Diane Prather's columns appear in the Craig Daily Press and Saturday Morning Press. You can call her at 824-8809.
Craig As "Amazing Grace," the newest novel by Danielle Steel, opens, it is a hot, muggy spring day in San Francisco. In fact, it's what some might consider "earthquake weather."
Sarah Sloan has often thought about earthquakes, but in the six years she and her family have been in the city, there has never been one. Besides, she's too busy to think about earthquakes today. She's in charge of the second Smallest Angels Ball, a benefit for the neonatal wing of the city's hospital.
This year, Sarah hopes to net $3 million from donations and the evening's auction. Auction catalogues and numbered paddles have been placed on the chairs in the elegantly decorated ballroom of the Ritz-Carlton Hotel. Tables there are set with cream-colored cloths, silver candlesticks, crystal and silver-wrapped party favors. Cream-colored roses, tied with silver and gold bows, adorn the tables. The plates are edged in gold.
After the meal and auction, Grammy-winning Melanie Free will entertain the guests. The 19-year-old performer is the hottest musical act around.
Sarah's husband, Seth, a financial genius, will be there for the event, too. In fact, Sarah and Seth will stay at the hotel, having left their children in the care of a baby sitter.
Sarah wants everything to be perfect, so she checks out the place cards and then goes to meet Melanie and her entourage. Melanie's mother, hairdresser, manager, assistant and boyfriend arrived by charter plane. The band arrived by commercial flight.
Meanwhile, as Sarah checks on things and gets herself ready, Everett Carson, a 6-foot-4 cowboy type, presents his press pass to the hotel clerk. He's here to cover the event for "Scoop," a gossip magazine.
Everett isn't used to covering such a lavish affair. He has been covering war zones for the Associated Press until a year ago, taking photos of dying soldiers and dodging shellfire.
Finally, it's time. There are 560 people in attendance. At one table, purchased by the Catholic Charities, Sarah recognizes sister Magdalen Kent, called Maggie by her friends. She's the city's Mother Teresa.
The food is good, and the auction is hot. A diamond necklace goes for $100,000, a miniature Yorkshire terrier puppy sells for $10,000. Melanie's performance mesmerizes the audience.
Sarah thinks how perfect everything is. And then, suddenly, the room sways. The chandeliers swing back and forth. People hear a low rumble. Tables and china fall. Moans and screams fill the room. Earthquake.
All of this in two chapters.
Because of the earthquake, the lives of the book's characters are thrown together. There are changes for them after the disaster. For Sarah, there's devastation; for Melanie, a break from her domineering mother; and for Everett, a special relationship. And Maggie, an incredible woman, touches everyone.
"Amazing Grace" is published by Delacorte Press (2007). The hardcover book costs $27.