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One writer’s mysterious death, another’s relentless quest for fame, and a bitter literary critic’s passion for manipulation drive the story of this haunting novel set in a small upstate New York college town in the 1990s.
Catherine Strayed wonders if she’ll ever know the truth about the death of her husband, a promising writer who died under circumstances that could have been accidental, a suicide, or perhaps even murder. But after his death, instead of leaving the secluded college town to which he had brought her, she simply tries to go on with her life there. When her former mentor, who had also briefly been her lover — a powerful critic who singlehandedly destroyed her husband’s chance for success — takes a teaching job at the college, Catherine’s world threatens to collapse.
For with him has come his latest protege, an exotic young woman named Antonia Lively who has written a novel that has become a literary sensation. She insinuates herself into Catherine’s life, and mysterious and frightening things start to happen as, unbeknownst to Catherine, the younger woman sets out to steal the truth of her life and the death of her husband so that she can plunder them for her next literary triumph.