This is a very melancholy novel about people who live near each other, yet in isolation, thanks to a profound lack of communication. It’s set in Australia in the late 60’s, with a portion in the late 90’s. Two couples live side by side in a new neighborhood, right on the ocean. Louise and Joe, immigrants from England, live in one house with their daughter, Isla. Next door are Steve and Mandy, who are childless. Mandy often looks after Isla.
As the book opens, the adult Isla gets a call from her father, who says the police have been by to discuss Mandy, who had disappeared from the neighborhood many years ago. The central nugget of suspense in the novel concerns the relationships between the neighbors and between the couples themselves. What happened in the past that caused Mandy to disappear? Why would Isla’s father, who seems devoted to his family, have had anything to do with her disappearance?