'In the padlocked attic she'd hidden all her books on shelves with locked pine doors. One never knew who might show up and in what state. The last thing you wanted was for Anna Karenina to discover accidentally that she was bound to take her own life on the railroad tracks...'
Watergate is breaking news, but at the Prairie Bluff boarding house in rural Illinois, there are more immediate concerns. Emma Bovary has arrived unannounced - and distraught - and Anne-Marie and her daughter Penny have torn themselves away from the television coverage to attend to their new guest.
But if there's one rule at Prairie Bluff, it's never meddle in the lives of the Heroines, however cruel the destinies to which they are bound. There's nothing to be done for poor Emma, immersed in her narrative crisis, save for the provision of tea, a tirelessly sympathetic ear, and clean linens.
Adolescent angst isn't a patch on beautiful and grief-stricken- and Penny, a moody thirteen, knows she's no competition for her mother's attentions against these ethereal creatures. Hurt and excluded, and frustrated by her mother's passivity in the face of Emma's terrible fate, Penny strikes out across the Prairie to cool her hot head.
But when she arrives at the forbidden woods, she's in no mood to obey her mother's second rule, never to enter - and soon finds herself in a world of very real heroes and villains, an unwilling heroine in her very own terrifying story.