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Book 1 of The Bellevue Wives Series

Women's Fiction

read an excerpt →

Marta Zinsser grew up in a conservative, old Seattle suburb and couldn’t wait to leave for New York, where she thrived as an independent woman with no need for men — even when she decided to have a baby.

Ten years later when her mother becomes ill, Marta realizes that this may be her daughter’s last chance to get to know her grandmother and returns to Seattle, taking up residence on the affluent, technology-drenched Eastside, filled now by snobby old money families and even snobbier nouveau riche.

Enrolling Eva in the local school, Marta accedes to her daughter’s wishes and agrees to join the PTA despite being horrified by the fancy moms that dominate it. With wealthy husbands, massive homes, nannies, no jobs, and their own hierarchy, the fancy moms have no intention of letting a bohemian mom like Marta in to their private circle.

Will Marta be able to carve a niche for both herself and Eva? And when gorgeous maverick Luke Flynn appears in Marta’s line of vision, will she find love after keeping it at arm’s length all this time?

Women's Fiction

Odd Mom Out

read an excerpt →

Marta Zinsser grew up in a conservative, old Seattle suburb and couldn’t wait to leave for New York, where she thrived as an independent woman with no need for men — even when she decided to have a baby.

Ten years later when her mother becomes ill, Marta realizes that this may be her daughter’s last chance to get to know her grandmother and returns to Seattle, taking up residence on the affluent, technology-drenched Eastside, filled now by snobby old money families and even snobbier nouveau riche.

Enrolling Eva in the local school, Marta accedes to her daughter’s wishes and agrees to join the PTA despite being horrified by the fancy moms that dominate it. With wealthy husbands, massive homes, nannies, no jobs, and their own hierarchy, the fancy moms have no intention of letting a bohemian mom like Marta in to their private circle.

Will Marta be able to carve a niche for both herself and Eva? And when gorgeous maverick Luke Flynn appears in Marta’s line of vision, will she find love after keeping it at arm’s length all this time?

Odd Mom Out

Book 1 of The Bellevue Wives Series

Women's Fiction

Themes & Archetypes

Single Mother, Motherhood, Women's Issues

RITA Finalist, Novel with Strong Romantic Elements, 2008
5 Spot

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Odd Mom Out

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Eva’s dancing through the aisles of downtown Bellevue’s Office Depot, her mood so ebullient that you’d think we were in a bridal salon instead of an office supply store.

Although to be completely fair, Eva truly does love office and school supplies. When she was a young child, her favorite purchase at the grocery store or drugstore was
a spiral-ring notebook. Seriously.

While Eva searches for the correct supplies, I’m left to push the oversize shopping cart and check off items as they’re found. I’m also thinking about Eva and Jemma being in the same class and what an ungodly long year it will be if Eva insists on trying to make Jemma her friend.

This summer, Eva and I went to the Yukon for our summer vacation. We flew on Air Canada from Vancouver to Whitehorse, where we rented a car and spent a week exploring the Yukon territory.

Growing up, I’d read everything I could by Jack London (my two favorite authors being Jack London and Mark Twain), and one of the places I’d always wanted to visit was the Klondike, so this summer Eva and I went.

We traveled the Top of the World Highway, panned for gold, had a drink at Diamond Tooth Gerties, and we laughed so much. We hiked and batted at mosquitoes the size of my fist. (Only a slight exaggeration.) We had such a good time, and I thought—somehow—that when we returned, Eva’s confidence would be back, too.

And it was, for all of one day, until Eva tried to tell the girls at the pool about her trip and the girls laughed. Laughed.

“Why did you go there?” Jemma asked in disgust. “Why didn’t you go to Hawaii like everybody else?”

Okay. That’s why I don’t like Jemma Young, and this is why I never wanted to be part of the popular girl clique. Being popular seemed like such a drag. All those girls trying to say the same thing, do the same thing, pretend to be just like one another.

How horrible.

Eva peers around the school supplies display. “Mom, is it twenty-four or forty-eight crayons? I forget.”

I smooth the supply list that I’ve inadvertently crumpled and look for Eva’s class. Fourth grade. Crayons. “Twenty-four.”

Her hand hovers over the Crayola boxes. “I like the forty-eight better. More colors. More choices.”

