Cleo, a Canadian on holiday in New Orleans, is sitting alone on a French Quarter wharf late one November night, dreamily watching the lazy progress of the Mississippi. When a woman clad in full evening dress, from rhinestone tiara to high heels, takes a running leap into the river’s chocolate swell, Cleo is more than a little astonished. She watches the water, then turns and runs, mistakenly assuming the jumper is dead.
But Madeline, it turns out, isn’t bent on suicide. She’s irresistibly drawn to water, as is Cleo, who was conceived (unintentionally) during the tragic flooding of Florence in 1966. The reappearance of the mysterious river-swimmer a few nights later on the late evening news triggers Cleo’s determination to find her. She pounds the quaint streets of New Orleans, city of cheap bourbon, rich turtle soup, magnolia breezes and A Streetcar Named Desire. When at last Cleo finds Madeline – hiding out in a tenement studio with a grand piano and an assortment of ‘borrowed’ lawn ornaments – both women make some startling self-discoveries.
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