While each of the 12 stories is seemingly random, when asked in class if Gilbert identified with any of her characters, the author described how each character represents the essence of someone with whom she had interacted. Gilbert credited her character's personalities to many of her past jobs where she had the opportunity to eavesdrop, specifically mentioning when she worked as a waitress. The many conversations from which she gathered the plot and characters are evident in her heavy use of simple dialogue. Such an eclectic source of information results in captivating accounts of remarkably varied journeys, from a seventy-year-old ex-beauty pageant winner contemplating her promiscuous past to a Hungarian immigrant purchasing a supper club that features magic acts in Pittsburgh. Diverse as the stories are, the unifying theme, the manner in which the characters accept their fate, is both surprising and charming.