Maggie has spent a year in prison for her intent to set a fire in order to allow her boyfriend to advance in the fire department. Her half brother, Keith was severely burned in the fire and was the one who tossed a lit cigarette into the fuel that caused the conflagration. Another half brother, Andy, was initially thought to be the culprit, but he was since absolved of any responsibility. These siblings, related through their mothers and their fathers, have a complicated relationship.
The story begins with Maggie's release. She returns home to find that the townspeople can't forgive her for the fire and the subsequent deaths. She has to do community service as part of her release, but everywhere she goes, she's scorned and dismissed. Keith, in severe pain from his burns, has taken to beer and Percocet for survival. Andy, with his fetal alcohol syndrome, is finding life difficult juggling a girlfriend and dealing with his sister. At the start of the story, Keith's mother disappears and he is left on his own to deal with both Maggie's release and his own well being. Enter a stranger who quickly endears herself to the fearful Maggie and to the lonely Keith. Who is Jen and why is she not being totally honest with these siblings?
The plot is revealed by chapter as Sara, Keith's mother, explains her life and dilemma. When she disappears, Keith has no choice but to accept financial help from Maggie's mother and uncle -- but he hates them! Their convoluted relationship baffles and distresses him -- but all the while he wonders why and where his mother has gone. Maggie, Keith and Andy all share the details of how they come to grips with the aftermath of the fire and their lives.
This is a wonderful novel and one to be savored. You don't need to have read the previous book to "get" this story but I can imagine that it would only add to the total enjoyment. The characters are well developed and the reader is drawn easily and completely into their lives.