Bernie is about to get a second chance at finding happiness in his life, but he has to be ready to take it. Bernie Fine dreamed of becoming a school teacher in a small town while studying in college, but life had other plans for him. He takes up a temporary job at Wolff's, a department store, and soon rises up the levels. Bernie's boss sends him from New York to San Francisco to head a newly opened store with the unwritten promise that he will soon be running the entire chain once he gets back.
Two failed relationships have put him off women, but a chance meeting with Jane, a cute six-year-old, leads him to Elizabeth O'Reilly, Jane's mother who has had to fight several hardships to bring up her daughter alone. Bernie and Liz fall in love and decide to get married. Though Bernie's mom Ruth, a staunch Jew, has reservations about Liz in the beginning and would have preferred her son to have got married to a Jew, Liz wins her over with her love and devotion to Bernie. Ruth and Jane develop an instant attachment to each other and Bernie is relieved. Bernie starts to consider Jane as his own daughter and even takes her along on their honeymoon.
When Liz announces that she is pregnant, Bernie's happiness knows no bounds. But the reappearance of Chandler Scott, Jane's real father and an ex-con throws a dampener on their happiness. Bernie and Liz pay him off on the condition that he will never come back with any claim on Jane.
Liz gives birth to Alexander, but her health does not seem to recover after the delivery. When the doctor tells her that she has cancer, the entire family is shattered. Liz undergoes several sessions of chemotherapy but they fail to save her life. Three years after they got married, Liz dies and Bernie and Jane are left to pick up the pieces.
Soon Chandler Scott reappears and this time, he files a case asking for Jane's custody. The court grants Scott temporary visitation rights and he kidnaps Jane for ransom on his first visit to her. After several anxious days and a whole lot of money on private investigators, Bernie manages to locate her and bring her back home. However, the court thinks that Scott acted out of love for Jane and grants him Jane's custody. On the day Scott is supposed to pick up Jane, he tries to rob a bank and is killed by cops.
Months later, Bernie meets Dr. Megan Jones when he takes Alexander to the hospital for a ear infection and feels attracted to a woman after a long time. Megan is also attracted to the handsome businessman who is also a devoted father to his two kids. But when Bernie asks her home for a meal, Jane feels threatened and behaves rudely to her. Megan promises him that it is a natural reaction and says that it will get resolved in time. Bernie and Megan keep meeting each other regularly and spend New Year's Eve together with the kids away. Ruth takes a liking to Megan when she meets her and hopes that Bernie and Megan will take the relationship forward and get married. But Bernie is tormented by guilt and feels that he is betraying Liz. Jane has a terrible accident, but Megan along with a team of doctors are able to save her.
When Bernie is offered a chance to return to New York and run the entire departmental chain, he realizes that he wants to remain in San Francisco with Megan and the children and open his own departmental store. Bernie proposes to Megan, but Megan tells him that they have to ask Jane first and understand how she feels. Jane is happy that they loved her enough to ask her opinion and agrees to the wedding. Megan promises to love them all as her own children forever.
Best part of story, including ending:
It is a wonderfully touching story of a good man and two beautiful women who come into his life. Liz and Megan are as different as they could be, but they are both perfect for him in their own way.
Best scene in story:
The night before Liz dies, she has some sort of a premonition and she wakes up from her sleep and asks to meet the children. She hugs and kisses them and tells that she loves them a lot. Then she spends the rest of the night in Bernie's arms and Bernie wonders whether her newfound energy means that she is getting better. But the next morning, when he wakes up, he understands that Liz passed way in her sleep, lying in his arms. He tries to waken her, but is not able to. He opens the door and keeps running for miles on the beach, with tears streaming down his face. I lost my mother to cancer and this scene had me in tears, remembering her once more.
Opinion about the main character:
Bernie loves Jane as his own child and is ready to even fight with her real father to keep him away from her. When Jane feels jealous of Megan's entry into their life, he does not resent it, but he understands her fears and reassures her that he would still continue to love her.