This is the story of three people: Julia Blackburn; her father, Thomas; and her mother, Rosalie. Thomas was a poet and an alcoholic who was also addicted to barbiturates, which often made him violent. Rosalie, a painter, was sociable and flirtatious; she treated Julia as her sister, her confidante, and eventually as her sexual rival. After the divorce, her mother took in male lodgers, on the understanding that each would become her lover. When one started an affair with Julia, Rosalie was devastated; when he committed suicide, the relationship between mother and daughter was shattered irrevocably--until Rosalie, diagnosed with leukemia, came to live with Julia for the last month of her life. At last the spell was broken, and they were able to talk with an ease they had never known before. When she was very near the end, Rosalie said to Julia, "Now you will be able to write about me, won't you?--Cover.