Nora Porteous returns to her childhood home after being away nearly 40 years. Well into in her 70s, Nora is somewhat frail. The long journey from London to Sydney to northern Australia wears her out; she becomes ill and is cared for by neighbors who were children when she left. As she moves in and out of sleep, she is flooded with memories: first of her failed marriage, which was the impetus for leaving the country, and then of her childhood. Her reminiscences are a way for the reader to get to know Nora. As the story progresses, Nora retrieves bits and pieces that have long been suppressed, and a more complex portrait emerges.
Nora is the only surviving member of her family, and most of the people she knew as a child have either died or moved away. She’s a bit crotchety and resents her need for caregivers, even though they also help fill her in on happenings during her absence. She is treated by one of the town doctors, the son of a woman Nora had admired, but Nora discovers some shocking news about her death. Nora’s convalescence is also an opportunity for healing and self-discovery, and eventually Nora accepts that she has entered another new phase in her life.
First published in 1978, this 140-page novella is quiet and contemplative, similar to more recent works like Tinkers and Gilead.