The unnamed "we" of the narrator are the adult children of Sally and Patrick Tiernan, recalling in vivid depth the lives of Sally, the Tiernans, and Sally's mother Annie, who was widowed while Sally was still in the womb. It's also the story of the heroic nuns who nursed the sick poor way back when in Brooklyn: of their kindness to Annie and Sally, their care of the embittered Mrs Costello who is minus half a leg, and others. Priests are described as "mama's boys", a greedy bishop has his eye on the nuns' convent, and we hear the story of the lying French priest who claimed he had set up the ministry for outcast women that was in fact founded by a woman. The narrator notes that even then, the kind of service that the nuns gave, relying on "sacrifice and delusion", was on its way out. The novel ends with Sister Jeanne describing heaven with a lyrical Irish simile, while mysteriously declaring that she won't be going there. A beautiful window on a time gone by, with thoughts on what life is, and is for, that will always be true. Alice McDermott is a top class author.