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Excerpt from Villa America by Liza Klaussmann, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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Villa America by Liza Klaussmann

Villa America

A Novel

by Liza Klaussmann
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  • First Published:
  • Aug 4, 2015
  • Paperback:
  • Jun 2016
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The pink slip of the tongue, the heavy fur; Gerald couldn't wait one second longer to touch him and feel him and smell him. His friend, his special, best, brave friend. He reached out his arms, and

as he did, the dog turned slightly and got low. In his rush to get to him, though, Gerald didn't notice or really know what the strange noise meant. He reached out and the dog whipped around and sank his teeth deep in Gerald's hand.

"No, Pitz. No," Gerald cried softly. He tried again to hold him, to touch him, despite his bleeding hand and the pain, but the dog just growled and bared his teeth.

Not knowing what to do, Gerald ran back to the house to look for a place to hide his tears. But it was no use. His hand swelled to the size of an onion, and Nurse saw it and knew it for what it was. She reported him to Father, and finally, the judgment came down: Pitz was to go. Where, Gerald didn't know, and Father wouldn't tell him. He said only that Gerald was to be banished to the nursery at all hours that he wasn't in school.

When Nurse came up to the nursery later to bring his dinner, Gerald couldn't even look at her.

"At least that's settled once and for all," she said, placing a baleful piece of lamb pie down in front of him. "And you, you got nothing less than you deserve, Gerald Clery Murphy. I warned you about that beast. Dirty, vicious thing." She tapped her fingers next to his plate. "Your father showed too much mercy from the beginning, in my opinion."

"You hit Pitz," he said, staring down at the table, balling his fists in his lap. "You hit him and then made him go outside and hate me, and now he's gone. My only friend in this whole world. And now I hate you."

Nurse dug her fingers into his shoulder and forced him to look up at her. Her eyes were like the shiny gray pebbles on the beach in Southampton that looked smooth but hurt to walk on. "If it had been up to me," she said, "I would have made a hearth rug out of that filthy animal. Something to keep my feet warm."

The memory rose of a terrified Pitz desperately showing his soft belly to Nurse before she beat him, and in that moment Gerald Murphy made the first real decision of his life.

The boy turned in his seat and, in the coldest voice he could muster, said: "You are a wicked woman and I don't care what anyone says. From this moment on, I will never, ever speak to you again."

And, despite his parents' exhortations, he kept his word. Like the men who built the skyscrapers, he decided to do something and he followed it through to the end, because that's how anything worth doing got done.

Three weeks later, Gerald was shipped off to boarding school.

Sara Wiborg loved the feel of earth in her hands, the humid texture of it between her fingers. She was in the garden of their home in Clifton, Ohio, selecting grasses and bits of things for a diorama she was making for her class at Miss Ely's.

This was to be her and her sisters' last month at Miss Ely's; their family was moving to Germany in July. Her father had become great friends with the kaiser and they were to spend a year there while he expanded his business abroad. At fifteen, she was too old, really, for Miss Ely's anyway, and if it weren't Germany it would have been some other school, although her mother refused to send the girls away. She loved them too much, she said.

For the diorama, Sara had decided to make a farm. Her middle sister, Hoytie, was a few feet away, staring up at the sky and neglecting her work, while Olga, the youngest at nine, was with their nurse in the hothouse picking flowers for her tropical scene.

Carrying a celadon bowl full of pebbles, Sara found a shaded spot under an oak tree where the moss was growing dark and wet, making it malleable. Carefully, she peeled it off in strips and placed them over the pebbles until she had created a miniature, glistening green hill. She believed the perfect home should be on a hill, but it should also be near the sea, so she had dug a small moat that would serve as the curve of a seashore.

Excerpted from Villa America by Liza Klaussmann. Copyright © 2015 by Liza Klaussmann. Excerpted by permission of Little Brown & Company. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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