Janina Reston is a language expert, translating fiendishly tricky Arabic and Asian mathematical and scientific texts. Words are her world. But she can't find any to share with her husband Owen. Instead, she confides in a spider named Gladys (who may or may not be her deceased grandmother). She lives in an ordinary city suburb where extraordinary things happen. Lily's husband dies in a strange accident with a milk bottle, while Fatima writes biographies of unknown people living seemingly inconsequential lives, and Zosia - whose most daring adventure thus far has been replacing jelly and ice cream with lemon meringue pie - runs off to Delhi with an Asian Women's Sewing Group.