A dangerous rescue attempt in Michigan has captured the attention of the entire country. A two-year-old girl has fallen down a mine shaft. Ursula Wong is the only child of a poor family and referred to by one member of the TV audience as 'half-breed trailer trash', not worth all the expense. But there is much more to Ursula than this: she is the last of her family line - and here the novel explodes into a gorgeous saga of culture, history and heredity. By its end, we've met, among others of Ursula's forebears, a second-century-B.C. Chinese alchemist; an orphaned consort to a Swedish queen; and Ursula's great-great-grandfather, Jake Maki, a miner who died in a cave-in aged twenty-nine. Ursula's fate echoes those of her ancestors, many of whom so narrowly escaped not being born that any given individual's life comes to seem a miracle.