“Then get the forty-eight.”

“But we’re supposed to get what’s on the list.”

“The list is merely a suggestion—”

“It’s not, Mom. It’s required.” Eva dumps the crayons and colored pencils in the cart. “Everything on there is required.”

How did I get Little Miss Schoolgirl for a daughter?

I specialized in cutting class and forging my parents’ signatures. Eva won’t miss school even after a dentist appointment. She insists on going even after getting a filling, showing up for class drooling with a thick wad of cotton clamped between her teeth.

Now she continues to select the just right binder, the exact plastic-coated colored dividers, the specific number of number two pencils, the set of highlighters, the precise style of notebook.

Eva’s still crouching in front of the plastic space makers, trying to find one that’s twelve inches long — not nine — when I spot my favorite kind of Bellevue mom, one of those women who are perfectly done even for a Saturday morning trip to Office Depot, with two kids.

I don’t recognize her, but the kids look familiar, particularly the little girl, and I hear their conversation even before they reach us.

“I have to have a new backpack, I hate my old one.”

“This year I want everything purple. A purple binder, purple folders, purple pens.”

“Why can’t I have an iPod? Or an iPod shuffle? Everyone has an iPod shuffle.”

Eva hears them, too, and her face lights up. She shoots me a significant look, as though to say, See? as she scrambles to her feet. “Hi, Paige,” she says breathlessly, the turquoise-lidded space maker clutched to her chest.

“Hi, Eva.”

Eva and Paige size each other up from across a safe distance of mothers and shopping carts. Awkward silence unfurls even as I place Paige. Yesterday, at the pool. She’s one of Jemma’s friends.

“Buying your school supplies?” Eva asks, and her voice quavers nervously.

“Yeah.” Paige is chewing gum, and she pops a little purple bubble. “Who’s your teacher?”

“Mrs. Shipley.”

“Jemma has her,” Paige says, cocking her head and rubbing her foot against the back of her calf. “I’ve got Mrs. Lewis. She’s supposed to be easy.”

“You’re so lucky,” Eva breathes, making me think she’s got the IQ of a tree monkey.

Why is she playing dumb? Where the hell did her feisty personality go? And what is so special about these little girls that she feels the need to earn their approval?

Paige’s mom in the meantime has been studying me, and when I look at her, she forces a quick smile. “I don’t think we’ve ever met. I’m Lana Parker, Paige’s mom.”

I hold out my hand. “Marta Zinsser, Eva’s mom.” We shake hands, and she winces at my firm grip. I didn’t expect her hand to feel like pudding.

Lana Parker removes her hand as fast as she can from mine. “Are you new to the area?”

“We’ve been in the Pacific Northwest over a year now.”

“Where did you move from? California?”

“New York.”

Lana’s eyebrows try to lift but can’t go far, as her forehead is very taut and smooth. A little too taut and smooth. “That’s a big change.”

“Yes, it is.”

“How do you like it here?”

“It’s good,” I answer vaguely, not bothering to mention I’m relatively local, raised in tiny Laurelhurst just across the 520 bridge. I never was comfortable with my father’s wealth or social status, a status my mother enjoyed tremendously. Instead of hanging on Dad’s coattails, I’ve tried to make my own way in the world, wanting to succeed on the basis of my talent and reputation versus his.

“Was your husband relocated?”

My husband. Great. I love these kinds of questions. “No. I was transferred.”

“And he followed you out? There’s a good husband for you.”

I just smile, the small, close-lipped smile that I use for moments like these. I had plenty of them in New York when I’d take Eva for walks in her stroller and then again when I enrolled her in school. Does she look like her daddy or you? Her father isn’t listed on the emergency contact forms. Will her father be coming to the parent orientation? I used to try to answer all the questions, but it just got old and repetitive, and now I do my best to ignore them. “I’m lucky I have an interesting career.”

“What do you do?”

“I have my own advertising agency, Z Design.”

“That must keep you busy.”

“There are some long hours,” I admit, feeling vaguely uncomfortable and unsure why. There’s nothing alarming about Lana Parker. A dark blonde with hair swept off her face, Lana reminds me a bit of Faith Hill in The Stepford Wives. She’s pretty, quite pretty, but not quite real, either.

