This book begins with a story about an experience that changed the author's life. After a Christmas concert in Oakland, in December 1991, a thief stole a rare and valuable hand-carved harp owned by Meg Mayer, Elizabeth Mayer's 14-year-old daughter. Meg was inconsolable: she couldn't play on any of the ordinary harps rented to replace it. Her mother, a professor at University of California at Berkeley and a psychoanalyst and respected researcher, tried every possible channel to get it back: the police, instrument dealers, sob stories on the news. Nothing worked. Finally, after two months, a friend suggested that Lisby (that's what her friends called her) try a dowser.
All that Lisby Mayer knew about dowsers was that they used forked sticks to locate underground water. But she was told that really good dowsers can locate lost objects. So she parked her skepticism and called up Harold McCoy, in Fayetteville, Arkansas, president of the American Society of Dowsers.
Lisby liked the way he sounded and after he reassured her that the harp was still in Oakland, she sent him a street map of the area. A couple of days later, he called back with the exact coordinates of its location. First she tried calling the police, but they couldn't be bothered. So she posted flyers within a two-block radius, offering a reward, no questions asked.
A few weeks later, she got a call from someone who said he knew where the harp was. Shortly thereafter, she rendezvoused with a teenage go-between in the parking lot of an all-night Safeway. Minutes later, she sped away in her station wagon with the harp safely inside the vehicle. "As I turned into my driveway, I had the thought, 'This changes everything,' "she writes.