Deseronto, Ontario in 1919 is a town coming to terms with its past. World War I is over and the boys are coming home. Hopeful, yes. But Kenan, once an outgoing and happy young man has been disfigured in the war. His suffering is obvious and goes far deeper than physical scars. He and his wife Tress must rediscover each other as both have lost their carefree pre-war selves.
Maggie and Am, Kenan and Tress’s aunt and uncle, have secret scars of their own – scars which are consuming them. Maggie tries to find a way out with music as she trains to be the solo soprano in the upcoming New Year’s Eve concert.
Throughout the story there is the happy presence of the ice rink, erected every winter on the lake. This is a place that has seen much joy for the two couples, and the place where the men try to release some of the pain that they are not given leave to express.
Despite the sadness, there is also friendship, family, love and loyalty. Everything in the novel culminates in a joyous burst of song at the concert. At this point, the characters must choose new paths.
Itani is a subtle writer who builds her characters carefully. Readers come to genuinely care about them. As in her novel Requiem, Itani has a clear sense of history that is revealed through character and plot. This is a beautiful novel about secrets kept and revealed, and the hope that comes at the end of war.