“I couldn’t work,” Lana says, lips pursing. “Not when the kids are little. They’re only children once, and I don’t want to miss a thing.”

This is why I was feeling uncomfortable.

I have to work—it’s not a choice—yet my work isn’t just a paycheck, it’s who I am, what I love to do. “I agree. That’s why I’ve made a point of working from home.”

“So smart. Because those full-time jobs are so hard on families and children.”

I don’t have a part-time job. I definitely have a full-time job, and I think Lana knows it. I think Lana’s being clever and slightly unkind.

“You’re very lucky you have such a supportive husband,” Lana adds sweetly. “He must really help pick up the slack.”

“Is that what men do?” I ask just as sweetly. “Pick up the slack?” Either Lana is living in la-la land or she’s just trying to push my buttons. Virtually all of my friends are married, and while most are still happily married and most would marry their husbands all over again, most also wouldn’t say their husbands make their lives, or their work, easier.

Lana blinks, taken aback. “Uh . . . well . . . I don’t know.”

Her expression looks about to crumple, and I feel a ping of remorse. “So how many children do you have?” I ask, trying to change the subject and move us into safer territory.

Lana grabs gratefully on to the new topic. “Just these two, Paige and Peter. They’re twins.” She pauses. “Fraternal.”

Yeah, I guessed that.

Lana leans toward me to whisper conspiratorially, “I just wish we’d thought a little more about the names. My son gets teased at school all the time.”

“For Peter, Peter, pumpkin eater?”

She stiffens uncomfortably. “No. For Peter Parker.” She pauses, waits for me to get it. I don’t get it.

“Peter Parker,” she repeats a trifle impatiently. “As in Spider-Man.”

“Ah. Sorry. I haven’t read the comics in years.”

“But the movies . . . ?” she persists. After a moment she shakes her head, her cheeks flushed nearly as pink as her fruity Juicy Couture tracksuit. “So are you going to the emergency parent meeting this afternoon?” But she doesn’t wait for me to ask, launching immediately into an explanation. “It’s about the kindergarten nightmare.”

“What nightmare?”

“You haven’t heard?”

“I’m afraid we’ve been . . . traveling.”

Lana shudders. “It’s a disaster. A complete fiasco, that’s what it is. Those poor kids. And their parents!”

I just shake my head.

Lana leans even closer, her hand pressed to her throat, and whispers, “They’re sending all the Points kindergartners to the Lakes.”

She delivers the information with a note of triumph, and I stare at her blankly. Obviously I’m missing the point. “Forever?”

“No, for the year, until the school board can figure out what to do with all the kids. Despite the remodel a couple years ago, Points Elementary has already outgrown its space, and so all the incoming kindergartners are going to be bused to Lakes Elementary.” She pauses, stares at me. “Can you believe it?”

“Bused,” I repeat, wondering why children are being bused to a school that is less than half a mile away from their own.

“Exactly! Those little children bused and then mixed with kindergartners from the other school. They’re not even being kept separate. No, Lakes teachers will be teaching Points kids, and Points teachers will be teaching Lakes kids—awful, that’s all I can say.”

“But it’s just for one year, isn’t it? And don’t most of the kids play on the same sports programs anyway? I know Eva’s soccer team last year had children from Enatai, Points, and the Lakes—”

“But families, siblings, separated. And now the Lakes wants one-sixth of our auction money, too. As if we wanted our children to attend their school!”

Now is one of those times I think I should read the Points school bulletins more closely or maybe attend a PTA meeting or tiptoe into the back-to-school brunch so I can put faces to names and learn the school news firsthand.

“There’s going to be a parent meeting today, before tonight’s beach picnic,” Lana continues. “It’s at Taylor’s house. You do know Taylor Young?”

“Oh yes.” I nod and smile. “I do.”

Eva is hanging on every word as well, and she nods furiously. “I do, too.”

Lana shoots Eva a condescending smile. “You know where Jemma lives, sweetie, don’t you?”

Eva and Jemma ride the school bus together every day. They even share the same bus stop. Not that Jemma ever talks to Eva, but, hey, just standing on the same corner as Jemma rocks Eva’s boat.

“Join us at the meeting,” Lana urges. “You’ll hear from the committee about what’s been done and what we still need to do. There’s no time to waste.”

