Toby and Salome attend the same college, live in the same New York City neighbourhood, and have the same political views. And they are madly in love. But like many modern couples, their pasts and the stories of their families' lives are worlds apart from one another. When Salome suddenly realises she is pregnant, and she and Toby decide to spend their lives together, they must find a way to reconcile their two families. It becomes a tragically difficult task. Exotic, mysterious, and sometimes brooding Salome was brought to America as a young child. Her father, a Croat, barely escaped the wrath of Serbs who burned their village the day they ran. Salome's mother never made it out - or so Salome thinks. Branko Drago, the father, now mans an oyster boat in Louisiana, barely scraping by. The parents of all-American Toby, on the other hand, are upper middle-class academics living in the suburbs of New York. Toby's father, Brendan, is a history professor, and his mother, Chloe, an artist and writer. For Chloe, Salome's brusque, unpolished manner is impossible to accept.
Salome's foreignness, which Toby finds attractive and mysterious, his mother finds uncomfortable and even haunting. But the truth is, Salome's family story is more horrifying than any of them could possibly imagine, and discovering this real story, and the secrets left behind with the collapsing Yugoslavia, turns out to be the tie that binds them - at least some of them - together. Valerie Martin's first full-length fiction since the Orange Prize-winning 'Property' is a major novel in every way.
Valerie Martin is the author of two collections of short fiction and six novels, including the 2003 Orange Prize-winning Property. She is also the author of a non-fiction work about St Francis of Assisi, Salvation. She lives in upstate New York.