Mary finally marries and starts a family, after years of taking care of her brother and father. Mary and John raise four children who come of age during the Vietnam War . Mary Rose , single twenty- nine and a virgin lives at home fulfilling the matriarch role of taking care of the household. Mary Rose resides with her father and adult brother and takes on the role her mother left when she died. Mary Rose's life is filled with routine of working at as an office pool secretary and longing for love.
When she runs into her brother's friend George she asks if may join her for lunch. He's in a rush to get back to work and shyly asks her out on a dinner date instead. She agrees but isn't all that excited. When she stops at a lunch counter to dine alone she takes note of the well dressed man sitting next to her. He is brash and doesn't speak until he reaches over her to leave his tip for the waitress.
That evening George picks her up and they head out to a steak house recommended by one his buddies. Conversation is slow she's heard his stories over dinner at her house a thousand times. She wonders why her brother and father were so ecstatic over George's invitation.
She sees the stranger from the lunch counter on her way into her office building a few days later. This time he speaks. She is pulled again toward his handsome looks. She makes a decision this is who she will marry. Sorry George.
John is steady and while he isn't a romantic, he is ten years older and provides a home for Mary as she continues to work as a typist. Her co-worker Pauline loves to gossip and the two have been hanging for lunch together since Mary started the job. Pauline is an unhappy woman but refuses to settle for a man who doesn't light sparks in her heart.
John and Mary have four children, two boys and two girls. Mary stops working after the first boy is born. She wants John to be more engaged with the children, but he remains steady and predictable.
Michael, the oldest boy seems to rub his father the wrong way. Mary feels they should be closer but doesn't know how to make that happen. With Annie, John isn't as hard. Jacob the third born, was named after a young man who served during WWII with John and was killed on his first day of action. The family is Catholic and Jacob is a Jewish name. Jacob is teased at school for his name and Michael adds to things at home. The baby girl Clare comes later, born at home after a hurricane and delivered in part by Mr. Persichetti, a neighbor who lives across the street. The fact that another man has seen his wife's private parts is a source of embarrassment to John.
Mr. Persichetti, is also an RN at the local mental hospital, and a part-time construction worker. His son Tony is drafted for Vietnam and comes back with a drug problem. His sister Susan and Alice are the same age. When Susan gets pregnant Alice helps her pay for an abortion and goes with her to the clinic. Her father never finds out.
Michael marries and has two children of his own. He has grown out of his competitive and jealous nature he's had with Jacob.
Alice goes to college in New York but spends time in Paris as an exchange student. She has a mind of her own and although she hopes to marry one day she is in no rush. Feminism, war, and access to birth control give her more options than her mother could have ever dreamed about.
Clare gets pregnant by her first boyfriend a shy boy named Gregory. Clare was his first date and girlfriend as well. The couple was on a blind date by Alice and the boy's sister. The two women attend the same college. Shame faced Clare's parents meet Gregory's and blame is tossed back and forth. His parents said it takes two to tangle. And John says there will not be a shot gun wedding. Clare thinks adoption would be best.
The nuns say there is no way Clare will be allowed to set a bad example for the school. She can graduate by completing the term at home and will not be allowed to take part in the graduation proceedings.
Gregory decides to step up and tells his parents he will marry Clare. Pauline has come to live with the family after taking a nasty fall. She'd never married and was diagnosed with depression. When she was admitted to the mental institution she had her first gynecological exam (much to Clare's amazement).
Clare tells her parents she and Gregory will move into their basement and if they are serious about retiring to Florida Pauline can stay with them. They will find a way to make rent payments until they can buy the house. She isn't apologetic about being pregnant. She and Gregory will work things out.
John and Mary have done the best the could with their four adult offspring. The world has changed a great deal and Mary leans on her faith believing like Clare that things will work out.
Best part of story, including ending:
I hated that Mary didn't stand up to John more.
Best scene in story:
My favorite scene was when Clare said Pauline could live with her and Gregory.
Opinion about the main character:
I disliked that Mary wasn't stronger when standing up for her girls.