Throughout her childhood, Cissy Stewart is painfully aware of having been adopted. Although she and her older brother Buddy have all the love anyone could want, Cissy has always felt her mother Martha Claire's disappointment at being unable to have biological children.
Ironically, Martha Claire's sister Justine - spontaneous, fun-loving and determined never to be a mother - returns from the Women's Army Corps in World War II Europe, pregnant.
Her mother Justine is relieved at being able to resume her career, and Martha Claire is delighted to have a child of which she's *almost* the parent.
Throughout the book, which spans several generations, two mysteries prevail. The first is the origins of Cissy and Buddy, brought to the Stewart household by a doctor, who staunchly kept the secret upon his deathbed. The second is Iris' father, who to Martha Claire's horror, may in fact be someone she knows quite well.
Upon confronting Justine about Iris' paternity, Martha Claire shatters the family. Cissy and Iris, raised as sisters, are torn apart, and no longer is there a sense of a cohesive unit.
Throughout the years, even as she struggles to convince Martha Claire of the need for forgiveness, Cissy begins to understand that whatever her place in the world, she was, in fact, needed as her mother's daughter.
This report prepared by Joanna