Soft-centered, mildly appealing drama--as the ice-coated heart of a lonely woman thaws to love and life. Sara Will, 50-ish, living with sister Swanee Hope in an isolated South Carolina home, is ""strangled"" by past griefs: the lingering death of her mother; the earlier shocking death of her beautiful young sister, just-married Serena. But Sara clings to her spare orderly existence despite her irritation with Swanee Hope, a silly, TV-watching widow with a callous grown son in California and grandchildren she's never seen. And Sara's favorite solitary occupation (when not keeping the old house in passable repair or tamping down her sister's frivolity) is tending the old cemetery nearby--while grieving over the inaccessibility of Serena's grave, now on a tiny island in a manmade lake. (The promised bridge to that island has never been built.) Then into the sisters' spare world comes their middle-aged brother-in-law Lafayette Jessop, who's nicknamed ""Fate"" (what else?). With him is unwed, teen-age Eva and her baby Rachel. They're all on the run--pursued by Eva's parents (who want her to give up the baby) and by Michael Logan, a classmate who wants to marry her. At first, outraged by the shelter-seeking visitors, Sara expects to send them packing, in spite of Swanee Hope's pleas. (These people are ""invading her space."") But, little by little, Sara's stern isolation is eroded by the quiet courage and determination of Eva, the good-hearted warmth of Fate. And so the winter holidays turn out to be celebrations--which include Michael's arrival, Fate's declaration of affection (even love) for Sara, emotional crises (Eva's parents show up, Fate totals Sara's cherished Mustang), and a multi-pronged happy ending. Gentle, genteel prods--about people needing people and heady new wine pouring into old bottles.