The amorphous, portentous setting is an unidentified shore where Cassie Binegar (""whose name rhymes with vinegar"") and her family have just moved, from further inland, to be near her father and brothers' fishing boat. Cassie is unhappy for lack of a ""space"" of her own. She is disturbed because her grandfather died after she yelled at him. She is embarrassed by her family's unfettered ways--and envies new friend Margaret Mary her proper house and parents. Worse still are Cassie's arriving, Dickensian relatives: Gran, a sibyl in pants; Uncle Hat, forever hatted, who talks in numbers and rhymes; silly Cousin Coralee, swathed in feathers, and her prattling infant, Baby Binnie. Since nothing rings of the American here-and-now, one's first thought is that this is some Highland fastness, some redoubt of eccentricity, poetry, and romance. But though Margaret Mary is said to come from England, the Binegars are truly of no time and place--and that's both an attraction and a weakness. The story is Cassie's accommodation to imperfection and change. A writer comes to stay at one of the family cottages, encourages Cassie to ask her questions, and falls in love with Cousin Coralee--who starts to leave off her feathers. ""Everyone has his own way of hiding,"" says Uncle Hat: ""Twelve and two/ The same with you."" Margaret Mary, contemptuous of her mother's plastic flowers, plants marigolds: ""They won't always look the same."" Her grandfather, Gran tells her, was also dissatisfied: ""He never learned that most things are only there for a moment, quiet perfect and fine, like snow."" And just before he died, he yelled too. Every motif has its opposite number--for a story about waywardness and flux, this is highly patterned--and almost every moment is a rapt one. But introspective girls will readily put themselves in Cassie's place.