Michael and Pauline seemed like the perfect couple - young, good-looking, made for each other. The moment she walked into his mother's grocery store in the Polish neighbourhood of Baltimore, he was smitten. And in the heat of World War II fervour, they were hastily wed. But they never should have married. Pauline, impulsive and impractical, tumbles hit-or-miss through life; Michael, plodding, cautious, and judgemental, proceeds deliberately. In time their foolish quarrels take their toll. A 17-year-old daughter disappears, and some years later this fractious pair is forced to rescue her little boy, named Pagan, from drug-infested San Francisco, to take him home and raise him.
From the sound of the cash register in the old grocery to the counterculture jargon of the sixties, from the miniskirts to the multilayered apparel of later years, Anne Tyler captures the evocative nuances of everyday life during these decades with such telling precision that every page brings smiles of recognition. Throughout, as each of the competing voices bears witness, we are drawn ever more deeply into the complex entanglements of family life in this marvellous, multifaceted novel - one of Anne Tyler's finest.