From acclaimed short story writer Molly Giles, author of the Pulitzer Prize-nominated collection Rough Translations, comes this splendid debut novel about one woman's spirited search for identity and meaning following her family's disintegration. Set amid the woodsy affluence of Northern California, Iron Shoes incisively chronicles the coming-of-middle-age story of Kay Sorensen, who has lived her entire life in the shadow of her glamorous parents. When Kay hits forty, she is suddenly smacked with the realization that she is not the woman she wants to be -- and certainly not the woman her family wants her to be. Her emotionally detached father will never forgive her for dropping out of Juilliard at eighteen; her dramatic, showstopping mother will never comprehend how she turned out so ordinary; and her fastidious, self-controlled second husband will never accept her weakness for red meat, cigarettes, and alcohol. Worst of all, Kay cannot forgive herself for giving up on her dreams and settling -- for a husband she doesn't love, for an amateurish church orchestra, for a dead-end job at a library bound to lose its funding. Unable to shake the feeling that she's somehow stuck, Kay lives vicariously through her free-spirited friend Zabeth and pins her hopes for the future on Charles Lichtman, a beguiling stranger with whom she feels destined to have an affair. But when her mother's illness -- seemingly feigned for as long as Kay can remember -- finally takes her life, Kay feels her ennui and stasis painfully give way to an unnerving helplessness. Losing a lifelong crutch, she is suddenly set adrift -- weightless, without a compass, and without hope. With her crystalline prose and seamless mixing of tender tragedy and laugh-out-loud humor, Molly Giles delivers a deeply moving exploration of a middle-aged woman who has never asked herself -- nor answered -- an honest question in her life. At once heartrending, hilarious, and wise, Iron Shoes is a mesmerizing debut novel.