The book begins in 1967, when the main character, Willa Drake, is an 11-year-old coping with her volatile mother, and follows her for the next 50 years. In 2017, Willa is 61 and on her second imperfect marriage to a man who is loving but controlling when she receives a phone call that changes her life. Denise, the former girlfriend of Willa’s adult son Sean, has been shot in the leg and is hospitalized. Willa is asked to travel to Baltimore to care for Denise’s 9-year-old daughter, Cheryl. Though Willa isn’t related to Cheryl, she agrees.