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Farberville, Arkansas is normally a quiet college town, where bookseller Claire Malloy tends her small store and raises her somewhat dramatic teenage daughter Caron. But this week, it's gone a bit out of control. A local group of activists calling themselves the Farberville Green Party is protesting a developer's plan to remove a copse of trees by having retired schoolteacher Miss Emily Parchester camp out in one of them while chained to it by the ankle. While concerned about the aged Miss Parchester's vigil in the tree, Claire isn't able to talk her down-and if that wasn't turmoil enough, a baby is left on Claire's doorstep with a note from his mother asking her to care for him for a few days.

While trying to track down the mother, Claire tries to avoid alerting either the authorities or the local gossips, but both efforts are doomed to failure. When Claire is sighted buying diapers, the unlikely rumor that her daughter has an illegitimate child runs rampant in Caron's high school. And when Claire does track down the mother of the child, it is because the teenager has been arrested for the murder of her own father - who is the local developer at the center of the controversy surrounding the trees.

Unconvinced that the baby's mother is really responsible, and juggling feedings and diaperings for the first time in fifteen-some years, Claire decides that the only way to rescue Caron's reputation and the baby's mother - not to mention coaxing Miss Parchester down out of the tree - is to uncover the truth behind the murder.

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