"I'll never really understand what I wanted. Or what Ralph did. Marriage, unfortunately, never edifies. Never quite kills off the primal urges. How I veered between thinking my natural inclinations would destroy my marriage and how they were the only thing that made it feasible, relieving as they did my feeling of claustrophobia, a sensation that would overcome me, strangely enough, most often when truly knowing or understanding Ralph seemed an impossibility."
So muses Vivienne Yellow, an American woman bound to a hospital bed in the heart of Paris after being accidentally hit by a truck. Through hazy memories, colored by her own morphine-stoked sexual longings, the unforgettable narrator of this arresting and witty debut draws us into her past: what really happened to her that fateful morning as she tried to cross rue du Cherche Midi; her relationship with her father, the famously charismatic naturalist Maurice Yellow; and her wildly adulterous marriage to an emotionally distant man.
Trapped as she is, Vivienne's only link to the outside world is a fellow patient, Sonia, an acid-tongued French teenager with a failing heart. As she begins to heal, Vivienne comes to understand one thing: sex is her refuge, a notion oddly reaffirmed by the stories Sonia starts to tell her about a new patient, a refuge from the Kosovo crisis who tried to save herself by marrying the first man she met.