Ed and Alice Parmalee still occupy the same ranch-style home they have lived in for years, but they have become unhappy, uncommunicative strangers since the death of their only child seven years earlier. Alice blames Ed for Stacy's suicide because he insisted that she receive medication for her severe depression. No one knows for sure if it was the side effects of the medication, or if Stacy had been determined to end her life anyway. Still, Ed receives the silent treatment from Alice. Forced into early retirement five years previously, he invents errands to get himself out of the house, away from Alice and her deep-seated grief. There are so many unresolved issues between Ed and Alice that the tension surrounding them is palpable. They both feel miserable, and neither can figure out how to change that.
"It is quite possible that readers will fall in love with the amazingly perceptive Sheltie, who can interpret a person's needs and feelings, and give love and companionship when and where it is most needed."
Justine is in fourth grade when her mother dies suddenly. Her father soon marries Adele, a divorced neighbor who sets her sights on the new widower and his assets. He always seems to take Adele's side in any problem that arises between Justine and her stepmother, and he shows favoritism to his stepson. Justine feels doubly abandoned: no mother, and now a father who never considers her needs. So, right after graduation, she strikes out on her own. A brief marriage and a child quickly follow and then Justine is on her own, working a series of jobs trying to support her son. Her relationships with men are rather haphazard and brief, because none of them seem interested in a woman with baggage --- in this case, a child.
Justine has sent her teenage son to live with his father for one summer, but then he refuses to return home when school begins. Once again, Justine is alone and adrift. Then she takes in a puppy named Mack, a Blue Merle Sheltie. He is an easy dog to train and g