Chapters 1-2 Summary

The story opens with the birth of Meridia, which took twenty-seven hours. When she was finally born, it took a while to get her to start breathing. Meridia grew up in a large house with her mother, Ravenna, and her father, Gabriel. The house was always cold, so as a child, Meridia was always bundled up in coats by her overly fussy nurse. The house had a beautiful garden and a perennial mist that hung around the front all year long. Even as young child, Meridia noticed that her parents led virtually separate lives, rarely being in the same room together. Ravenna seemed to have some kind of memory problem, as she often failed to recognize the people and places around her. Gabriel was a stern man who spent much time in his study. One day, Meridia ventured into his study to snoop around, only to be discovered by a disapproving Gabriel. Meridia’s germophobic nurse rarely let her leave the house, but one day, Ravenna decided to take her nine-year-old daughter to the market. Meridia was so excited that she lost track of her mother. When another woman found the distraught Meridia crying, the woman tried to convince her that her mother was playing hide-and-seek. When they finally located Ravenna (after Meridia smells her signature scent of verbena), the woman was horrified by Ravenna’s blasé attitude about losing her daughter. Meridia realized that Ravenna doesn’t remember that two hours have passed or that Meridia had gone missing.

By age twelve, Meridia was going to school, despite the nurse’s concerns about cleanliness. Meridia often saw an old wizened face in the mirrors and had a dream she believed was an early childhood memory: something falls, someone screams, Ravenna picks her up, and there is something warm running down her cheek. Gabriel continued his cruel disregard for Meridia, but one day, he called her into his study, where there were two men. In front of the men, he pointed out all her flaws, referring to her as...

(The entire section is 640 words.)

Chapters 3-4 Summary

Following the hasty departure of the nurse, Meridia became a nonentity in her house. Her mother rarely noticed her and her father regarded her with such contempt that she kept her distance; she felt invisible in her own home. Maids continued to come and go, often frightened away by Gabriel’s temperamental rages. Meridia’s fury at losing the one loving person in her life—the nurse—made her want to learn the secret the nurse would not tell her. Meridia started by observing the mists that visited the house. The permanent ivory mist hung around the front door at all times, but two other mists came and went. At dusk, a yellow mist would swirl around the study window; Gabriel would emerge from the house, step into the yellow mist, and walk westward down the street. The mist would get progressively thinner and then disappear completely; when it did, Gabriel was no longer in it. In the early morning, a blue mist came from the end of the street in the opposite direction, getting thicker as it approached the house until it merged with the ivory mist. Gabriel would step out of the mist in yesterday’s clothes and head in for breakfast. Meridia also decided to secretly observe her mother, who was given to muttering and ranting to herself while she cooked (the one task not impeded by her forgetfulness). From a secret hiding place, Meridia watched her mother and phonetically transcribed her garbled speech. Meridia studied it in private, but could not make sense of it. One day, Meridia heard two of the maids talking about seeing a ghost outside the strange home. That night, Meridia looked out her window and saw the bony ghost down in the yard. She recognized it as the face she had seen in the mirror. She ran down the now-shortened staircase out of the house and into the mist. Inside the mist it felt as if there was no time and no sound. Meridia saw her mother and called out to her, but Ravenna could not hear. Meridia seemed to understand that the ghost was...

(The entire section is 634 words.)

