Seventeen-year-old Olivia hasn’t seen her father since she was eight months old. But when he summons her out of the blue, Olivia travels cross country to New Hampshire to meet him. That summer, she learns to adapt to rural life and to try to understand her reclusive father. The next summer, following high school graduation, she returns to recreate her father’s seventy-mile annual bike ride—reflecting on her own personal journey to understand the true meaning of love and kinship.
When Olivia is summoned by her father, a man she barely remembers, to determine whether she is worthy of inheriting his legacy, she embarks on a personal odyssey that teaches her the true meaning of love and kinship.
After ignoring Olivia for most of her 16 years, her father summons her to his rural New Hampshire home. She leaves her mother's California house to meet him, understanding neither his reclusion ("If it was true that no man is an island, my father was at least a peninsula,'') nor his need to see her. The summer passes, and while they spend much of their time exchanging barbs, Olivia and her father soften their feelings toward each other. She learns that she has an extended family, a new set of relatives, feeling no longer like a star, but part of a constellation. A year later, after her father's sudden death, Olivia returns to his home which will be hers when she is older. She reflects on the past, on those parts of herself that come from her mother or father, and those parts that are uniquely hers. Her father has given her the ability to see where she is going and where she has been at the same time. Olivia's emotional growth and eventual calm become the reader's own; Fleishman's gift for packing each sentence with both obvious and reflective meaning is evident here. The adolescent view is intelligent, mature and believable. (12-up)