Despite its title, Joyce Carol Oates' novel is not a romance. Rather, it is a family history. The wealthy Zinn family has four natural daughters: Constance Phillipa, Malvinia, Octavia, and Samantha. They also have one adopted daughter, Diedre. One day at their wealthy aunts'outdoor garden party, Diedre wanders away from her sisters and is kidnapped by a mysterious figure in a black hot air balloon. Her sisters are able to see the crime, but are unable to stop it.
From this moment on, the dynamic of the family life is irrevocably changed, and the four remaining daughters take different directions in life. Constance Phillipa, who was engaged before the kidnapping, gets married, but flees her husband on her wedding night. Malvinia runs away from home and becomes a sensation on the New York City stage. Octavia gives herself over to marriage and domesticity, and Samantha runs away with her father's labratory assistant. Meanwhile, Diedre becomes a celebrated medium in spiritualist circles. Twenty years pass before the Zinn family is reunited under one roof after the death of their aunt, when the reading of her will reveals a shocking secret.
This report prepared by fran laniado