Nora Stuart grew up on Scupper Island, Maine, a small island three miles from the state’s coast and was shaped by two major events in her life: her father’s departure when she was 12-years old and pretty awful high school years. Her salvation was winning a competitive scholarship only available to islanders that took her away from her hometown for the next 15 years, even though that came at a price. When she’s injured in an accident, Nora returns to Scupper to recuperate, facing a community who’s not necessarily receptive, a seemingly detached mother and her niece whose mother hasn’t wanted a relationship with her since their father left.
There’s so much I loved about this story. On the surface, Nora seems so well put together. She’s a successful doctor, has a loving boyfriend and has a sunny disposition. When a traumatic event robs her of that optimism about life, she’s forced to deal with her past and the people who actually shaped her. At first, I was leery about this character but the more I learned about her, the more I respected her bootstrapping approach to life. She has every reason to be vindictive but it never even occurs to her to take that path. There are some very strong themes that resonate loudly in this story that gave me pause, especially those about family loyalty. Nora certainly hung in there longer than I would have but her payoff for doing so was significant.
Higgins is an auto read author for me and I really am liking her shift to contemporary fiction. There are strong romantic elements here but that’s not the central theme. Nora’s resilience was inspiring and her commitment to the people in her life, even when they gave her every reason to bolt, provided me with teachable moments. Loved this story and couldn’t put it down.
(I received an ARC from NetGalley in exchange for an unbiased review)