Charles Callahan is reading the Sunday paper when an alluring and oddly familiar photo catches his eye: it is Sian Richards, his first love, a face he has not seen for more than three decades. He is entranced by her image, flooded by memories of their teenage summer together, and utterly conpelled to make contact with her again. Charles sends Sian a letter, knowing all the while that from the very first sentence of the very first note there was nothing innocent about it. Sian writes back - she is now a poet living with her husband and small child on an onion farm in Pennsylvania. She is intrigued that Charles has sought her out after so many years but wary of where their correspondence might lead. For Charles, troubled by financial woes, on the verge of losing his home, and concerned about the security of his family, the letters become a secret obsession and another source of instability in his already complicated life. Despite their reservations, the power of Charles and Sians attraction leads them to meet again . . . and again. As Charles understands it, for the two of them, eros is linked with time. It is the very urgency of time he dreads, the sense that their minutes together are short and numbered, that he must say what he has come to say before she leaves, that gestures and words cannot be wasted. Anita Shreve takes the classic theme of Romeo and Juliet and gives it an unusual twist: two lovers struggle against formidable odds, reaching across a lifetime to reclaim what they once lost. In doing so, they set in motion a tumultuous series of events that moves inexorably to a shocking conclusion.
A fiery, destructive affair begins when a businessman happens upon a picture of an old flame. Their passion is rekindled, beginning a powerful relationship that turns into dark obsession.