Ten years ago, Nicole Hunter left her troubled home behind her, unable to cope with the demands of a life with her disabled sister, Jenny. Though her search for happiness—both in career and in love—has fallen short of her dreams, Nicole pretends that all is well. Then a shattering event turns her world upside down, and suddenly, she is back in her hometown, caring for her pregnant sister and trying to heal her embattled relationship with her mother.
Reunited with her family and forced to confront the guilt that haunts her, Nicole finally has the chance to be the sister she always wished she’d been. And when she is faced with the most difficult choice of her life, Nicole rediscovers the beauty of sisterhood—and receives a special gift that will change her life forever.
Hatvany's third novel (after Outside the Lines) grabs the reader with a disturbing premise, then gently relents as the characters follow a predictable linear path to the d nouement. Nicole is working in a bakery in San Francisco when she has a sudden urge to call her mother, from whom she's been estranged for years. When she does, she hears tragic news: her mentally disabled sister, Jenny, has been raped by a nurse's aide at the institution where she lives, and is pregnant. Nicole, who left her family a decade earlier due to her anger at her parents' decision to place Jenny in a home, now must return to Seattle to help her sister and face her own choices. Once there, as a sort of penance for abandoning her family, Nicole removes Jenny from the institution and sees her through the pregnancy at their mother's home. Her boyfriend back in San Francisco is less than supportive, and Jenny is forced to face the demons she left behind and analyze why her life isn't what she had hoped for. After the initial shock of the setup, Hatvany eschews any possibilities at complicating her story line, instead following a disappointingly direct route to closure.