A deeply felt second outing (after True North, 2000) about lovely, old-fashioned things like character, commitment, and quiet courage.
Miranda Perry, a young widow with a six-year-old son, is going home—temporarily, she thinks. Her adored father turned out not to be the imperishable figure he always seemed, and Miranda faces the desolating aftermath of his sudden, totally unexpected death. Home is Perry Hill in Oregon’s Willamette Valley: 125 acres, 25 of them planted to grapes in her father’s small though brilliantly successful vineyard. It’s been left to Miranda's stewardship, but the awkward truth is that she has no desire to be a winemaker, has no talent for it, and has a painstakingly honed talent that lies elsewhere: An award-winning chef de cuisine, she has her life in San Francisco, where she has battled to carve a niche for herself—albeit a tenuous one that, given the ongoing ferocity of restaurant competition, would be at risk from a prolonged Perry Hill stay. (“You cooked or were cooked; there was always someone to take your place.”) Clearly, the pragmatic thing for Miranda would be to sell Perry Hill—acquisitive hands hovering over deep pockets appear more than ready to pay handsomely. But people she loves would suffer as a result: Bridie, for instance. Bridget Marie McLewan, best friend at college, has remained close to Miranda through the years, a rock to lean on in time of trouble. And there’s big trouble for Bridie now, since she’s been injured—maybe harmed permanently—in a dog-sled smash-up during Alaska’s Iditarod. She needs loving care of a kind easy to dispense at Perry Hill. And there are others similarly in need: “Miranda’s collection,” is what Bridie calls it—a Perry Hill, not a San Francisco, collection.
Carefully written, seamlessly plotted, wine-country backgrounds fully realized. And if the happy ending is a tad predictable, few will cavil: the appealing characters richly deserve it.