A luminous work of fiction that celebrates the uncommon in common lives, and the redemptive power of love.Mary and O'Neil frequently marveled at how, of all the lives they might have led, they had somehow found this one together. When they met at the Philadelphia high school where they'd come to teach, each had suffered a profound loss that had not healed. How likely was it that they could learn to trust, much less love, again? In Justin Cronin's tender, heartwise debut, eight stories trace the lives of these two vulnerable young people as they rediscover in each other a world alive with promise and hope. From the formative experiences of their early adulthood to marriage, parenthood, and beyond, each chapter illuminates the moments of grace that enable Mary and O'Neil to make peace with the deep emotional legacies that haunt them: the sudden, mysterious death of O'Neil's parents, Mary's long-ago decision to end a pregnancy, O'Neil's sister's battle with illness and a troubled marriage. Like the work of Alice Hoffman, Cronin's fiction resonates with magical nuance and unexpected encounters -- a beautiful young girl who appears to Mary one night, draped in a cloud of stars; an autistic child who reveals a life-changing secret; a woman O'Neil mistakenly dials the night their first child is born -- that edify this young couple's intimate bond and affirm their faith in the future.