How can you hear a dying man’s confession and then proceed to prescribe absolution when he refuses to repent? When he tells you that he committed murder not once but twice, then insists that he would do it all again, given half a chance? When you are a Jesuit priest, vowing to carry out a dying man’s last wishes despite your better judgment, this makes for a difficult situation. That the dying man is your grandfather, whom you worshiped but could never please, makes the situation nearly impossible.
BENEATH THE WALNUT GROVE is the story of one man’s odyssey – a modern day Jesuit, filled with questions and self-doubt. It is also the story of his 98 year-old grandfather, whose body he accompanies by train from Nova Scotia to Kentucky. The priest finds himself caught up in a monumental struggle to make sense out of his own life and his own choices. The ghost of his grandfather challenges him along every mile of track. Challenging him further is the complication of an extraordinary woman. Inexorably and fatefully drawn to her charms, he is in danger of losing everything he ever believed in, including himself in the process. By the time he realizes that this woman has her own agenda and a unique connection to his grandfather, it is too late.
The old man’s story is complex, colorful and tragic. In his youth, his one chance at happiness was shattered when the only person who ever loved him was brutally murdered. His quest for revenge and its ensuing madness would govern the rest of his life. His vendetta leads him on a wild chase from the soft breezes of the South to the wild streets of New York City during the Twenties. Prohibition, gangsters and rum running provide the colorful backdrop to his single-minded obsession. The true depth of his hatred and madness is revealed when he finally manages to lead his enemies into a chillingly crafted execution trap.
The old man had other secrets as well, not the least of which involves an illegitimate daughter and a fortune in stolen diamonds. Even his deathbed confession turns out to be only half-truths, cruelly baiting his grandson confessor. It is too late for the priest by the time he realizes that his grandfather has played him like a violin. The mysterious woman who has stolen his heart, on the other hand, knows exactly who he is and exactly what she is doing...