When an epidemic fever hits Stockholm in the early 1800s, Ursula's parents succumb. Her aunt and uncle, living on the island of Gotland across the Baltic Sea, welcome her and she soon adjusts to her new life, although the loss of her parents is always with her. When Aunt Dana makes her annual October sailing trip to Stockholm to sell the sweaters she has knitted during the year, Ursula is terrified that the Galatina will be lost in an early storm. Vicious storms strike in November, destroying a ship just outside Gotland's harbor. It's not the Galatina, but the rescued crew reports that Aunt Dana's ship left a week before theirs did. As weeks go by with no word, Ursula's hopes wane. The only person on the island who can't knit, Ursula tries to make mittens in a difficult pattern called ""safe return"" that is supposed to bring good fortune. The first mitten is completed and the Galatina sails into the harbor. In this short but stirring book, Dexter (A is for Apple, W is for Witch, p. 687, etc.) evokes with feeling a simpler way of life. Particularly poignant is the effect Ursula's hopes has on others--she brings genuine pain to those who have given up and are ready to mourn; tension builds in each scene as her determined wishes come up against the ostensibly more realistic views of everyone else. The happy ending becomes as much a relief for readers as it is for the characters living it. A memorable story.