THREE women, one sadness: an apparently terminal prognosis delivered to an ovarian cancer patient whose mother died years earlier of the same disease.
When 40-year-old Alice is first told of her condition she is paralysed by shock, unable to contemplate the effect her likely death will have on her only child.
At 15, Zoe is struggling through a lonely adolescence already complicated by social anxiety disorder. Zoe knows nothing about her father, a man who disappeared from Alice’s life long before the pregnancy was confirmed; losing her sole remaining parent would be devastating.
Without friends or family members around her, Alice must rely for physical and emotional support on two health professionals: oncology nurse Kate, in her mid 30s, step-mother to a pair of teenagers and nervously pregnant for the third time, her joy overshadowed by the trauma of two previous miscarriages; and social worker Sonja, 54, unhappily married to an outwardly successful but manipulative psychologist, terrified of her husband’s rages and insecure and self-doubting as a result of years of abuse.
Forced together by Alice’s illness, however, the trio develops a previously unimaginable bond.
When Alice is admitted to hospital for surgery, Zoe is left alone in the pair’s apartment in smalltown Atherton, an attractive, upmarket suburb on the periphery of San Francisco, northern California, where Alice runs a thriving home-care business. It will be the first time ever that Zoe has spent an entire night without Alice.
Zoe’s school years have always been difficult. Set apart from other students her age by debilitating anxiety attacks, she is socially awkward and cripplingly shy. Now it seems her last real friend has abandoned her.
How will Zoe react to learning just how seriously doctors are viewing her mother’s illness?
Can the well-intentioned actions of Kate and Sonja compensate for Alice’s absence?