They have come to look at the pumphouse, which Laura Blackwood often lets out to students; the income from the rental helps Laura support herself and her 12-year-old daughter Beth. Her ex-husband Simon's support is sporadic at best, since he has a second family with three sons.
Surprisingly, the strangers are not ordinary renters, but a social worker who is there to "place" his seventeen-year-old charge Willow. Even as the situation slowly unfolds during the meeting, the enormity of it doesn't completely insert itself into Laura's awareness until some time later. By then, she is irretrievably entangled in the arrangement.
Over the next several months, the world around Laura and her brood will unravel in increasingly more dangerous ways. The dangers from the world outside through floods are only the first of many such events. Then there are the shifts in family dynamics that herald other dangers.
Will Beth's sudden rebellions reveal an underlying negative influence? What, if anything, does Willow have to do with the young girl's acting-out behavior? What secrets are both Willow and Beth keeping, and how will these inadvertent untruths impact and imperil their lives? And how will the recurring presence of Willow's birth mother, Marianne, affect all of the characters?
As the reader comes to understand some of the secrets and to evaluate the relationships, the characters will begin to show themselves and their true colors.
The author's prose was beautiful, describing the world in which the characters lived, as well as their interactions. The dialogue very typically exemplified the difficulties of the single-parent family, and how adding or subtracting elements from the mix can cause irrevocable shifts. The environment and its unpredictable floods seemed metaphorical for the shifting family dynamics. Five stars for this story that brought up all the emotions I have experienced as a single parent, unsure of the effects of others upon my children, and powerless to change what is happening in the world outside the home.