One of the many well-educated Ivy League graduates with literary ambitions who flock to New York City every year, 25-year-old Melissa Fleischer has the great fortune to work as the assistant to Austin Bloch, an editor responsible for refining and publishing the work of some of America's most esteemed writers. But after she begins working at this prestigious magazine in the late 1970's, Mel soon learns that the extravagantly long lunches her boss indulges in actually belie his affairs with a stream of young women. Mel is left in the distressing position of lying about these never-ending betrayals to Austin's wife, Hillarie, who often calls while he is out of the office.
But then, unexpectedly, the New Yorker begins publishing Mel's short stories, offering a spectacular start to what she hopes will be a long and fruitful writing career. Unfortunately, the exhilaration of being published by the magazine she reveres most is soon diminished both by Mel's deeply painful discovery that her own marriage like Austin's is far from idyllic, and by her continuing complicity in Austin's betrayals. And nothing seems more difficult than the effort it will take to keep her marriage from falling apart.