With a glance at her watch, Lana shakes her head. “Oh dear, look at the time. Tennis in less than an hour. Have to hustle.” She points at me, jabs her finger. “Four o’clock at Taylor’s. If your husband can’t watch your daughter, she’s of course welcome to come. There will be other kids there.”

Now Lana wiggles her fingers in a wave and moves on.

Eva is staring after Lana Parker, her forehead furrowed. “Why did she keep saying ‘your husband’? Doesn’t she know that you’re not married and I don’t have a dad?”

“I guess not, and I didn’t feel like correcting her.”

“Why not?” she asks, turning to look at me. “Does it bother you?”

“No.” At least it didn’t bother me in New York.

“So tell her. It’s weird listening to her say ‘your husband, your husband.’ ”

“I will. Next time.”

Eva’s still looking at me. “We are going to Mrs. Young’s today, aren’t we?”

Going to Taylor Young’s? Going to a ridiculous committee meeting to protest kindergartners spending a year at another local elementary school, a school that leads the state in WASL scores? Do those women have no life? And is my daughter completely out of her mind?

“Go?” I ask her, my voice calm, clear, although on the inside I’m fairly frothing at the mouth. “I don’t think so.”

Eva deposits the space maker in the cart and faces me. “Why not?”

I hear that cool, steely tone, and it amazes me how Eva can sound so much like my mother. It’s one thing to hear your mother’s disapproval come from her lips. It’s quite another to hear it from your nine-year-old daughter.

I take a deep breath. “Because for one, I don’t agree with them. These moms are making a mountain out of a molehill—”

“They just want what’s best for their children.”

I stare at Eva and try to see who AS1V677 really was, AS1V677 being her sperm donor father.

I ordered AS1V677 off the Internet, choosing AS1V677 over the other sperm donors because (a) AS1V677 had a great résumé. He was thirty-two, raised in a big Jewish-Irish-Catholic family, had gone to William & Mary, played sports throughout high school and college, and was now a practicing pediatrician in upstate New York. And (b) AS1V677 was taller than me.

At nearly five ten, I’ve felt huge next to most women and have tended to tower over many male colleagues, so I thought it only fair that I give my offspring height, too.

Height and résumé aside, it didn’t hurt that AS1V677 was also described as very attractive, with blue eyes and thick, wavy brown hair.

But facing Eva, I’m not seeing that attractive element, I’m seeing stubbornness as well as a frightening need to play follow the leader.

“Eva, I hate committee meetings.”

“But you’re a mom. You’re supposed to do mom things.”

“Committees are mom things?”


“Says who?”

She throws her hands into the air. “Everybody knows. Ask anybody here. They’ll tell you. Moms meet and . . . do things.”

Anybody here being the choice words.

“What about working moms?” I ask her, leaning on the cart, fascinated by her view of mothers’ responsibilities.

“When are they supposed to have time to attend all these meetings?”

“I don’t know. They just . . . work them in. And you could. If you got up a little earlier or stayed up later. You could, I know you could. If you tried.”

If I tried. Wow.

“Well, thank you for that, Eva. I’m clearly missing pages in The Perfect Parent Handbook.

She rolls her eyes. “Meetings can be fun, Mom. Just give them a try.”

“Like men and marriage?”

Eva grabs the shopping cart and begins pulling it to the front of the store, her green eyes snapping with temper. “Mom, I love you,” she says, pausing by the electronics, “I really do. But one day I hope you’ll realize there’s nothing wrong with being normal.”

I watch her huffily haul the cart all the way to the checkout line, and I know I’ve had this conversation before, but that time it was with my mom, not Eva.

end of excerpt

Odd Mom Out is available in the following formats:

5 Spot

ISBN: 978-0446699235

September 27, 2007

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Odd Mom Out


  • Odd Mom Out allows readers to examine their own lives and ask the questions: At what point do we give in to conforming to some standard, sacrificing the parts of ourselves that are unique? Are those sacrifices worth it in the end? Do we all want the typical 1950’s, June Cleaver lifestyle that dictates “tradition”, whether our families are same sex, opposite sex, stepfamilies, etc.? It’s a humorous look at our current idea of what makes a family.