Chapters 5-6 Summary

Hannah and Meridia exchanged letters for a while, but with Hannah moving so frequently, they lost touch. By the time she was sixteen, Meridia had settled into a kind of permanent melancholy because of her loneliness and the neglect and disdain of her parents. That year, the town held the first Festival of the Spirits, a grand fair for all kinds of spiritualists, exorcists, mediums, and healers. The first day of the festival, Meridia explored all of the different booths and tents. At one point, she stepped on the toes of a handsome young man. Meridia was too shy to speak, but found herself thinking of the young man a lot; she returned to the festival the next day to look for him. After briefly catching sight of him, she once again lost him in the crowd. After an exhaustive search of the entire grounds, Meridia suddenly heard some beautiful, powerful music, which the people around her didn’t seem to register. She followed it through the crowd to a tent called the Cave of Enchantment; despite covering the grounds repeatedly earlier that day, she hadn’t seen this tent before. Upon entering, she was shrouded in darkness, save for the light of an orb. She spotted a fortune-teller who said she had been selected specially. Suddenly, there was a small explosion of fire and smoke, and the handsome young man entered the tent. The fortune-teller insisted that their fates were intertwined, but demanded an outrageous sum of money to make sure that fate would be happy. With a silent signal from the young man, Meridia and the young man dashed from the tent despite the fortune-teller’s warnings. The young man denounced the fortune-teller as a charlatan, like most of the people at the festival. He admitted that the reason Meridia could not find him in the crowd was because he was following her.

The young man’s name was Daniel, and after the festival, he and Meridia began to see a lot of each other. Meridia started skipping school to meet him, forging...

(The entire section is 519 words.)

Chapters 7-8 Summary

Meridia went to Daniel’s house to meet his family for the first time. The house was unusual, and somewhat overgrown, but very welcoming. Upon entering, they found Daniel’s two little sisters in the middle of a fight. The younger daughter, Permony, had broken a glass figurine belonging to her sister, Malin. As the girls sat in awkward silence, Daniel left to get his mother. Malin was sullen and unfriendly, but Permony was intrigued by Meridia. Daniel’s mother, Eva, entered and requested a private chat with Meridia to grill her about her family and past. At one point, Eva noticed the broken figurine and admonished Permony for it; it was clear that Eva doted on Malin while Permony remained the black sheep. Meridia’s attempts to sympathize with Permony were cut short by Eva. That night, Daniel’s father, Elias, was repeatedly attacked by bees of unknown origin and was unable to sleep; undetected, Malin watched the attack through the keyhole. The next day over breakfast, Eva told Elias they should consent to the marriage, provided the fortune-teller didn’t have any objections.

One morning, as Meridia prepared for school, she heard her father throw a matchmaker out of the house. As the ivory mist continued to harass the matchmaker outside, Meridia raced down to her father to tell him he must allow her to marry Daniel. Gabriel felt that the boy and his family were beneath them in class and reputation, and castigated his daughter for her foolishness. She stood up to her father for the first time and asked him why he hated her; he did not answer her, but cruelly admitted that no one in the house loved anyone else. He also refused to explain why his shoulder seemed permanently injured. Meridia ran down to the kitchen to question Ravenna, who was in the middle of ranting and cooking. Having a few lucid moments, Ravenna insisted that Gabriel hated her, not Meridia, and vowed that Meridia would marry Daniel. Ravenna stayed up all night cooking more food than usual for Gabriel’s customary morning arrival. Meridia knew that the morning breakfast had been some kind of silent ritual, enacted every morning of her parents' marriage. At breakfast, Ravenna served Gabriel dish after dish, only to throw it in the waste can. She had prepared a dish for each year of his infidelity and ordered him to allow Meridia to marry to pay for his sins; he begrudgingly relented. For a brief moment, Gabriel saw Ravenna as she was before the wind came, when they were very much in love.

Chapters 9-10 Summary

The wedding, and the reception that followed at Eva and Elias’s house, whirled by Meridia in a blur. Her parents’ typically odd and dour behavior didn’t sour the magic of the experience. Meridia was struck by the huge amount of gifts, including her own sizeable dowry (which Ravenna forced Gabriel to provide). A group of matrons blindfolded Meridia and took her to her bridal suite (Daniel’s room, which had been made over by Eva). Meridia caught a glimpse of her parents before they left and was grateful to her mother for making the match possible. After a night of passionate lovemaking, Meridia went walking through the house and heard something going on up in Eva’s section of the house on the second floor. Meridia returned to bed, and Daniel was awoken early to go work at the jewelry shop. Eva later burst into the room and demanded that Meridia get dressed because they had a busy day planned. In Eva’s parlor upstairs, Meridia found that most of the wedding presents were gone. Eva insisted that it was a family custom to donate most of them to charity and that she did so at Daniel’s request. She then took Meridia downstairs to Patina, a hobble-footed elderly maid and cook; Meridia was to learn how to cook all of Daniel’s favorite meals. Meridia slowly began to understand the dynamic in Daniel’s house.

