Rosie Mortimer, celebrity gardener with a successful TV show, has a pleasantly uneventful life with her undemanding beau. Her gay son and his partner live nearby. When her estranged daughter Susannah, product of a fractured family, returns to Rosie's Connecticut town with her husband, a former priest, to open a restaurant, the tense relationships among these three build to a near-tragedy.
Emily Lime and her equally palindromic dog Otto live in Williamsburg, Brooklyn (zip code 11211), in a warm community of friends and fellow artists. Her life becomes more complicated when she falls in love with Marcus, a dog walker and fellow Scrabble nut whose father is Emily's shady ex-husband, who wants the lovable Emily dead. A mystery unravels, a valuable lost cache of paintings is found, and Emily's life changes in ways she could not have anticipated.
Dorrie Gilbert, a potter who lives alone, is completely unprepared for motherhood when her oddball, overweight, and orphaned nephew Hugo comes to live with her, demanding to know the truth about his parents and horrified that she doesn't own a television so he can watch the soap opera he's devoted to. As Dorrie and Hugo attempt to work things out, each learns some hard and surprising, but deeply satisfying, truths about real life.
Betsy Ruscoe, a single university professor in her mid-30s, is pregnant, and the man she thought she loved is not interested in fatherhood. At the same time, her dying mother begs Betsy to find the woman who gave her up for adoption at birth 50 years ago and then disappeared. Betsy struggles to cope with the changes in her life as she also sets out on a quest to uncover her mother's surprising history.
The world of this novel moves back in time as the layers are peeled away to reveal the truth about a long-ago family tragedy that impacts the characters' lives for years after. Beginning with a young college student haunted by her own choices and ending with the surprisingly serene image of an aging woman looking back on her turbulent life, the story encompasses a panorama of events set against the changing social backdrop of the middle years of the 20th century.
Cordelia Miller, an endearing, young misfit in a scholarly, cultured family, loves junk food, TV, and the son of the local grocer. Her attempt to escape her stifling background and find her way in the world takes her on a classic journey from innocence to experience. She encounters a varied cast of characters--some comic, some calamitous--and in the end discovers her true vocation.
A chance encounter on a train leads painter Christine Ward to wonder whether Orin Pierce, her beloved college friend, believed dead for two decades, may actually be alive. As she begins to track down the man she believes he might be, she finds herself in the grip of a troubling past she thought she had come to terms with. In her search through the tangles of truth and illusion, memory and dream, she questions her roles as lover, mother, artist, and mourner of the dead.