To those out on their own paths, setting little fires


Whether you buy a homesite in the School Section, broad acres in the Shaker Country Estates, or one of the houses offered by this company in a choice of neighborhoods, your purchase includes facilities for golf, riding, tennis, boating; it includes unexcelled schools; and it includes protection forever against depreciation and unwelcome change.

—Advertisement, The Van Sweringen Company, Creators and Developers of Shaker Village

Actually, though, all things considered, people from Shaker Heights are basically pretty much like people everywhere else in America. They may have three or four cars instead of one or two, and they may have two television sets instead of one, and when a Shaker Heights girl gets married she may have a reception for eight hundred, with the Meyer Davis band flown in from New York, instead of a wedding reception for a hundred with a local band, but these are all differences of degree rather than fundamental differences. “We’re friendly people and we have a wonderful time!” said a woman at the Shaker Heights Country Club recently, and she was right, for the inhabitants of Utopia do, in fact, appear to lead a rather happy life.

—“The Good Life in Shaker Heights,” Cosmopolitan, March 1963


When I was on book tour for Everything I Never Told You, an audience member once asked, “I counted, and you thanked sixty-five individual people in your acknowledgments—why did you thank so many people?” I explained that although my name is the only one on the cover, many, many people helped me along the way, and this book wouldn’t exist without them. That’s even more true the second time around.

Thank you as always to my superagent Julie Barer and everyone at The Book Group—so grateful to be part of Barer Nation. My unflappable editor, Virginia Smith Younce, made this a better, richer book through her expert guidance, and Jane Cavolina straightened out my time line and italics with supreme patience. Juliana Kiyan, Anne Badman, Sarah Hutson, Matthew Boyd, Scott Moyers, Ann Godoff, Kathryn Court, Patrick Nolan, Madeline McIntosh, and the entire team at Penguin Press and Penguin Books did a fantastic job of getting this book out into the world—thank you for having my back again.

My faithful writing group, the Chunky Monkeys (Chip Cheek, Calvin Hennick, Jennifer De Leon, Sonya Larson, Alexandria Marzano-Lesnevich, Whitney Scharer, Adam Stumacher, Grace Talusan, and Becky Tuch) were the first readers of this book; their cheerleading helped me finish, and our email chains were more like lifelines. Ayelet Amittay, Anne Stameshkin, and my MFA cohort: as always, you lead the way. Jes Häberli and Danielle Lazarin, I’m sending you a van of donuts. And my non-writer friends have kept me sane and grounded through this crazy ride; in particular, I can’t believe Katie Campbell, Samantha Chin, and Annie Xu still put up with me.

Huge thanks go to my readers—both of this novel and of the first. To those of you who emailed me, wrote me letters, handed me notes at readings, or chatted with me at the signing table: thank you. I can’t tell you how grateful I am. Many thanks to my Twitter friends as well: you remind me every day how smart, funny, and kind people can be.

And finally, the last and biggest thanks to my family. Lily and Yvonne Ng encouraged my writing habit from my earliest days; I wouldn’t be here without you—figuratively or literally. My husband, Matt, believed writing was my job long before I did, and kept telling me so. Thank you for everything you do. And my son, still my best creation: this be the verse, but I’m doing my best.