Meridia’s life soon became a ritual of cooking, sewing, gardening, and other domestic duties,  taught to her mostly by the kind, patient Patina and Gabilan, another servant. Meridia noted the way that Eva favored the spoiled, rude Malin while constantly criticizing the sensitive Permony. Elias seemed to stay isolated from the family, reading geography and geology books. The only exception to his solitude was Permony, with whom he had a special bond. When Eva brought home presents for the girls, Malin deliberately picked a book she knew Permony wanted; Elias later gave Permony her own book, which he surreptitiously purchased without Eva knowing. Meridia also took a shine to Permony, and the two spent hours together telling fantastical adventure stories. Meridia noticed Eva’s vacillations in temperament: warm and friendly one minute and icy cold the next. One night, Daniel suggested that he and Meridia go out to dinner because his parents were having an argument. Eavesdropping on them, Meridia heard the sound of bees, the same sound she heard from Eva’s parlor on her wedding night. At dinner, Daniel seemed nervous and didn’t want to talk about the bees or his parents' squabbling. They arrived home to the climax of the argument, which was about Eva’s irritation at a noisy dog next door. Elias then ran next door, and the dog quickly became silent. The next day, one of the maids reported that something was done to the dog to make it permanently mute.

Chapters 11-12 Summary

The fall brought an overgrowth of flowers to the household, enhancing its somewhat wild look. When marigolds threatened to encroach on Eva’s beloved roses, she enlisted all of the servants to weed them out of the roses; however, new marigolds seem to reappear regardless of how many get pulled. Eventually, Eva had to accept the enchantment in the garden, but it soured her mood further. She grew more openly critical of Meridia, and seemed to delight in keeping Daniel separated from his wife. Already a penny-pincher, Eva became obsessed with their financial situation and told Daniel that the books didn’t balance; she insisted on Daniel’s help, keeping him occupied many a night. One evening, Meridia was able to quickly help...

(The entire section is 534 words.)

Chapters 13-14 Summary

Meridia waited anxiously for the backlash from Malin's telling Eva about Meridia’s conversation with Pilar. Meridia constantly felt like she was being watched by Malin, but the girl was never there. Meridia did notice that Eva was now more overt in her criticism of Meridia, which she suspected was because of Malin. One day, Malin confronted Meridia alone in her room. Malin marveled at the control Eva had over Meridia and wondered why Meridia hadn’t seen through it. Malin said that Eva talked about her behind her back, and kept all of Meridia’s wedding presents for herself. She also insisted that the necklace Meridia wore (a wedding gift from Eva) was cheap, and probably enchanted by one of Eva’s fortune-tellers. She...

(The entire section is 530 words.)

Chapters 15-16 Summary

Ravenna had not spoken a single word since Meridia left the house. Her usual rantings subsided, and though she longed to go after Meridia, she forced herself not to interfere. Ravenna recalled the night the wind came, and Gabriel’s subsequent betrayal. Ravenna was so hurt and so angry, she could not stop herself from getting the axe. It was Meridia’s cry that saved Gabriel from death; he awoke in time and the blade struck his shoulder. Ravenna always believed that letting her child see that was what condemned her to forgetfulness. When Meridia showed up at the door having left Daniel’s house, Ravenna’s speech returned. That evening, as Meridia listened from the stairs, Eva, Elias, and Daniel came to the house and were...

(The entire section is 410 words.)

