ORACLE OF CUMAE
Second Story Press, 2019
Mariuccia Umbellino is a young woman living in the remote mountain village of Montemonaco, Italy, in the early years of the 19th century. Nearby, the secret recesses of the Grotto of the Fates – home to an ancient oracle of Apollo – are about to be invaded and destroyed on orders from the Pope. But the men sent to do the dirty work don’t know who (or what) they’re dealing with. This oracle and this girl won’t be messed with. In the dark of night, Mariuccia and her mother set out to rescue their revered oracle. In the adventure that ensues, things are blown up, love spells are miscast and then recast, revenge is taken, and the mysterious fate of a jetttadore – a person born with the Evil Eye –is finally revealed.
“I had been under the apparently false impression that oracles are always dignified and confined to a single sacred space, but the oracle in Melissa Hardy’s new novel is sly, meddlesome and peripatetic. She gets around in the company of a scruffy, independent-minded young girl, the narrator of this hilarious, anachronistic, romance/comedy of errors.”
Stan Dragland, author of Strangers & Others, the Great Eastern