Life is a complicated business with no simple fix for damage done, casually or intentionally. In the face of her ex-husband's need for forgiveness, Ruth wonders about its presence, or absence, in the important relationships of her life, the different things it represents to different people and what it really means to her.
People often take refuge in Ruth's friendship. On one level, she is uneasy in the role of mother figure, dispensing home comforts to the motley group working out their own life crises under her roof. On another, she deeply enjoys the sense of living family it brings to the old house.
What should Ruth do about Netherburn? She questions her resistance to the idea of selling the dilapidated family home where she was born. By staying put, is she refusing to embrace life? Gradually Ruth opens up to Larry, a New York artist lodging at Netherburn, and he comes to understand quite how private, and passionate, this woman is. Does he have the strength to forgive himself and move forward in step with her?