This book opens with a scene female readers of a certain age will adore: Nan Powell, 65, stops for a skinny dip in her absent neighbor's pool, then cycles into a local village smoking all the way, scandalizing a family of tourists.
"What has happened to people?" Nan thinks, as she traverses the cobblestones. "When did we become so precious?" A family of six passes her, father, mother, then four little ones, like four little ducklings with sparkly aerodynamic helmets on. "When did our children have to wear helmets, When did we all become so scared?"
Nan Powell's great virtue is that she doesn't become scared easily, even after her financial adviser tells her she's in dire straits. After her husband committed suicide, drowning himself one morning, Nan grew tough, raising her son Michael on her own, living her life on her own terms. Now she's become the resident eccentric in a town of tourists, known for her beauty and her trademark red lipstick.
Facing the new challenge, Nan turns her home into a summer bed and breakfast, and draws a circle of new friends around her, all come to the beach to heal themselves -- a divorcee still recovering from her husband's infidelity, a young father of two girls struggling with his sexual orientation, and Nan's son Michael, on the rebound after a disastrous love affair of his own. Soon the rambling old house has come to life with the sound of children laughing, life streaming all around.
The plot takes some unexpected twists and turns -- there are some nasty developers on the scene, naturally -- but this is a sweetly memorable summer story, capturing the relaxing, renewing quality of life at the shore, when we find ourselves on the edge of something new.