A gray cat appears as a man dies on an Italian hillside, then the cat reappears years later, then again . . . in a world where the sun paints magical pictures among the sunflowers and where lives come and go like trains. Berta holds onto the sunshine while the wind blows painful shadows across her valley. Berta, “a woman with a thousand faces,” scrapes by with her beloved in stubborn pride after leaving her comfortable home in a small town in the Marche region of Italy in the first half of the 20th century. Though she suffers through her own weakness, Berta’s heart is the limitless refuge of the many she loves. The men in her life draw her into the fullness of her womanhood, but the many women of the novel, often in sharp conflict with one another, show the resilience of humanity in the face of murder, war, poverty, illness, and betrayal. Berta feels bare hands caress her face as her anguish dissolves in the arms of a man, in his sweat against her skin. The years come and go through two world wars--she trembles, rancor ignites, then passion declines in the smoldering autumn of life. A time for forgiveness always comes.