Chapters 17-18 Summary

The young couple’s new house was old and rough, but both Daniel and Meridia were elated to make it their own. While Meridia cleaned and decorated the house, Daniel set up the shop. One day, Ravenna stopped by for the briefest of visits, but when she left, the house seemed brighter. Later, Daniel and Meridia discovered a verbena-scented parcel with two gold bars (a secret gift from Ravenna). The shop opened to very little interest, and there were no sales. A discouraged Meridia was walking into town when she ran into Hannah, her long-lost childhood friend. The two caught up, and Hannah vowed to help her spread the word about her business. For the next few days, Hannah and Meridia canvassed the downtown area, handing out toffees...

(The entire section is 466 words.)

Chapters 19-20 Summary

Meridia went into labor earlier than expected, and soon Leah, Rebecca, Ravenna, and the midwife were at the house to lend a hand. Rebecca and Leah were responsible for keeping Daniel calm—and out of the bedroom. Ravenna and the midwife began preparing Meridia for delivery. The labor proved long and difficult, and suddenly Eva was in the room unbeknownst to Ravenna and the midwife. Soon, Meridia was covered in bees and screaming in pain; she recalled the curse her mother-in-law had made on her child and felt her strength leaving her. Daniel kept trying to enter the room, goaded by Eva’s incessant needling. Finally, Ravenna successfully ejected Daniel and Eva from the room, and the midwife tried to help Meridia, whose baby was...

(The entire section is 455 words.)

Chapters 21-22 Summary

Eva’s demands for food through Patina increased, and eventually, the extra money Daniel and Eva had saved under their floorboards was about to run out. Meridia came up with a risky plan to thwart Eva: they would buy jewelry from an independent seller without telling Eva and Elias. This way, they could offset the damage done by the low-quality inventory Eva sent them. Daniel found an independent dealer with no ties to Elias’s shop. He was a large man with a thick black beard named Samuel, and both Daniel and Meridia were impressed by his kind manner and moral approach. To pay for their first installment, Meridia gave him the gold bars Ravenna left for them. One day in the market, Pilar approached Meridia and told her that Patina...

(The entire section is 520 words.)

Chapters 23-24 Summary

Over the next few years, the couple’s fortune slowly grew. They were getting close to their ultimate goal: a home and a shop free from Eva’s control. Meridia continued to show innovation in her sales techniques, even using the Festival of Spirits to drum up business. With Elias’s complicity, the couple continued to hide their profits from Samuel’s participation. In addition, Ravenna continued her periodic visits, which not only brought money and supplies but seemed to put the house in order. One night, Meridia felt passion again for the first time in a long while, and she and Daniel made love fervently. When Patina visited the shop one day, the couple was surprised to see her walking better and glowing with positivity. She...

(The entire section is 416 words.)

Chapters 25-26 Summary

Meridia and Daniel found a two-story house in the heart of the merchant district. The couple lived upstairs and set up the shop downstairs. The location, combined with Meridia’s savvy and Samuel’s quality goods, made the shop a success. For the first time, the couple had money in a bank and a household free of Eva’s interference. After settling in, the couple hosted a dinner party whose guests included Rebecca and Leah, their former neighbors. The women revealed to Meridia that no one has rented the house since their departure. Part of the reason was the sighting of a ghost, who looked like an old woman with the glow of a much younger one. The ghost loved to cook and sent all kinds of smells from the household. Meridia knew...

(The entire section is 467 words.)

Chapters 27-28 Summary

Malin was soon married, and the wedding and reception were a lavish affair. As usual, Eva was the consummate hostess, despite her secret efforts to sideline Meridia. She was also delighted that Jonathan, Malin’s groom, came from a wealthy family. At the wedding, Noah went to see Elias, who lit up briefly but then withdrew again into himself. Permony, despite her mother’s constant abuse, proved radiant at the reception, gathering much attention. One foreign gentleman was especially taken with her; Elias seemed to recognize the foreigner and frowned disdainfully at the attention the man paid his daughter. Shortly after the wedding, Elias began to decline physically and mentally. The doctor diagnosed a rapidly deteriorating brain...

(The entire section is 409 words.)

