The title of the book is derived from a collection of short stories penned by Vida Winter entitled Thirteen Tales of Change and Desperation; the collection was supposed to contain a total of thirteen stories but was shortened to twelve at publication. Though its title was appropriately amended and its cover eventually reprinted to read simply Tales of Change and Desperation, a small number of books were printed with the original title and the twelve stories. This small press run became a collector's item (one of which Lea's father holds). Many of Winter's fans considered the omission of the thirteenth story a delightful mystery, and all wanted the answer to it. During the course of the story, Lea is asked more than once what she knows about the missing tale, and why it was never written. At the novel's conclusion, Lea receives the long-awaited thirteenth tale as a parting gift from Vida Winter.
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