It’s August 3, 1939. The narrator writes that her story begins in a room she’ll never see, but which she frequently pictures in her mind. There’s a woman being held to the table while she screams and sweats. The narrator says that what happens next isn’t the woman’s fault. She delivers a stillborn baby girl, but she’s on so many medications that she’s unaware of what’s happening. The nurses talk about the tragedy of the situation while they whisk the baby out of the room. A doctor goes out to where the woman’s father is waiting. The doctor tells him that the baby is stillborn, and the woman will never able to have children again. Distraught, the man says that Christine is his only child and that everyone had been so excited for the new baby. The doctor leans in and suggests the man see a woman in Memphis.
The Prelude foreshadows many of the events that will take place during the story, including the practice of buying babies from a mysterious woman in Memphis (Georgia Tann) to replace lost ones. This passage also leads the reader to wonder which character in the book is actually the narrator of the Prelude.