From an acclaimed short-story writer, a blazingly intelligent and humorous debut novel that is set in New Orleans and tells the story of two strangers whose paths first cross on the remarkable banks of the Mississippi. Cleo, a Canadian on holiday in New Orleans, is sitting alone in the French Quarter late one night, dreamily watching the river's lazy progress. Suddenly, a woman clad in full evening dress, from rhinestone tiara to high heels, takes a running leap off the wharf into the Mississippi. Cleo watches, astonished, then turns and runs, mistakenly assuming the jumper is dead -- a suicide. But Madeline, it turns out, is not bent on suicide. She is irresistibly drawn to water, as is Cleo, who was conceived during the great flood in Florence in 1966. Perhaps it is this shared obsession with the murky depths that fuels Cleo's determination to find Madeline. She pounds the quaint streets of New Orleans, city of cheap bourbon, rich turtle soup, the scent of magnolias and A Streetcar Named Desire. Spelling Mississippi is filled with all the bristling energy of Fall on Your Knees. Told with great humour and affection, it is a seductive, liberating story about ties that bind and those that simply restrain, and a lesson not in spelling but forgiveness.