The story begins with the ordinary life of Helen O'Doherty, a married woman with two children, whose husband and two sons were heading off early to visit the husband's family. Helen was to join them later, but soon after her family left, a stranger (Paul) came to her door saying that he was a friend of her brother Declan, and that Declan was in the hospital and wanted to see her. Paul drove Helen to the hospital and while driving there told her that Declan was dying of AIDS. It is left to Helen to tell their mother and their grandmother the news. None of them had known that Declan was gay, let alone dying of AIDS. Declan requested that they go to stay at his grandmother's place, so the three of them plus two of Declan's friends descended upon "Granny".
There is a long history of distrust between the generations. Helen's mother had not been invited to Helen's wedding and had never met Helen's two sons. As it ended up Helen, her mother and her grandmother seemed to all be unable to open up to each other in any meaningful way. And as it turns out, each of the three was profoundly affected by the loss of Helen's father years before. As Helen and her mother were talking, her mother said to her:
"You know, I thought your father would live forever. So I learned things very bitterly."..."If I could meet him here for one minute now, your father, you know, even if he were to be allowed to pass us on the strand here, here now, when it's nearly night. And not speak, just take us in with his eyes. If he was only to know, or see, or acknowledge with a flicker of his eyes what is happening to us."
There are really two stories within this book: how Declan comes to terms with dying and how the three women are rather forced, because of the circumstances, to be together, which in turn allows old hurts to unravel and begin to heal. It's a good book.