The author of the well-received House on the Hill (1987) presents another Scottish family coming to terms with its past. Finn Lochlan and his dad, a teacher forced into early retirement, live with his recently widowed Granny on a farm that Mr. Lothian is too depressed to manage. Finn's fantasy life centers on Hirsay, the desolate island where Grandpa grew up. When Douglas Cooper comes to do his agricultural training on their farm, all three respond; Finn, especially, warms to the big, hearty man. Then Douglas brings his son, 11 to Finn's 10, for a visit; at first, each boy ia wary of the other, but when Finn learns that Chris has frailties to balance the strengths he envies, they become friends. Fulfilling Finn's lifelong dream, he joins the Coopers in an expedition to Hirsay in search of the rare ""pathan"" plant, a potent folk remedy bidding for medical recognition. Hirsay's forbidding weather and terrain manifest why Grandpa and other inhabitants were evacuated 60 years earlier, challenging Finn's idylh with stem reality; worse, heedless vandals have destroyed the pathan with a fire. It turns out, however, that Grandpa kept a small cache of the seeds. Despite some contrivance--e.g., a dramatic cliff-rescue demonstrating both Chris's mettle and Douglas's vulnerability--these are thoughtfully developed people, and the meshing of their lives is both unusual and believable.