The Broken Angel by Judith Anne Barton
The cover design of The Angel Connection is a photograph I impulsively snapped a dozen years ago in Bucks County, Pennsylvania on one of my daily walks to the river. The voluptuous headless angel with unfurled scalloped wings was carved from a towering oak tree more than a century ago. Standing 14 feet high, she stood not far from a lumber mill, next to an enormous hydrangea bush. I marveled at her hushed majesty, and at the effort it must have taken to sculpt her Rubenesque curves. When I took the photo, I had no idea that it would become the cover of my then-in-progress novel. It was years later that I came across the angel picture and suddenly realized that my book cover had been there all the time.
On a recent book tour to the East Coast, my photographer and I returned to Bucks County to revisit the locations that figure so prominently in the novel. I was particularly eager to see the angel, to symbolically present the book to her, to relish the moment of having come full circle after a 17-year writing journey. My companion and I drove the winding gravel road through the woods toward the river and the lumber mill. I remembered exactly where the angel stood, or so I thought. But as we slowed past the designated spot, I could detect no resplendent statue with sensually sculpted wings. We circled around again, then down another road, then in and out of a nearby cluster of old lumber warehouses. The angel statue seemed to have vanished. Back again we went to the original spot where I’d remembered the angel standing. Suddenly my friend said, “I see it!” She pointed to a dark, weather-stained, forlorn column set back in the yard. With a thunderclap I realized why I’d been unable to spot her before: she had lost her wings. We walked toward her in wonderment that she could have changed so much. Behind her I saw the broken, fallen wings, crumbling in a soft pile in the grass, rotted and forgotten. Returning to the statue I noticed the sculptor’s signature carved into the base: “GPN ’06”. 1906? 1806? In either case, she’d stood there for well over 100 years, through blizzards, hurricanes and floods, but the heedless elements had finally shorn her of her majestic wings.
I thought about what an important part she had played in the birth of The Angel Connection. How at this glorious moment of my book’s manifestation, its visual wellspring was in the throes of death.
I stood in front of the decaying statue holding my recently published novel close to my heart. The once resplendent angel that had so inspired me would forever be preserved at the peak of her glory on the cover of The Angel Connection.
Judith Anne Barton is an author, actress, playwright and award-winning television journalist. The Angel Connection is her first novel. After a successful career in broadcast journalism in Philadelphia that spanned over a decade, Barton moved to Bucks County, PA where she worked with her mentor, the late JP Miller, author of the classic The Days of Wine and Roses. Her first play Opening Night received its world premiere at Philadelphia’s Lantern Theatre Company, and was named a finalist in the Sundance Film Lab competition. She is the co-author of The Best Letter Book Ever and is also a published poet. Barton now resides in Los Angeles where she also pursues an acting career in film and television. Her sons, William Wheeler (The Reluctant Fundamentalist) and Thomas Wheeler (Puss in Boots, Puss in Boots II) are successful screenwriters.
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