Chapters 29-30 Summary

One morning, the blue mist was late in delivering Gabriel to the house, and when he arrived, he had no appetite for Ravenna’s cooking. The yellow mist picked up a weary-looking Gabriel earlier than usual that day, and the following day, neither the mist nor Gabriel returned. When a note from Gabriel arrived saying he would no longer live in the house, Ravenna flew into a rage, fired all the servants, and destroyed his study. She set out for Meridia’s house as a storm began brewing. Once she got Meridia, the two set out in the inclement weather without Meridia knowing where they were headed. When seedy characters began to appear at every corner, Meridia realized that they were in a disreputable part of town she had never seen...

(The entire section is 573 words.)

Chapters 31-32 Summary

The town soon began to whisper about Ravenna and her lack of sanity. Daniel was displeased when Meridia spent more and more time at her parents’ house caring for the increasingly frail Gabriel. One day, Meridia stood at her father’s bedside, holding his hand and asking for a sign. She heard her nurse’s voice and looked outside and saw the three mists together. Meridia held back her mother, and the mists burst through the window and carried Gabriel off to the spirit world. After the funeral, Meridia inspected her father’s study and found his finances severely limited, making his secret gifts of money and gold to her all the more meaningful. She also realized that many of the books in the study were about reclaiming lost...

(The entire section is 561 words.)

Chapters 33-34 Summary

The news of Permony’s wedding took Meridia by surprise. When Eva brought Ahab to the shop to meet them, Meridia could not detect any trace of the bees. Eva was incredibly warm, particularly to Permony. Daniel seemed to like Ahab well enough, but Meridia sensed there were things about him she didn’t know. She asked both Samuel and Leah about him, and Leah was able to drudge up a story about his past. In another town, he sought to buy several houses from the townspeople so that he could have the land to build a factory. When the town members refused, a number of their daughters developed symptoms of hysteria. They no longer appeared to be virgins and showed signs of venereal disease; all of them had nightmares in which a...

(The entire section is 499 words.)

Chapters 35-36 Summary

At first, Meridia tried to play it cool and hid her knowledge of Daniel’s infidelity. He came up with half-hearted excuses for his departures when the mist would carry him off. Noah, who had developed traces of clairvoyance, sensed something was amiss. Meridia made excuses, not wanting to burden the child with adult problems, but he began to withdraw more and more from his father. Ravenna provided Meridia with her only solace, even though she was blind and uncommunicative. One day, Eva loudly delivered a package to one of Meridia’s maids and remarked how Meridia should meet her assistant, Sylva. As Meridia looked at the contents of the package, she realized her mistake. The package contained receipts and checks from an account...

(The entire section is 484 words.)

Chapters 37-38 Summary

The night they left, Meridia and Noah stopped at a newly fashioned grave for Ravenna; in the distance, they spotted Malin, still grieving at her baby’s headstone. Once they arrived at her parents’ house, Meridia began a complete overhaul—remodeling, repainting, and installing new furniture and appliances. Eva came the next day and demanded Noah, but Meridia dismissed her and warned her to stay away. Even with the brighter décor, Noah was still a bit afraid of the house, especially his grandfather’s study. One day, Ravenna’s spirit appeared and coaxed him into going into the study. There, Noah played with Gabriel’s instruments and began devouring his books. Permony sent a note explaining that Daniel has been ill, and...

(The entire section is 414 words.)

Chapters 39-40 and Epilogue Summary

Malin finished the story and revealed that Daniel wrote a letter to Noah, but Eva never delivered it. With Leah watching the children, Malin and Meridia set out for town. Malin went to Ahab, told him his wife and baby had died, and threatened to tell the authorities about his crimes unless he left immediately and never came back. Afterward, Malin went to Jonathan and proposed that they raise Permony’s baby together. Jonathan believed that they no longer loved each other; stung, Malin gathered her things and left, determined to raise the baby on her own. Meridia first stopped to see Permony, who miraculously was still warm and preserved despite her death. Meridia paid the midwife, who agreed to tell Ahab that both Permony and the...

(The entire section is 699 words.)