Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Granting Department


Major Professor

Rita Ciresi, M.A.

Committee Member

Rosalie Baum, Ph.D.

Committee Member

John Fleming, M.A.


novel, fiction, psychological, women’s, contemporary


Isabel, a forty-year-old woman, measured her successes and failures against her perfect sister Natalie’s. But after Natalie is murdered by her husband, Isabel’s identity unravels as she picks up the pieces of her sister’s life and becomes the mother substitute for Natalie’s daughter.

While Isabel tries to understand how Natalie’s life spiraled out of control, she develops feelings for a horse trainer named Sam. As Isabel discovers that her sister was having an affair, Isabel and Sam begin a relationship of their own. However, conflicts arise when clues implicate Sam as Natalie’s lover. Isabel retreats, and realizes she will have to stop seeing Sam unless she can prove that he wasn’t involved Natalie. She is about to call it quits when Sam reveals the truth about his past. Isabel is then pretty sure he wasn’t involved with Natalie, but she’s still afraid to trust. To complicate matters, Isabel’s having a difficult time with Jenna, her adolescent niece, and doubts she can ever be a good mother.

While Isabel pursues Sam, Jenna falls for a boy named Bradley, and begs Isabel to move back to Croton; but Isabel doesn’t know if she can break free of her sister’s shadow there. Finally, Isabel agrees to relocate to Croton if she can solve Natalie’s murder. Isabel discovers her sister wasn’t the perfect daughter their father always thought she was, which enables her to pursue a relationship with Sam.