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A sexy, propulsive novel that confronts the limits of empathy and the perils of appropriation through the eyes of a disgraced small-town librarian.

Now that her brilliant botanist daughter is off at college, buttoned-up Maeve Cosgrove loves her job at a quiet Maine public library more than anything. But when a teenager accuses Maeve―Maeve!―of spying on her romantic escapades in the mezzanine bathroom, she winds up laid off and humiliated. Stuck at home in a tailspin, Maeve cares for the mysterious plants in her daughter’s greenhouse while obsessing over the clearly troubled girl at the source of the rumor. She hopes to have a powerful ally in her attempts to clear her name: her favorite author, Harrison Riddles, who has finally responded to her adoring letters and accepted an invitation to speak at the library.

Riddles, meanwhile, arrives in town with his own agenda. He announces a plan to write a novel about another young library patron, Sudanese refugee Willie, and enlists Maeve’s help in convincing him to participate. Maeve wants to look out for Willie, but Riddles’s charisma and the sheen of literary glory he promises are difficult to resist. A scheme to get her job back draws Maeve further into Riddles’s universe―where shocking questions about sex, morality, and the purpose of literature threaten to upend her orderly life.

A writer of “savage compassion” (Salvatore Scibona, author of The Volunteer), Sarah Braunstein constructs a shrewd, page-turning caper that explores one woman’s search for agency and ultimate reckoning with the kind of animal she is.

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