in Georgia at the beginning of the 20th century, this latest novel by the popular author of Shadow Song is an evocative, atmospheric and elegiac story of an uncommon woman and the three men she loves. Lottie Augusta Barton, "angel of the lonesome," is born in a tumbledown river house in Augusta. To escape from her troubled family, she takes to the road in 1904 with a traveling salesman. On the train, she meets Ben Phelps and Foster Lanier, baseball players just cut from the Augusta Hornets. Ben, nearly as sweet-natured as Lottie, is on his way home to a good job in a dry-goods store in his home town of Jericho. Foster, drunk and down on his luck, takes up with Lottie and they both join a traveling carnival. To Ben's surprise, when the carnival comes to Jericho, Foster's strange generosity sets Ben up as a local hero in a carny baseball game, and almost kindles romance between Ben and Lottie. Several years later, when Ben is engaged to his boss Arthur Ledford's daughter, Sally, he hears from Lottie; she and Foster married and have a son, called Little Ben, but Foster is dying and would like to see Ben again. Ben goes to Kentucky, and ends up bringing Lottie and her son to stay in his mother's house for a time, when both fall ill. The townspeople flutter around Lottie, whose radiant, serene presence draws them to her like moths to a gentle flame. A local lowlife attempts to blackmail Lottie with her carnival past, but Arthur Ledford, who's come to love Lottie, rescues her. Ben takes her home to Augusta; then he returns to Jericho, marries Sally and never sees Lottie again. Little Ben comes back, though, and in an epilogue, his daughter, the story's offscreen narrator, adds a poignant twist to the narrative. Though slow at the outset, this affecting novel glows with warmth and sincerity, and manifests Kay's customary ability to pull at the heartstrings. 6-city author tour.