Pilot Airie has come back to his childhood home in New York after bottoming out in California. Twenty years ago, his little sister Fiona disappeared during his parent’s backyard party. No one was ever arrested for the crime. Only the little girl’s red sneaker was recovered in the nearby woods after her presumed abduction.
The Airie family has unraveled. The parents, James, a retired airline pilot, and Hannah, a physical therapist, divorced a few years after the tragedy, each blaming the other for the loss of their beloved daughter. James has moved to Florida and remarried. Hannah has remained in the family home and is experiencing blurred vision which she characterizes as seeing ghosts, including the ghost of Fiona. Eric, the older son, is seemingly unscathed by the family tragedy and has built a successful practice in neurology. Pilot, the younger son, is a lost soul, a failed screenwriter who is rescued from homelessness in California by Eric who returns Pilot to his mother’s home.
Precisely twenty years after Fiona’s disappearance, Pilot experiences a psychotic breakdown and is found days later in the dense woods behind the family home. He is hospitalized, diagnosed schizophrenic, and later released with a prescribed treatment of medications and outpatient therapy. His therapist, Katherine DeQuincey-Joy, soon embarks on an affair with her patient’s brother, convinced by Eric that there is no ethical conflict of interest.
Pilot’s sole mission now becomes solving the mystery of his sister’s disappearance. He recalls that his brother Eric brutally murdered Fiona and tries to convince his therapist and his parents of Eric’s guilt. Pilot, however, is a diagnosed paranoid schizophrenic and his allegations are too monstrous to be believed.
The novel is told primarily through Pilot’s voice in which the author masterfully conveys the wanderings and omniscience of a schizophrenic mind. All the characters are complex and finely drawn, and the imagery is acute and effective. The reader is shuffled constantly between past and present, reality and illusion, as the investigation continues and the characters’ actions and motives are ultimately revealed. Only with the resolution of Fiona’s disappearance can the fabric of the Airie family be raveled and its surviving members regain their sanity.