Margaret Mayfield is nearly an old maid at twenty-seven when she marries Captain Andrew Jackson Jefferson Early. He's the most famous man their Missouri town has ever produced: a naval officer and an astronomer-a genius who, according to the local paper, has changed the universe. Margaret's mother calls the match "a piece of luck." Yet Andrew confounds Margaret's expectations from the moment their train leaves for his naval base in San Francisco, and soon she realizes that his devotion to science leaves little room for anything, or anyone, else. She stands by him through tragedies both personal and those they share with the nation. But as World War II approaches, Andrew's obsessions take a darker turn, forcing Margaret to reconsider the life she'd so carefully constructed.
Jane Smiley has written a persuasive historical paea to the importance of divorce ... Smiley is adept at manipulating reader uncertainty about whether Andrew might possess some briliance ... In her subject matter Smiley invites comparisons with Edith Wharton ... this is able storytelling ... The period details are well chosen and not heavy-handedly stuffed in. As in all good historical novels, history itself perks along in the background, including the two wars, while ther personal - private life - takes centre stage. Lionel Shriver Financial Times
Jane Smiley is the author of eleven novels, as well as four works of nonfiction. She is the recipient of a Pulitzer Prize and was inducted into the American Academy of Arts and Letters in 2001. She lives in Northern California.