Tyler Spool“It was a beautiful, breezy, yellow-and-green afternoon. . .” This is how Abby Whitshank always begins the story of how she fell in love with Red that day in July 1959. The Whitshanks are one of those families that radiate togetherness: an indefinable, enviable kind of specialness. But they are also like all families, in that the stories they tell themselves reveal only part of the picture. Abby and Red and their four grown children have accumulated not only tender moments, laughter, and celebrations, but also jealousies, disappointments, and carefully guarded secrets. From Red’s father and mother, newly arrived in Baltimore in the 1920s, to Abby and Red’s grandchildren carrying the family legacy boisterously into the twenty-first century, here are four generations of Whitshanks, their lives unfolding in and around the sprawling, lovingly worn Baltimore house that has always been their anchor.

Tyler, he announced, was America’s “foremost NutraSweet novelist”, her “annoyingly synthetic” fiction “seriously diluted by the promiscuous use of artificial sweeteners”; what she offered were “sedative resolutions to life’s most grievous and perplexing problems”.

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Yet her fans will recognize it instantly, with all the satisfaction one associates with a pleasant recurring dream. It’s Baltimore as Brigadoon, a place whose residents leave rarely, often with difficulty, and sometimes at their own peril.

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The discoveries in these final pages are likely to force readers to reflect back on the earlier chapters and view them in an entirely new — and much darker — light. Here we see the truth about every love story: It was merely an accident of chance.

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