As children, Tam and her older brother were swimming when she suffered her first epileptic seizure. He pulled her from the water and was crowned a hero. Tam was labeled "disabled" and never swam again. And so began 30 years of vigilance, never allowing her body to betray her, never allowing her brother or her family or anyone else to influence her path. Now, in middle age, a lifetime's worth of control has taken its toll. Exhausted, she heads to Maine where, while working on a genealogy project, she falls under the spell of two dead women: an ancestor, Mary Catherine, who died at 33; the other, the town ghost. Through their cloistered, tragic lives Tam relives her own life over and over -- until a distant cousin forces her to see herself in a new light. Tam's quest to transcend self-imposed limitations is superbly crafted and richly satisfying.