All her life, she had feared death by water. All her life, she had imagined the death would be her own.
Every year, the Connelly family spends its summers at Carter's House in Sweetharbour, New England. It's a peaceful place, full of happy memories, the scent of pinewoods and a spectacular view of the coastline. And every summer Ruth's teenage children, Will and Josie, try to persuade their mother to give up her prestigious job at a Boston law firm and move there permanently. But Ruth has worked too hard, too long, to want to start again at the bottom.
This summer seems far removed from those idyllic days. Ruth and her husband Paul are growing apart, and her relationship with Josie, an impetuous, artistic young woman, has reached breaking point. Ruth tries to tell herself that Josie is just a mass of bewildered hormones, but it pains her to see the hatred in her daughter's eyes.
One fateful afternoon they go on a boating trip together and are caught in a terrible storm during which Josie is swept overboard. Her body is never recovered and the family is tormented by grief and guilt. Ruth buries herself in her work and refuses to discuss the tragic events, and Paul cannot bear it when his wife pushes him away all the time. Will strives valiantly to cope with his own loss and keep the family together, but it is a huge responsibility for a fourteen-year-old boy.