In the Odyssey, Penelope is portrayed as the quintessential faithful wife. Left alone for 20 years when Odysseus goes off to fight in the Trojan war, Penelope manages, in the face of scandalous rumors, to maintain the kingdom of Ithaca, bring up her wayward son and keep over a hundred suitors at bay. When Odysseus finally comes, he kills her suitors and--curiously--twelve of her maids. In a contemporary twist to the story, Margaret Atwood has chosen to give the telling of it to Penelope and to her twelve hanged maids. With wit and verve, drawing on the storytelling and poetic talent for which she herself is renowned, she gives Penelope new life and reality--and sets out to provide an answer to an ancient mystery.