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After both her parents die, Linda Murphy Marshall, a multi-linguist and professional translator, returns to her midwestern childhood home, Ivy Lodge, to sort through a lifetime of belongings with her siblings. Room by room, she sifts through the objects in her parents' house and uses her skills and perspective as a longtime professional translator to make sense of the events of her past--to "translate" her memories and her life. In the process, she sees things with new eyes. All of her parents' things, everything having to do with their cherished hobbies, are housed in a home that, although it looks impressive from the outside, is anything but impressive inside; in short, she now realizes that much of it --even the house's fancy name--was show. By the time Murphy Marshall is done with Ivy Lodge, she has not only made new discoveries about her past, she has also come to a new understanding of who she is and how she fits into her world.