When Robyn Panek is summoned by her ailing uncle Pal to operate his pony ring for one final season on his Massachusetts farm, her years away form the vacation spot of her youth seem an unbridgeable gap. But she is pulled by forces stronger than memory to piece together the events of that last childhood summer -- when a dark mystery swirled about her friend Lucy Dragon. They called her crazy, and Robyn must at last uncover the truth about Lucy's sudden disappearance -- and make peace with her own first love, Frankie. Now the future of Pal's six ponies, who circle the ring five times for a dollar a ride, is as uncertain as Robyn's own, as she confronts the past she ran from so long ago.
Shea's bestselling Hoopi Shoopi Donnaand Lily of the Valleyestablished her as a chronicler of Polish-American life with a wholesome and heartwarming, if sometimes treacly, style. Now she focuses on Robyn Panek, who returns to the Massachusetts farm where she spent childhood summers. Her Uncle Pal, too old and sickly to tend to the farm, asks her to run the pony ring for one last summer before he sells the property. Robyn obliges, and finds herself haunted by memories of betrayal. During her last summer on the farm, 18-year-old Robyn, readying for college in the fall, befriended boarder Lucy Dragon, a disturbed teenager sent by her parents to reap the psychological benefits of living in a rural setting. While Lucy and Robyn became fast friends, roaming the farm and its environs with Robyn's boyfriend, Frankie, the summer ended in heartbreak: a neighbor's baby vanished and Robyn realized that neither Lucy nor Frankie were what they seemed. Now, 22 years later, both Lucy and Frankie resurface to make amends. While die-hard fans will appreciate the folksy touches that capture the charm of a smalltown community stuck in a time warp Frankie works at the Day n' Night Dairy; a set of signs outside Pal's farm advertise "Clover Honey, Brown Eggs... Perfectly Round Rocks, Lucky Horseshoes (Used), Your Name in Cement" Shea's narrative meanders between the present and the past, with the central surprise hinted at so heavily that it is robbed of suspense by the time it is revealed. Without the anchor of a compelling plot, this novel feels like its title a retread of themes explored better in the author's previous books.