    Odd Mom Out makes a perfect summer read for women who are constantly grappling with trying to do it all.”

    — Sara G. Hodon,

  • “I’m very glad I […] read this book because it turned out to be touching and heartwarming and not only could I relate to it, I couldn’t put it down. Jane Porter loves her characters so much you can’t help loving them too. This book is about more than being an odd mom out, it’s about taking chances and going against the instinct to play it safe. It’s about trusting others and letting go of some of that control we all feel we need to have as parents.

    Thanks Jessica for letting me read this, I loved it, and that’s not just Arkansas talking, I’m going to recommend it to all my friends.”

    — Jennifer Scudder Trent,

  • “Keenly emotional and truly uplifting.”

    — Booklist

  • “The draining pace of Marta’s life comes across convincingly, and Porter’s got a knack for getting into the heads of the preteen set; Eva’s worries are right on the mark. A poignant critique of mommy cliques and the plight of single parents.”

    — Kirkus Reviews

  • “Marta Zinsser has made her nine-year-old daughter Eva, conceived through sperm donation, her whole world. The two move from Manhattan to a wealthy Seattle suburb, where Marta plans to run a successful advertising agency from home and be close to her ailing mother. Soon however, Marta’s bohemian ways stick out like a sore thumb among the impeccably groomed housewives of Bellevue. Pressured by a tenderly and believably drawn Eva to be a “real mom,” Marta signs up for school chaperoning and committee duties, with near-disastrous results. And when Marta falls for a handsome billionaire, she must decide whether to refocus her lone wolf self-image enough to allow a man to enter the picture. The alpha moms Marta detests are cartoonish, catty villains, and self helpese creeps into the plot gaps. But Marta is an intriguing heroine: she values freedom and toughness, but her jeans and combat boots mask vulnerability, heartbreak and fear of change.”

    — Publishers Weekly

  • “Hilarious and moving, this is a story about both the need and absolute refusal to blend into a crowd. Jane Porter’s enjoyable voice continues to shine in this, her third novel. Like her characters, she doesn’t believe in conforming to the social norm. Why do that when you can be yourself?

    Marta is most definitely a Porter character: vibrant, smart, cute (as opposed to the dreaded knock-out gorgeous label), passionate about what matters, and oh-so-wonderfully flawed. These are women those of us in the real world can relate to….This book is great fun for working AND stay-at-home moms, as well as anyone else wishing for a sneak-peek into our club.”

    — Christina Wantz Fixemer, Wantz Upon a Time

  • Odd Mom Out is a true to life story. Jane Porter speaks from the heart.”

    — The Romance Reader Connection

  • Odd Mom Out‘s emphasis is on the relationship between mother and daughter, although the romance gets a little more intense in the latter part of the book. It is a well-written, original, and interesting story that will gain even more fans for Jane Porter. This reviewer will be
    looking forward to reading Ms. Porter’s next offering.”

    — Marilyn Heyman, Romance Reviews Today

  • “Vivid characters and quick dialog support a strong plot…the novel’s got strong appeal for fans of women’s fiction and mom lit.”

    — Amy Brozio-Andrews, Library Journal

  • Odd Mom Out is a fun read… It not only entertained me, but made me think about my own opinions and the decisions I make, or don’t make. Here’s to being just a little bit odd and still happy!”

    — Tammy Petty Conrad, Reader Views

  • “A well-written, original, and interesting story.”

    — Romance Reviews Today

  • “A great read.”

    — Quick and Simple Magazine

  • Odd Mom Out is an engaging tale that examines important issues of today’s world. Behind the entertaining, witty prose are insightful observations about real life.”

    — Karen Greenburg, Woodbury Magazine

  • Odd Mom Out is a story of a mother and daughter trying to find their way in life by staying true to themselves – a delightful read.”

    — Joan Burton,

  • “I personally loved Odd Mom Out. I was able to jump into Marta’s skin. She could be me – or my best friend. Eva’s struggle to make friends – and be popular – is very real as well.

    I enjoy characters who feel real, face the kind of trials we all face, and figure out how to be…happy. Even if it means we need to change the plan for our lives.

    Jane’s writing is fresh. I devoured Odd Mom Out on a trip to Chicago. It has a place on my “keep shelf” of Chick Lit books.”


