Even in late summer, the Nova Scotia farmhouse to which Vernon brings his wife (Caroline) and daughter (Shelley, 16) is cold and fog-bound; Shelley, who customarily manages most household arrangements for querulous, self-centered Caroline, is at first dismayed by its isolation. Soon, however, she is captivated by the beauty of the coast and happy in friendships with local, salt-of-the-earth neighbors--especially Arian, a fisherman's son who lives next door. It becomes evident, however, that Vernon is dying; Shelley also discovers that Vemon's father grew up in this community, and Vernon has brought them here in the hope that it will provide a safe home for Shelley in spite of her flighty mother. Murray's earlier books (The Peaceable Warrior, Odin's Eye) were laden with melodrama. Here, Shelley at one point loses everything important to her--her father dies, her mother abandons her (a good thing, that, but since she's underage it does introduce uncertainty), and she has what seems to be a terminal misunderstanding with Arian. When things take a turn for the better, all problems are neatly solved--but not implausibly: bad years can be, mercifully, followed by good ones. Shelley and her new friends are vital characters, individually drawn, and not quite too good to be true; the suspense--as well as the satisfaction--derives from seeing her cope assertively with her truly awful mother and find herself a productive new life.