Mack Humbel's past holds a recurring theme of loss, for her father died in a fire after saving Mack and her younger sister, Amaryllis; the girls sent him back into the blaze with pleas to save their dog. Amaryllis has not spoken since that day, and the family has lived a gypsy's life, moving from place to place. Homer's Cove, a small hamlet in the Adirondacks, provides a new start, where the misanthropic Mack reluctantly discovers the extraordinary in everyday encounters and surroundings. Details of antiques, the small town, and its people overwhelm the first half of the story, as Mack skips from one holiday to the next, marking time. At the same time, Martin imbues ordinary events with meaning: eating monkey bread at the local bakery, taking in a Fourth of July fireworks display, paddling a canoe in a flooded basement, creating a ""memory jug"" with tokens from the past. Larger plot elements are given more conventional treatment: Amaryllis is provoked into speaking, Mack is spooked into accepting Harry, her mother's boyfriend, after fearing that he is part of an accident on the icy highway. Despite the drawbacks, Mack is a strong-willed character fighting to open up to the possibilities of new friends and feelings.