When the story opens Willie, Susan, and Dinah have just begun to suffer the dissolution of their ten-year-long menage a trois. Willie Dewitt is a sculptor locked artistically and intellectually in the 1960’s; his art-as-political-statement no longer sells, so he supports himself as a part-time carpenter. Susan, his wife, is a fabric designer who increasingly longs for a cultured life in New York, well away from the relatively rustic life she has known on Cape Cod for more than a decade. Dinah is an avant-garde composer who would like to have a child (Susan had two, both now adults, whom Dinah helped rear), even if she has to bring it up by herself.
Once a lover to both of the Dewitts, who lived next door, Dinah--wanting things back the way they were--secretly resumes her sexual relations with Willie, the resumption complicated by its clandestine nature and her deepening involvement with Itzak, a famous flutist, who gradually decides he wants a commitment from her. Thus the triangle becomes a quadrangle and threatens to become even more complicated when the Dewitts’ prodigal son attempts to seduce surrogate mother Dinah and Susan decides to have an affair with Tyrone Burdock, a wealthy summer resident. Indeed, there are “love” triangles galore rising and falling here (several more than those mentioned), with one child born and another on the way by the novel’s end.
Never actually felt as a presence here is the supposedly annoying inundation of “summer people” into the small community, nor the town itself. A precompositional outline’s dictates do seem present in the narrative, itself often progressing woodenly, especially for the first hundred or so pages, and particularly in the largely expositional chapters devoted to Willie’s point of view.