The mystery of why her mother suddenly took a job at a summer artists' refuge far from home is solved when 12-year-old Raine meets Gray James, the father she never knew.
But that's only a piece of the puzzle of what was and what could be at Sparrow Road and in her life. The crumbling country estate, a former orphanage, is a place readers will want to explore. It is suffused with a sense of longing, the same wistful atmosphere surrounding the characters in this beautifully written novel, with its leisurely revelation of secrets and sad events of the past. Remarkably, O'Connor has peopled her story almost entirely with grown-ups: Raine's family; Viktor, the mysterious owner; and Lillian, Josie, Diego and Eleanor, artists working there for the summer. These are well-developed secondary characters, each with a distinct personality, but this is fully Raine's tale. The adults nurture her, but they also set her free to discover herself, her family and her own artistry. She and Josie, the quilt maker, piece together the history of the house while Raine imagines, dreams and reconstructs her former contentment, shattered by revelations about her father’s alcoholism and her grandfather’s anger. Set perhaps 30 years ago, the specific time and place are unimportant.
Readers finding themselves in this quiet world will find plenty of space to imagine and dream for themselves. (Fiction. 10-14)