  • “I loved Jane’s voice in each of her previous books, The Frog Prince and Flirting with Forty and thus I looked forward to this one… I loved this one. There is one section where she talks about a PTO meeting where the moms are divvying up the days of the week to go in to assist the teacher that had me howling… There’s love with a really cool guy, there’s life as Marta’s dad copes with her mom’s dementia and there’s the real world trials of a woman running her own company. It’s in stores the end of September and a real treat.”


  • “Jane Porter’s new novel Odd Mom Out, artfully addresses the conflict women everywhere are facing.”


  • “Best of all is Porter’s take on mother-daughter dynamics.”

    — Newport Daily Press

  • Odd Mom Out is a delightful account of the pressures of an individual who’s definitely her own person and fits no normal profile. It’s funny, entertaining, original and clearly defined with wonderful characters. You can’t help but love Marta and relate to her ups and downs. This story is a must-read.”

    — Fresh Fiction

  • “This former romance-turned-chick-lit writer switch hits for another solid hit in her newest effort after Flirting with Forty… Odd Mom Out is a fun read, perfect for whiling away a lazy Indian summer afternoon.”

    — Stacy Alesi, AKA The BookBitch

  • “This is a triumph of a book. Every beat, character and nuance of plot complement each other perfectly. Single mom Marta’s love for daughter Eva is portrayed so purely, and vice versa, that no matter how prickly the relationship gets, its foundation is always steeped in love.” (awarded four-and-a-half stars, Top Pick!)

    — Lauren Spielberg, Romantic Times BOOKreviews

  • “[Porter’s] musings on balancing work, life and love ring true.”

    — Entertainment Weekly

  • “This is such an amazing and heartwarming tale of a woman and mother. I just got this book and found myself unable to put it down. I had finished reading it within hours of getting it. I am truly charmed with ODD MOM OUT. In fact I had already twice before forcing myself to but it down so I could work on this review. Marta is hilarious. She goes her own way. She doesn’t think twice about what other people might say about her. Luke is a very sexy charming man who would sweep any woman off her feet.”

    — Strictly Romance

  • “Truly one of the best books I’ve read in years, Jane Porter’s Odd Mom Out is the touching tale of a strong, independent woman who, all at once, faces struggles she never anticipated with her precocious daughter, a mysterious stranger and a town where she doesn’t quite fit. It’s Porter’s best novel yet — and that’s saying a lot, as I absolutely loved her previous two books (The Frog Prince, Flirting with Forty).” (September ’07 Chick Lit pick!)

    — Kristin Harmel, The Daily Buzz

  • Odd Mom Out is a winner! Jane Porter shows there is real heart in her stories. Jane knows her characters well and makes sure her readers also get to know them for what they are: Real People. I started this book and after page 1, I was laughing out loud and very hooked, this novel is so addicting. Odd Mom Out showcases Porter’s ability to tell a story that is true to the heart, her readers will love this new story, just like I did. This novel draws upon true to life people and feelings, an honest book that I will be keeping as a collector’s favorite! Jane Porter Rules!”

    — Chad Bowles, Book Cove Reviews

  • “Jane Porter must know firsthand how it feels to not fit in. She nails it poignantly and perfectly in Odd Mom Out. This mommy-lit title is far from fluff… Sensitive characters and a protagonist who doesn’t cave to the in-crowd gives this novel its heft.”

    — USA Today

  • “Porter’s glimpses of Marta’s deep love for Eva, passion for Luke, and fierce, female independent streak make for an absolutely engaging read that every single mom should read – and keep on her nightstand as a source of sisterhood.”

    — Times Record News

  • “Jane Porter has given us a gift with her unique and poignant story of family, love, relationships and being happy in your own skin. My favorite books are the ones that inspire thought and taking a deeper look inside. Odd Mom Out has certainly become one of my favorite books!”

    — CK2S Kwips and Kritiques

  • “As the self-proclaimed ‘Queen of ChickLit,’ I have to say that this book does not disappoint! Odd Mom Out has all of the traditional ‘Jane Porter’ flavor amidst an entirely new storyline. I can really relate to the single-mom aspects of this story and it was a fun reading adventure for me!” (9 out of 10 stars!)

    — A Novel Menagerie

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