For two quietly unhappy years, linguist Claire Gallagher has been living deep in the New Hampshire woods, enduring a polite but strained marriage to a highly respected scientist. Once a determined overachiever and academic star in her own right, she now spends her days avoiding her stalled dissertation and creating EZ crossword puzzles. But for all Claire's knowledge of words and their meanings, the meaning in her own life eludes her. One bleak morning in winter, she announces that she's leaving.
By nightfall, at the urging of her younger sister Noelle, Claire finds herself heading to the last place she thought she would ever go: Ireland -- the birthplace of her abrasive, chronically ill mother and the country Noelle, a college dropout, now calls home. In a small town on the Irish coast, Claire's struggle to move ahead with her life takes her deep into the puzzles of her past -- in a world in which there are no simple answers, and the only questions that matter are those of the heart.