Numbed by unbearable grief after the tragic accidental death of his wife and small daughter, Robert Dillonís instinctive response is withdrawal. With twelve-year old Nicky and few personal possessions, they settle in a remote area of New Hampshire, isolated from an intrusive world. Here Robert provides minimal comforts for what is left of their family, with no television or newspaper service, moving through the weighty days with a minimum of effort.
As stricken as her father by their terrible loss, Nicky struggles to define the new world suddenly thrust upon her. Eventually, father and daughter establish a functional routine, but their sparsely furnished rooms ring with emptiness. On one of their scheduled late afternoon walks, the frigid landscape draped with lengthening shadows that make it difficult to see, Nicky and Robert stumble across a newborn, drawn by its faint mewling. They rush the chilled infant to the hospital, where it survives. Subsequently, the police begin an investigation to locate the mother of the baby.
Robert realizes that Nicky nurtures a secret hope of bringing the newborn home but quickly disabuses her, causing a frisson of dissatisfaction to take root in Nickyís subconscious, subtly altering her acceptance of the status quo. Father and daughter are thrown into further confusion by the sudden appearance of the child's mother, Charlotte.
Physically drained by the recent birth, Charlotte faints on the Dillon's property. A violent winter storm is fast approaching and the Dillonís have no choice but to offer temporary shelter, but Robert is profoundly uneasy with Charlotte so near his daughter, yet helpless to do anything about it. Outside, the weather rages; inside is another type of turbulence, as moral issues dissolve from black and white to shades of gray.
Robert and Nicky confront their long months of loss and grief, Charlotte their silent witness, the rescued newborn implying opportunity for rebirth. Bonding with Charlotte, Nicky gravitates toward emotional connections she hasn't experienced since her mother died, in a complicated blend of mother/friend, torn between concern for Charlotte and the knowledge of what the young woman has done.
This small, deceptively simple morality play deals with the important themes and critical choices that determine the future of three people tormented by grief and loss. Redemption is elusive in this intricate domestic drama, as the protagonists are challenged to meet life on life's terms. Even in the most complicated of designs dwells simplicity.