Schoolteacher Thomas Abbey, unsure son of a film star, doesn't know who he is or what he wants—in life, in love, in his relationship with the strange and intense Saxony Gardner. What he knows is that in his whole life, nothing has touched him so deeply as the magical novels of Marshall France, a reclusive author of fabulous children's tales who died at forty-four.
Now Thomas and Saxony have come to France's hometown, the dreamy Midwestern town of Galen, Missouri, to write France's biography. Warned in advance that France's family may oppose them, they are surprised to find his daughter Anna the soul of small-town hospitality and quite excited about Thomas's proposal—even eager to get the project finished as soon as possible. Even stranger than Anna's behavior is the town of Galen itself. On the surface, all is as a small midwestern town should be. But the people of the town seem to know what their future holds—freak accidents and all—down to the hour and are as eager for Thomas to finish the biography as Anna is. Slowly Thomas and Saxony begin to realize that this idyllic little town and its inhabitants—both human and animal—are not quite what they seem: France's magic has spread beyond the printed page.
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"Look, Thomas, I know you've probably been asked this question a million times before, but what was it really like to be Stephen Abbey's--"
"--Son?" Ah, the eternal question. I recently told my mother that my name isn't Thomas Abbey, but rather Stephen Abbey's Son. This time I sighed and pushed what was left of my cheesecake around the plate. "It's very hard to say. I just remember him as being very friendly, very loving. Maybe he was just stoned all the time."
Her eyes lit up at that. I could almost hear the sharp little wheels clickety-clicking in her head. So he