As the once full-of-life Barbara Forbes is being treated for terminal cancer, she begins a journal of things that she wishes to share with her four daughters. She also writes each of her daughters an individual letter to be opened only after her death. There is Lisa, the oldest and most like her, full of life yet stubborn, too; Jennifer, married but obviously unhappy although refusing to talk to anyone about it; Amanda, the daughter who Barbara always considered her "own," as no father was around to raise her; and Hannah, Barbara's late-in-life baby, now left alone with her father, Barbara's grieving and lost second husband, Mark.
The book opens on the day of Barbara's funeral, and so the reader gets to know Barbara only through her writings. The story is told from varying perspectives in turn, including that of Mark in addition to each daughter. Initially, everyone seems to be coping as well as can be expected with Barbara's death (which was anticipated, after all) but it doesn't take long for the delicate surface to begin to give way. Each daugther must wrestle with her own demons, negotiating her own way without her beloved mother for advice and support. Eventually--and with the help of Mark, who plays a crucial role--the family is able to survive their various conflicts and emerge on the dawn side of grief. In the end, the message of this book is a simple one, if a somewhat cliched one: that love conquers all, whether it is a mother's love for her daughters, the love between sisters, or the romantic love that binds two people together forever. Overall, a worthwhile read.