Caelum Quirk is a forty-seven-year-old, twice-divorced teacher who loves music. He and his third wife, Maureen, have a rocky marriage which has been marred by affairs and a variety of family struggles. Maureen had an affair with a man named Paul Hay whom Caelum seriously injures by beating him with a pipe wrench. The attack results in a law suit and Caelum is temporarily suspended from teaching during which time he goes to stay with his Aunt Lolly. There, he works in exchange for room and board while he completes the 200 hours of community service the judge required him to perform. Although Maureen files for divorce, the couple work out their differences and decide to make a go of it. Eventually, the couple moves to Colorado. Following the massacre at Columbine, Caelum tries desperately to help, support and encourage Maureen who suffers from PTSD. However, after she is sent to prison for hitting and killing a teen, Caelum's life ventures down a new path in which he discovers a host of family secrets.
Maureen Quirk had a difficult childhood; her father sexually abused her. Despite her best efforts as an adult to reach out and have some sort of appropriate father-daughter relationship, Maureen's father failed her yet again. Clearly damaged by her early experiences, Maureen has trouble maintaining healthy relationships with men; while married to Caelum, Maureen has an ongoing affair with a man named Paul Hay. Although the couple comes close to divorcing, they chose, instead, to pursue counseling and made a commitment to working on their marriage. By training, Maureen is a gerontologist but when she and Caelum move to Colorado, she discovers that she enjoys working with high school students, especially those in need. Maureen takes a job at Columbine where she finds herself enjoying her work until the day of the attacks. Unable to remain in a place that caused her so much pain and suffering, Maureen convinces Caelum that they should move to his family farm in Connecticut. Suffering from PTSD and drug dependence among other issues, Maureen struggles to hold down a job.
Velvet Hoon is a sixteen-year-old student at Columbine whose only functional relationship is with Maureen Quirk whom she calls "mom." Velvet's appearance is intentionally shocking: shaved head or blue hair, silver workboots or outlandish dress, Velvet is determined to scare off anyone who might try to get to know her. She has no manners and no sense of appropriate behavior as these are things that she would have learned from parents. In an unexpected turn of events, Caelum convinces Velvet to submit an essay entitled "Hope Cemetery" to a...
(The entire section is 1068 words.)