The story is about Edward Devlin, a recently widowed man who abandons his 6 year old daughter, Maura, in Ireland with his two sisters, and takes the first boat possible back to America (where he and his wife had lived happily years earlier before returning to Ireland so she could die there). He plans to stay in NYC, but finds it too difficult and decides to check out the city of Paterson, NJ on a hunch that maybe he could get a job through an old acquaintance, John Fitzgibbon or Fitz, who is a wealthy mill owner. Not only does Fitz get him a job, but he offers Edward a place in his home for as long as he needs to get back on his feet. Sylvia, Fitz's wife, is happy for the company as she and Fitz are mainly together for appearances now. The story then follows the growing relationship between Sylvia & Edward, the waning relationship of Sylvia & Fitz, Maura's struggles at an Irish boarding school, and Edward's growth as a person.
What drew me to this story initially is that it takes place in Paterson, NJ, which is located a few minutes away from my town (my town is briefly mentioned in the book in a series of towns that Edward visits for dinner). I think that fact that this story takes place "locally" for me helped me to connect to the characters a little bit more than I would have if it took place elsewhere. The characters are flawed, make terrible mistakes, but I think what frustrated me is how long it took for some of them to realize that they were doing something stupid (read it to find out what that is, it will be obvious by the end). This story really gets into the psychological workings of the characters as they try to figure out their motives for doing things. One criticism I have of the book is that Maura, Edward's daughter, is rarely focused on. She is central to the first chapter as it is told mainly from her point-of-view, and she has chapters sprinkled throughout, but her chapters are limited to a page or two whereas the other chapters are much longer. I found her character the most interesting, but after her initial introduction, she isn't really focused on much. The ending felt "convenient" to me and I felt bad for one character that was constantly dumped on throughout life had that type of ending (again, read it to find out exactly what). All-in-all, it was a good story, very detailed, but a few things bothered/ frustrated me personally which resulted in me giving it 3 1/2 out of 5 stars.