This is a story of how a chance meeting on the beach leads to two families overcoming pain, loss and tragedy. Pip is an 11 year old girl who lives in San Francisco but has come to Safe Harbour with her mother, Ophelie, for the summer holidays. They needed to get away from their home in San Francisco to regroup. Pip spends most her time on her own, as her mother either sleeps all day or goes to a group meeting. On one of the days that Ophelie goes into town for her group meeting, Pip goes for a long walk down the beach with her dog, Mousse, and meets Matt, a 45 year old artist who is busy painting a seascape. Pip has always enjoyed drawing and Matt helps her to draw Mousse. After a few hours of time together, Pip runs back home so that her mother doesn't worry about her.
Neither Pip nor Ophelie seem interested in life. Eating is a trial and frequently they don't eat at all. Pip decides to keep her meeting with Matt a secret as she is not sure that her mother will want her to go again. Ophelie's long time friend, Andrea, comes to visit them with her new baby, William. Andrea eats men for breakfast and decided that she would go to a sperm bank for a baby, rather than marry. Andrea and William's visit brings a little joy to the miserable household for a short time.
The following day, Ophelie goes into San Francisco for her group meeting and Pip seizes the opportunity to see if Matt is on the beach again. Matt thoroughly enjoyed talking to this special little girl but sensed something was troubling her. On this visit, Pip tells Matt that her brother and father had been killed in a plane crash recently and her mother was very sad and that was why she went to group meetings to try and overcome her grief. Matt told Pip that he had two children but they lived in New Zealand and so he didn't see them very often. What he didn't tell Pip was that he hadn't heard from his son and daughter in over 6 years, they had stopped writing to him and his ex-wife thought it best that he didn't contact them again. His ex-wife had run off with his best friend and now lived in New Zealand with his two children, his ex-best friend and two new children from the union. They are busy chatting on the beach, when Ophelie appears and is exceptionally angry with both Matt and Pip, but especially Matt and says that he must not speak to her daughter again.
When they get home, Ophelie tells Pip that she cannot see Matt again and Pip locks herself in her room and refuses to talk to her mother. Ophelie rings her friend Andrea and tells her about the meeting on the beach and Andrea tells her she is over reacting. Ophelie eventually relents and lets Pip go and visit Matt again. Pip tells Matt about her brother, Chad and how he was different from other people. It transpires that Chad was bi-polar and had tried to commit suicide twice. Ophelie's husband, Ted, would not accept that his son was ill and blamed Ophelie's constant attention on his son's strange and difficult behavior.
Pip goes to visit Matt most days and sits and sketches with him. They both enjoy the visits very much. On one occasion Pip cuts her foot on a piece of glass, so Matt takes her home so that her mother can decide whether she should have stitches or not. This is the beginning of a special friendship between Matt and Ophelie. They begin to see more of each other, go out for meals and go out on Matt's sailing boat. As the end of the summer vacation gets closer, Matt, Pip and Ophelie all realize that they are going to miss each other tremendously, so they make plans to visit each other. When Pip and Ophelie return to San Francisco, Matt rings Pip every day for a long chat. He has persuaded Ophelie that she needs to do something to make her life fulfilling, so she joins a group who help the homeless, as a volunteer.
Ophelie and Pip see Andrea and the baby, William on a few occasions. Andrea is now having an affair with yet another married man and keeps on pushing Ophelie to commit to Matt, whom she has now met and thinks he is imminently suitable as a husband and father. Ophelie is still hesitant and vows that she will never marry again as she is still in love with her husband, Ted. Andrea comes for Thanksgiving lunch and they all find the day rather upsetting without Chad and Ted. After Andrea goes home, Ophelie goes up to her room and finds comfort looking at Ted's clothes which she still hasn't been able to dispose of. In the pocket of one of his jackets, she finds a letter. It begins, "Darling, Ted". It is now obvious that Ted is the father of Andrea's baby and she was trying to persuade Ted to leave Ophelie and marry her. Ophelie is so devastated that Pip is very worried and calls Matt to say that something awful has happened to her mother. Matt manages to calm them both down and persuades them to come and visit him in Safe Harbour the following day.
While Ophelie was being traumatized by the letter and the fact that her husband probably never loved her, Matt was having his own drama. Someone knocked on his door and when he opened it, he realized that it was his son, 18 year old Robert standing in front of him. Robert was now at Stanford and had spent months looking for his father. It transpires that Matt's ex-wife had kept the letters he sent from his children and told the children that he wanted nothing more to do with them and she didn't know where he lived. Matt explained that he had sent letters for 4 years but after getting no response, he assumed that they didn't want to know him. He also said their mother sent him a Christmas card every year, so she knew exactly where he lived. Robert rang his 16 year old sister, Vanessa, and explained the situation. She was delighted to have found her father but furious with her mother. They arranged to go to skiing together for Christmas and Matt hoped that Ophelie and Pip would join them
Ophelie tells Matt about her husband being the father of Andrea's baby and says he will never talk to her again. Matt feels for her. He tells her his good news about reuniting with his children. Over the next few weeks, Ophelie and Matt's relationship blossoms and Matt is brave enough to kiss her on her birthday. Life is getting better for all of them. Ophelie is enjoying her work with the homeless and now goes out on night duty twice a week with the outreach team. Matt is constantly trying to persuade her to give it up but she loves the work. Pip is enjoying school and loves Matt to bits.
One morning Sally, Matt's ex-wife, rings to say that her husband had a heart attack and is dead. She tries to persuade Matt to go to the funeral in New Zealand, but he refuses and says he will see his daughter, Vanessa at Christmas. Just before Christmas, Vanessa arrives in San Francisco with her mother, Sally and Sally's two young children. Sally persuades Matt to see her and tries to win him back but this only reinforces Matt's love for Ophelie.
Matt, Ophelie, Pip, Vanessa and Robert have a wonderful skiing holiday in Tahoe and everyone now realizes how much they miss family life. Vanessa goes back to New Zealand but says she will definitely be going to school in the States. Robert returns to Stanford and Pip goes back to school Ophelie goes back to her night work with the homeless but after interrupting a drug deal, she is shot three times. No one thinks she will survive and Pip is determined that Matt should propose to her, as she feels that it will give her the will to live. Matt proposes and Ophelie accepts and they plan to get married in June on the beach.
Ophelie returns home to convalesce and gets a phone call from Andrea, Andrea tells her that she is dying and asks if she will take care of the the baby when she is dead. Ophelie forgives Andrea and says of course she will. Andrea dies sooner than expected and baby William arrives with his au pair and they both move into the house. They have a quiet wedding on the beach with all four children present and life is good.
Best part of story, including ending:
It is a story which demonstrates that time, patience and love combined can help one overcome tragedy and loss.
Best scene in story:
My favorite scene is when Matt opens his front door and see his son, Robert standing there. A son whom he thought wanted nothing to do with him.
Opinion about the main character:
Pip is an 11 year old girl who is wise beyond her years and at times, she is the mother in the family.