Eight-year-old Molly and her ten-year-old brother Ralph are inseparable, in league with each other against the stodgy and stupid routines of school and daily life; against their prim mother and prissy older sisters; against the world of authority and perhaps the world itself. One summer they are sent from the genteel Los Angeles suburb that is their home to backcountry Colorado, where their uncle Claude has a ranch. There the children encounter an enchanting new world--savage, direct, beautiful, untamed--to which, over the next few years, they will return regularly, enjoying a delicious double life. And yet at the same time this other sphere, about which they are both so passionate, threatens to come between their passionate attachment to each other. Molly dreams of growing up to be a writer, yet clings ever more fiercely to the special world of childhood. Ralph for his part feels the growing challenge, and appeal, of impending manhood. Youth and incence are hurtling toward a devastating end.
Jean Stafford (1915-1979) was born in Covina, California, theyoungest of four children. When she was five her father, an unsuccessfulwriter of Westerns, lost the bulk of his inherited fortune on thestock exchange. The impoverished family, forced to move, eventuallyresettled in Boulder, Colorado. Stafford excelled as a student, earningboth a B.A. and an M.A. in four years on a scholarship at the Universityof Colorado, but her college years were marked by poverty as well asby the suicide of her friend Lucy McKee, who shot herself in Stafford'spresence. A fellowship from the University of Heidelberg enabledStafford to study philology abroad following her graduation. Shortlyafter her return she met the poet Robert Lowell, whom she married inNew York City in 1940. In 1944 she published her first book, Boston Adventure, a best selling novel of manners, and her second and mosthighly acclaimed novel, The Mountain Lion, followed in 1947--yearswhich also brought the collapse of her marriage to Lowell and a stayin a psychiatric hospital. Stafford began to write short stories, and by1948, the year in which she received a Guggenheim Fellowship, herwork was regularly appearing in The New Yorker. In 1952 Staffordpublished a third novel, The Catherine Wheel, and in 1970 she wasawarded the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction for her Collected Stories. Stafford was married twice more--to Life editor Oliver Jensen and tothe writer A. J. Liebling--but lived out her last fifteen years alone.She suffered a stroke in 1976 and died three years later in WhitePlains, New York, leaving her entire estate to her cleaning woman. Kathryn Davis is the author of many novels, including Labrador, The Girl Who Trod on a Loaf, Hell, The Walking Tour, The Thin Place, and Versailles. She is the recipient of Guggenheim Fellowshipand the 2006 Lannan Literary Award for Fiction. She teaches atWashington University in St. Louis and lives in Vermont.