Without even noticing, thirty-four-year-old Esther Fairchild has become a prisoner of routine. Living with her adored brother, Christian, she divides her time between illustrating children's books, nightly shifts as a waitress, weekly visits to her father and fortnightly meetings with her married lover. Then one day she encounters a face in the crowd which jolts her out of her mundane existence and makes her question both her life and the past that has helped to shape it. Memories she had long chosen to forget begin to resurface. Memories of an eccentric childhood in a large and shabby house, where the children were left to fend for themselves within the loose boundaries of their parents' unorthodox values. A chaotic existence peopled by a rich collection of feckless 'guests'. And into this shambolic world came Donovan - regularly deposited by his unreliable mother - and Penny, Christian's girlfriend and Esther's idol. Until tragedy struck and shattered their joint existence. But now, it seems, their lives are about to become intertwined once more . . .