March 1912: 24-year-old Elspeth Dunn, a published poet, has never seen the world beyond her home on Scotland’s remote Isle of Skye. So she is astonished when her first fan letter arrives, from a college student, David Graham, in far-away America. As the two strike up a correspondence - sharing their favorite books, wildest hopes, and deepest secrets - their exchanges blossom into friendship, and eventually into love. June 1940: At the start of World War II, Elspeth’s daughter, Margaret, has fallen for a pilot in the Royal Air Force. Her mother warns her against seeking love in wartime, an admonition Margaret doesn’t understand....
"Calling all hopeless romantics"
Coming of age, the impact of class, and familial and romantic love are the prevalent motifs, along with the instinct toward escape and subsequent nostalgia for home. Some of the stories are linked, and some carry O'Brien's distinct sense of the comical. In "A Rose in the Heart of New York", the single-mindedness of love dramatically derails the relationship between a girl and her mother while in "Sister Imelda" and "The Creature", the strong ties between teacher and student and mother and son are ultimately broken.
March 1912: Twenty-four-year-old Elspeth Dunn, a published poet and a fisherman’s wife, has never seen the world beyond her home on Scotland’s bucolic Isle of Skye. So she is astonished when a fan letter arrives from an American college student, David Graham. As the two strike up a correspondence - sharing their favourite books, wildest hopes, and deepest secrets - their exchanges blossom into friendship, and eventually into love. But as World War I moves across Europe and David volunteers as an ambulance driver on the Western front, Elspeth can only wait for him on Skye, hoping he comes back alive.
As a Gracekeeper, Callanish administers shoreside burials, laying the dead to their final resting place deep in the depths of the ocean. Alone on her island, she has exiled herself to a life of tending watery graves as penance for a long-ago mistake that still haunts her. Meanwhile, North works as a circus performer with the Excalibur, a floating troupe of acrobats, clowns, dancers, and trainers who sail from one archipelago to the next, entertaining in exchange for sustenance.