Markson explores the sometimes humorous, and always complex, realm of family and love. Her characters struggle to answer the questions "who will care for me? How will I care for myself?"
One spring day in New York City, five-year-old Pigeon's father disappears, leaving her to face a new and bewildering life with her mother and older siblings in an uncle's house on the Jersey shore.
"Our mother named her children after birds" -- so begins a now grown-up Pigeon as she describes the tumultuous events of this pivotal childhood summer, with her brother Robin and her older sister Dove. In the heat and unfamiliarity of a beach town near Atlantic City, each member of her family looks for a caretaker of some kind: Robin in a fortune teller, Dove in older lovers, her Uncle Edward in the feckless owner of a diner, and her mother Joan in a religious cult. All the while, Pigeon, the youngest, searches for her father, believing he will return to the family to care for her. Through the course of the summer, Pigeon discovers surprising and lasting truths about those she loves, and about her own possibilities in the world.