Elizabeth Gunnar is going back to school. She's returning to the scene of her
long-ago student days, Seaton Preparatory School, as an English teacher, and she has misgivings. She finds that she enjoys teaching there, but there are memories
that make this return somewhat uncomfortable for her.
When she was a student at Seaton years ago, she and her friends admired and loved an English teacher named Mr. Dutton, a Vietnam vet who seemed well-adjusted after the war but was still dealing with the trauma. One night Elizabeth learns that there has been a hospital emergency involving Mr. Dutton. While she doesnít witness it herself, her friends tell her that it is serious and he has died. The school officials cover up the story, telling the student body that Mr. Dutton is recovering from a heart attack and is not going to return. Elizabeth and her friends believe that Mr. Dutton is dead, but they do not have any real proof except what they saw that one night when their lives were changed forever. They are angry and resentful but told to keep quiet. Itís a heavy burden for these young adults to carry for the rest of their lives.
Elizabeth catches up again with some of the old gang from her Seaton days, including Ray, with whom she was once involved with during their time with Mr. Dutton. Back in the day, they would spend their evenings reading poetry or talking about literature with their favorite teacher; it was an idyllic time. Now Ray has two children from a marriage that didn't work out, and Elizabeth and Ray decide to renew their relationship and see where it leads them. Elizabeth, knowing that Ray was there when Mr. Dutton died, questions Ray about him, but Ray doesn't want to have anything to do with the past. He refuses to talk to her about it and wants to move on.
A student of Elizabeth's, Satchel Queen, is having a hard time in school, and for some reason Elizabeth feels compelled to know the girl better. Satchel has a talent for writing, and soon Elizabeth takes the troubled teen under her wings. Satchel is new in school and doesnít have any friends, and Elizabeth and the young girl become friends as Elizabeth tries to nurture Satchel and bring her out of her shell.
There are a few major spoilers that I want to write but will not, but they are the key to this story and help resolve the story of Mr. Dutton as well as Satchel's. There's a lot of drama in this book, the main focus the mystery behind Mr. Dutton's disappearance and Elizabeth's need to find out the truth about him. Her relationship with Satchel inevitably links up with Mr. Dutton's story. This is one of Ann Tatlock's better novels, and I recommend it.