Rae Newborn has a hard history full of mental illness, she sees people that aren't there...hears noises that aren't being made, and losing her much adored husband and young daughter in a tragic accident has done nothing but agitate her already fragile state of mind. To make things worse, she was physically attacked not long after the loss of her family, and the attackers are still out there. In an effort to regain control and sanity, Rae decides to move to an island and rebuild a house once owned and built by her great uncle. She hopes to use the solitude and silence to do what years of therapy and medication have not succeeded in doing. After her estranged daughter and granddaughter drop her off on her new residence, she contemplates the odd silence.
Silence was not an absence of noise, it was an actual thing, a creature with weight and bulk. The stillness felt her presence and gathered close against her, slowly at first but inexorably, until Rae found herself bracing her knees and swaying with the burden. It felt like a shroud, like the sodden sheets they used to bind around out-of-control mental patients. She stood alone on the shore, head bowed, as if the gray sky had opened to give forth a viscous and invisible stream of quiet. It poured across her scalp and down her skin, pooling around her feet, spreading across the rocks and the bleached driftwood, oozing its way into the salt-stunted weeds farther up the bank and the shrubs with their traces of spring green, then fingering the shaggy trunks of the fragrant cedars and bright madrones until it reached the derelict foundation on which fifty-two-year-old Rae Newborn would build her house, that brush-deep, moss-soft, foursquare, twin-towered stone skeleton that had held out against storm and fire and the thin ravages of time, waiting seventy years for this woman to raise its walls again.
With "the watchers" she feels making the tiny hairs on the back of her neck stand on end, Rae gets to work, always wondering "are they real?". Did she really hear a twig crack on the ground? She doesn't believe so, until she notices what might be a mysterious footprint where there should be nothing but water and sand. And, as the house builder continues in her work, other subtle inconsistencies begin appearing. Did she put her tools in the tool box in the wrong place? Has someone gone through the things in her tent? Rae isn't sure, but when the sheriff stops by to tell her her attackers were paid by someone unknown to make her think she was imagining things, and someone has been calling around the island looking for her, she starts to wonder if maybe the things she's imagined were real after all.
The prose reads as if another person is watching Rae and narrating what she is thinking and doing. The characters are human, with anger, regret, happiness and dreams. The pace is slow but never sluggish or dragging. It's a story to get engrossed in and one that makes you want to be a part of, if for nothing else, for the almost magical quality of the redemption it brings.