This is a story about a new cardiac center attached to St Brigid's Hospital in Dublin and the lives of the people that work there, the lives of the patients and how they intertwine. Dr Clara Casey takes up an appointment to head a new cardiac unit in a Dublin hospital. She is not happy with the post, having missed out on a marvelous job in a cardiac unit in London, but decides to take it on for 12 months. Clara has two daughters, Adi who is 23 and a teacher and Linda, 21, who is a student and rather lost. Both the girls live at home. Adi and her boyfriend, Gerry are both vegans and passionate about saving the planet and eventually go off to save a rain forest. Clara is separated from her husband, Alan, who left her for a younger model, Cinta. Cinta is now pregnant and Alan wants a divorce so her can marry her.
Frank Ennis is head of the administrative department of the hospital and tries to make problems where there aren't any. He continually clashes with Clara but she knows how to handle him. Clara sets up the unit and employs her staff. She employs a dietitian called Lavender to assist the patients-to-be with changes in diet and she employs a young, strong man called Johnny as the physiotherapist. Clara also engages Ania Prasky, a young Polish immigrant, to be her general helper. Ginger haired Declan Carroll is a doctor and lives at home with his parents, Molly and Paddy. Of course, no clinic is complete without the nurses and here Clara employs two young nurses called Barbara and Fiona. Tim is taken on as the security guy and Hilary Hickey is Clara assistant. The stage is now set with many of the characters in place. Binchy also has characters reappearing from other books, like Nora from Evening Class and most of the meals are set at Quentin's.
When Declan overhears Fiona say to a patient that he must be married, because all the good ones are taken, he plucks up the courage to ask her out. They go to Quentin's and hit it off immediately. They see a lot of each other and visit Fiona's family and arrange to visit Declan's family. Declan's father, Paddy, is a gentle soul but is mother, Molly is rather a fuss pot, so for Declan to bring his first ever girlfriend for them to meet means a new coats of paint in the rooms and new curtains. Just before Fiona and Declan arrive, Paddy takes the dog for a walk. The dog gets off the lead a runs in front of Declan's car. Declan swerves and hits a lamp post. Fiona is fine but Declan is rushed to hospital and remains there for a couple of weeks. Meanwhile Fiona gets to know Declan's parents and helps them get over the shock of the accident. Declan proposes to Fiona and she accepts.
Ania came to Ireland from Poland after a failed relationship with a man called Marek, who used her and had many affairs while he was with her. Ania friend, Lidia had already gone to Ireland, so Ania followed. After a couple of months, Marek arrives at Ania's door and says he is opening a lap-dancing club and would like her to be a dancer, she politely tells him no and closes that chapter of her life.
Hilary's mother, Jessica, lives with her and her son Nick. Nick is a musician who gives music lessons at home during the day and plays in club at night. Jessica is suffering from senile dementia and Hilary and Nick do their best to take care of her at home. They try and persuade her go into a home after she nearly burns the house down making chips but she doesn't want to go. They then enlist Ania's help as well, so that someone is always with Jessica. In the early hours of one morning, Hilary realizes that her mother is not in the house. She goes searching for her and finds that she has been run over and killed.
Clara and Hilary successfully hatch a plot to bring Linda, Clara's daughter, and Nick, Hilary's son, together. It works like a dream and they fall in love.
Father Brian Flynn has been transferred from Rossmore to an inner city area of Dublin to run a social center. He moves into a flat in the same building as Johnny, the physiotherapist. Eileen Edwards, who is always dressed as if she is on her way out to an important social engagement, likes to help out at the center. She doesn't work but has lots of money, judging from her clothes. She becomes fixated with Father Flynn and hacks into his email account and pretends he is sending her emails and wishes to marry her. Eileen even goes so far as to tell people she is pregnant with Father Flynn's child. Through Eileen's mother attending the clinic, it is discovered that Eileen lives in a poor area of Dublin with her drunken abusive father and her down trodden mother and she is a shop lifter of note. She apologizes to Father Flynn in the local pub.
Peter Barry is local pharmacist and is a single parent with a daughter in her early 20's, called Amy. He has a relationship with Clara and asks her to marry him. Clara thinks hard but decides that the spark is missing and declines.
Tony O'Brien is headmaster of a school in Dublin. He is married to Grania who is Aiden and Nora Dunne's daughter. Aiden teaches Latin at the school but after suffering heart failure, it is advised that he doesn't return to teaching, which breaks his heart. His daughter Grania, becomes pregnant so the happy conclusion is that Aiden and Nora will look after the baby so Grania and Tony can carry on working.
Bobby Walsh has a heart attack and attends the clinic. His has an awful wife, called Rosemary and a son Carl who still lives at home. Carl and Ania hit it off and he invites her to his parents' 40th wedding anniversary party. Rosemary treats Ania badly as she sees all immigrants as lowly people and suggests she helps with the washing up. Ania ruins her dress while washing up and goes home, packs her bags and heads back to Poland. Carl goes to her home in Poland and asks her to marry him. She accepts.
Fiona calls off the wedding when she hears that an old boyfriend of her's, who was in prison in Greece for a while, died from an overdose. It wasn't that she didn't love Declan, she just felt that her judgement must be bad. Everyone helps to make her see sense and the wedding goes ahead. At the wedding, Frank dances with Clara and says she is obviously off now as the post was only for a year. Clara makes it plain that she is staying
Best part of story, including ending:
The characters are brought to life in true Binchy fashion. You feel sad when you have finished the book and have to say goodbye.
Best scene in story:
My favourite scene is where Eileen's shop lifting skills are discovered and she has to apologize in public to Father Flynn.
Opinion about the main character:
Clara shows strength of character, even though she has been through a failed marriage and feels that she is worth more than the job she is currently doing.