Although Anna and Jake Campbell interact with the world in very different ways, she as a cautious worrier and he as an optimistic realist, they successfully navigate the everyday problems that percolate through their marriage until the night their young son becomes ill. Anna has a bad cold and longs for the peace of evening and Jake, an orthopedic surgery resident, spends the night at the hospital, taking care of other people’s sick wives and children. As a result of their irreversible, achingly regrettable inactions, Anna and Jake face losing their child.
Anna, who works part time as a linguist, is devoted to her two young children—Chris, who irritates her with his friskiness, and Eddie, the placid baby that everybody adores. With Eddie’s illness, she is both crushed with guilt and embittered with blame toward Jake. As she withdraws into her distorted perceptions, she becomes increasingly unable to trust the medical system that is as familiar to her husband as a stormy spring evening.
Like many surgical residents, Jake has blindly embraced professional commitment to the point that he is wedded to his medical responsibilities and a relative stranger to the concerns of his family. Once Eddie’s diagnosis becomes clear, Jake struggles to orient himself to his new position in the medical sphere – parent of a seriously ill baby – about which he has no understanding, no patience, and no control. In his misery, he reaches to a former lover for solace.
If she weren’t the widow of a no-good guy who left her nothing but debts and two bossy adult daughters, Rose Marie wouldn’t have to run a day care home to support herself. Rather, she and Beefeater, her wine-loving Jack Russell terrier, would lead leisurely lives loading the bird feeders and weeding the petunias. Two cases of meningitis among the children in her day care bring her nose to nose with the public health system and threaten to close down her business.
Illness, particularly that of a child, is heartbreakingly cruel but Anna, Jake, their healthy son Chris, and Rose Marie, like most people who face daunting life challenges, find their way.