Balthazar is a successful author; Odette is a cashier at a supermarket. Balthazar has a beautiful wife and a delightful home; Odette and the two troubled kids she is raising alone live in subsidised housing. Life has been generous to Balthazar and harsh to Odette. Yet, of the two Balthazar is the unhappy one. In this, and other short stories, Schmitt enchants his readers with a style that is spirited and buoyant as he moves from the story of a barefooted princess to that of a prisoner in a Soviet gulag and a perennially disgruntled perfectionist.