To my parents, Ranger and Celia, and to my brother, Thomas Patrick Curran, whose grace while dying taught the rest of us to live.


I must begin by thanking the wonderful faculty wives I’ve met in Oxford and other places, very few of whom are actually married to professors like Ted, but whose stories gave me the idea for this book. Your contributions to academic productivity are vastly underrated.

To the multitude of dear friends who have fed my soul in Ohio, Chicago, New York, Charlottesville, Boston, Keene, Phoenix, Oxford and Tallahassee. I count my evenings with you as one of life’s greatest joys.    

Speaking of joy, it is an embarrassment of riches to have grown up in a family like mine. My parents built their own Taj Mahal in the desert, a tribute to the happy childhoods they hadn’t had, a moveable feast of love and support for their ten children. This network has blossomed exponentially, to include relatives by blood, marriage, friendship and the great sport of fine dining. The shelter I have enjoyed within this nurturing and ever-growing brood is an inheritance that I can take with me. For all you’ve done to support my writing, from cheering me up to sending a check to comping my bar tab, I am forever in your debt.

To the enthusiastic first readers of this book, Mary Anne Hudnall, Ranger and Celia Curran, Tere Clarkson, John Corrigan, Bob Clarkson, Cathy and Larry Dorfman, Ranger Curran Jr. Martin Blank, Jack Hudnall, Stephen Hudnall, Tasha, Casey and Joan Clarkson, Mary Finnegan, Beth and Mike Curran, Rhian Miller, Myrtis Meyer, Jane Crawford, Jane MacPherson, Jane Ulrich, Orla Kennedy, Barbara Murphy, Susan Estes, Aline Kalbian, Tracy Fessenden, Deborah Susser, Joy Sirinpin, Charlotte and Michael Morrissey, John Curran, Dede Curran, Emily Cutrer, Julianna Baggott, Paul Shepherd, Tracy Sumner, Michele Schiener, Ellen O’ Daniell, Carolyn Scarborough, Lynn Bush, Tim Race, Kathy Kleidermacher, Cathy Dubrowski (my copy editor) and Nancy Morris. I loved your suggestions.

To Larry Dorfman, whose CEO insights helped me enormously. To Tom Cutrer, for his guns and ammo information and Charley Scarborough for his help with probate issues. To Alex Alienikoff and Jill Breslau for legal insights. To the many websites I visited in search of information about killer bees, stock trading and environmental technologies. To the authors of ‘Who Owns Water?’ in The Nation. To William McDonough and Robert F. Kennedy Jr., both of whom I heard speak on to the National Press Club on NPR and whose ideas helped create the environmental backdrop for this novel. To my professors at the Western College of Miami University, especially Terry Perlin, and at the University of Chicago, and to all the great writers whose work I have inhaled.

To my agent, Laura Gross, for loving this book, and getting it to Susan Allison at Berkley Books. Having heard so many bad-agent/bad-editor stories, I was unprepared for the generosity, wit, intelligence, beauty and vision of these two incredible women. Susan’s suggestions and prodding created a far better book than I could have imagined on my own, and Laura’s insights were spot-on, each time I needed advice. To my talented friend Julia Patterson from taking time away from her paints to create my website. To Julia Fleischacker at Penguin, for your work on publicity, to Julianna Lambert, who helped get it through production, thank you. To the sales staff at Penguin, for getting this into stores, you are golden.

To my husband, John Corrigan, whose companionship and support have allowed me the safety I needed to write, for urging me on and making me laugh. To my children, Curran and Helen, for helping me discover the wondrous mayhem of the domestic sphere, and the glory of unsung devotions. My love and thanks to all of you. | Penguin, USA, July 2005