Toby and Salome are a young, modern couple living in New York, but their backgrounds are world apart. He is a middle-class all-American boy from a family of academics; she is a Croatian refugee raised in New Orleans.
When Salome unexpectedly becomes pregnant, they decide to spend their lives together and hastily marry. But finding a way to reconcile their families and pasts proves a difficult task. Toby's mother's deep-seated mistrust of Salome causes tension, leaving her unable to accept her new daughter-in-law. But Salome' s past, full of dangerous secrets, is more horrifying than any of them could imagine - and the violence that destroyed her homeland is far from over...
This thought-provoking novel by Orange Prize winning Martin (for Property) opens deceptively, as the quiet story of a mother slowly adjusting to her 21-year-old son becoming an adult. In 2002, Chloe Dane is a loving mother and wife, an artist engrossed in illustrating a new edition of Wuthering Heights and a protestor against the imminent invasion of Iraq. Her husband, Brendan, is a historian who doubts that his work has any value but is generally self-satisfied. When their only child, Toby, a junior at NYU, gets Salome Drago, his Croatian immigrant girlfriend, pregnant and hastily marries her, Chloe fears he was trapped by a calculating woman more interested in Toby's family's impressive house and property than in Toby. When Salome learns her mother, Jelena, whom she believed was killed by Serbs, is alive, she traces her to Trieste and abruptly departs to find her. Toby follows, and when the newlyweds decide to drop out of college and remain in Italy, Chloe sends Brendan to bring Toby home. A tragedy one very convenient for the narrative strikes while Brendan's in Italy, paving the way for a startlingly light resolution. Forgiveness doesn't come easy for the characters as they learn that nothing not family, borders or survival is inviolable.