When the Firelight Girls’ summer camp is about to be closed, a few of its former campers return to the best memories of their childhood.
Ethel doesn’t relish the job, but someone has to clean up Camp Firelight to ready it for sale. The camp, on a lake in Washington, has felt like home for most of her life: first as a camper there in 1940; then as a counselor in the 1950s, where she met her life partner, Haddie; and later as its director until her retirement to a cabin only a canoe ride away. Haddie has passed away (though she's not entirely gone—Ethel drew a face on her urn and attached a yarn wig), and it seems Ethel’s whole life is collapsing. She emails camp alumni to help clear out, and those who come bring both memories and problems. First to arrive is Ruby, Ethel’s bosom buddy until family pressure (because of Ethel and Haddie’s relationship) forced her to shun her friend. Now she's looking for forgiveness. Shannon and Laura arrive, both in their 40s and at a crossroads—Laura is considering divorcing her husband, and Shannon has just given up on her teaching career. Unbeknownst to everyone, 15-year-old Amber is hiding in one of the cabins, having run away from a dangerous home life. Much of the novel is given to flashbacks to a time in the four women’s lives that felt powerful and boundless. Now, as adults, they wonder how they can regain that resilience. The camp works as a balm to Amber, who, after she's discovered, is nurtured for the first time in years. Somehow things turn out surprisingly well; everyone chalks it up to the magic of the camp, though it could be an authorial desire for happy endings.
A likable, if somewhat predictable, tale of female friendship and resiliency.