A quiet, carefully crafted, realistic novel about a stranger whose presence jostles Felicity, 12, into new perceptions of family and friends. Felicity rescues a man who suddenly appears in dangerous waters as the tide sweeps in. He's taken in at her mother's boardinghouse, but proves a conundrum: claiming to be Albert Ross, just returned from India whence his luggage and funds will follow, he charms everyone with his manners and compliments--until Felicity's friend Bony points out that Ross gave his name while looking at a poster of birds featuring an albatross. Is Ross the ghost of the ominous bird? A con man? A criminal? Bony tests Ross on countries he claims to have visited; Ross fails. But Felicity clings to his friendship--her mother is overbrisk, supporting the family while her alcoholic, ineffectual father looks for work. Besides, Felicity is a hopeless klutz, and rescuing Ross has given her recognition. But the family can't afford a nonpaying guest. It's Dad who finally confronts Ross, who departs, and the anxieties engendered by that departure lead to a second rescue: timid Bony climbs a cliff with the help of Felicity, who learns a lot about their friendship and complementary strengths in the process. It's what might have been that causes the suspense here; interest also arises from the sharply delineated characters and the tension between imagination and reality. Well done, but less involving than The Cuckoo Sister.