A novel of secrets, redemption, and the healing power of nature. When Jane Avery arrives at the Deerfield estate to interview for the position of caretaker, the job isn’t quite what she anticipated. Charlotte Deerfield, a temperamental artist, and her enigmatic secretary Bella are the only inhabitants of the mansion in a seaside New England town, and Jane’s first impression is that the two women are slightly cracked.
But Jane is harboring a secret, the privacy of the place suits her, and she accepts. The estate also appeals to the town, the land trust, and the art association, all of which have designs on Charlotte’s property. Drafted to lead nature walks on the estate, Jane finds herself in the company of avid birders, aspiring artists, actors from the local theater, and a group of conservationists who don’t think she’s up to the job.
When a rare bird alights and a child goes missing on the estate, Jane seems to have lost control of this last shred of her life. Why has an intelligent young woman like Jane fled to this isolated place? Why does she freeze every time she sees a soaring hawk in the sky?
What does Charlotte hope to accomplish by painting her life story backward in an egotistical “Retrospective in Retrospective” and to whom will she leave Deerfield in the end? Like Jane, Charlotte is hiding a secret, a tragedy that dates back sixty years, and it is Bella, the seemingly insignificant secretary, who holds the key.