Chapters 1 – 5
The book opens with Kenna Rowan, 26, visiting the place where Scott “Scotty” Landry died in a drunk driving car accident. Kenna spent five years in prison after pleading guilty for causing his death (involuntary manslaughter). The first few months in prison, she’d been pregnant with their daughter, Diem (short for the French phrase “Carpe Diem”), who she’s now trying to get custody of.
Kenna has recently moved out of transitional housing and into a dilapidated apartment nearby. Her landlord, Ruth, offered her a kitten, so Kenna is now the owner of a small unnamed kitten.
At a bar called Ward’s nearby, Ledger Ward goes to work at the bar he owns. Ledger, a former professional football player with the Denver Broncos (for two years), gives one of the bartenders there, Roman, a mug. Ledger has been giving Roman a mug for each week he’s sober, and Roman is close to 100 weeks sober now. Today, Ledger’s parents have popped in for a visit.
Soon, Kenna walks into the bar, around 7 PM, noticing the attractive bartender. As she sits there, Kenna orders a coffee thinks about how the town bookstore got turned into this bar and how she misses Scotty. Meanwhile, Ledger finds himself feeling curious about her, but he can tell she wants to be left alone. Before she leaves, Ledger follows her outside and suggests that return later that night, at 11 PM, without explaining why.
Later that night, Kenna returns and waits as the bar empties out. When it’s just him and her alone, Ledger asks her what her name is, and she lies and says Nicole because this is a small town and she doesn’t want people to know that she’s back in town. Before they can really chat more, Kenna makes a move and they start kissing. As they mindlessly hook up, Kenna thinks about Scotty and the night he told her he loved her. She was supposed to meet his best friend that night, but their plans got derailed. Scotty died three months later.
Kenna realizes as they’re kissing that this bartender, Ledger, has the the same name as Scotty’s best friend who she never ended up meeting.
Chapters 6 – 8
Suddenly, Kenna pulls away without explanation. She runs outside and starts crying, and Ledger doesn’t know what to do other than to give her a hug. He offers her a ride home in his truck, but in car things get physical again. Before things progress further, they’re stopped when Ledger sees a police officer who he knows, Grady. Ledger ends up just dropping Kenna back at her apartment. Before she walks away, he asks to see her again, but she says no.
Back at her place, Kenna writes a letter addressed to Scotty (even though she knows she’s gone and will never receive it). She writes about finally meeting Ledger tonight. She recalls meeting Scotty while working as a cashier at the dollar store and how Scotty had picked her up for their first date in Ledger’s truck — the orange Ford F-250 that she made out with Ledger in tonight. Today, she wonders whether Ledger has ever met her daughter.
Across town, Ledger gets home and parks his truck out front. The Landrys, Patrick and Grace, live across the street from him, and Diem likes to see his car and know that he’s home. The house is his parents old house, but Ledger lives there now while his parents travel around in an RV. They occasionally drop by without warning. He has a new house that he’s constructing in Cheshire Ridge, but it’s probably about 6 months away from completion.
The next morning, Ledger goes to the Landrys to pick up Diem for her T-ball game. Patrick and Grace greet him warmly. They’re on their way to the hospital since Grace’s younger sister is having elective plastic surgery. Next, he and Diem head to Roman’s, since Landry and Roman are the coaches for the team.
Chapters 9 – 11
That morning, Kenna is busy applying for jobs, but with little success because she has no experience. She finally gets a lead in the form of a part-time job as a grocery bagger at a small grocery store. The the shift manager Amy says that these positions are usually filled by special needs teenagers. On the application, she calls herself “Nicole” instead of Kenna in order to minimize gossip in case people around town recognize her name. At the store, she’s interrupted by the sight of Ledger buying groceries. He tries to talk to Kenna, but she asks him nicely to leave since she doesn’t want to appear to be easily distracted.
As he leaves, Amy tells Kenna that Ledger is a “hot commodity” around here and that he broke up not too long ago with his girlfriend, Leah. The also mentions that Ledger has a niece of some sort, and Kenna wonders if she’s referring to Diem.
At the game, Grady and Grady’s wife Whitney ask Ledger about the woman that was in the car with him last night, but Ledger doesn’t say much. After the game, Diem asks about her mother since one of the girls had asked about why her mother doesn’t come to games, and Ledger doesn’t know how to respond. He brings it up to Grace when they get back, and they agree they need to figure out what to tell Diem about her mother.
Meanwhile, after the grocery store, Kenna heads for the Landrys’s house. Patrick and Grace had started fighting for custody as soon as they learned Kenna was pregnant, and Kenna was denied visitation rights due to the “duress” she’d caused them. She has no idea how they’d react upon seeing her again.
Kenna had only dated for Scotty for six months, so she they only knew Kenna as the girl who killed their son. When the accident happened, Kenna had fled in fear and gone home. Only afterwards did she learn that Scotty had still been alive for six hours afterwards. It’s possible he could have lived if Kenna had called the police instead of running away. As Kenna thinks about all this, she feels certain that Grace must hate her, and Kenna hates herself, too.
Kenna is standing in front of the Landry’s house when Ledger sees her from across the street. It dawns on him who “Nicole”/Kenna must be since they knew she had been recently released. He tells her to go inside his house before they see her. Inside, he yells at her for showing up there and demands to take her home. However, Kenna is desperate to see her daughter and runs out the door and knocks on the Landry’s door. Ledger then grabs her and threatens to call the police unless she agrees to leave and not return.
Chapters 12 – 15
In Ledger’s truck in front of Kenna’s apartment, Ledger tells Kenna that they don’t want anything to do with her, and he angrily tells her to get out. Back in her apartment complex, Kenna cries. A teenage girl with Down syndrome named Lucy (who liked to be called “Lady Diana”) who lives in the complex asks Kenna why she’s crying. The girl peppers her with questions. When Kenna mentions her job, Lucy says that she works there as a bagger as well.
After Lucy leaves, Kenna thinks about how Diem had been a preemie, and she’d been whisked away to the NICU as soon as she was born, and Kenna never got to see her again. She’s never even seen a photo. In prison, a woman named Ivy had taken a distraught and depressed Kenna under her wing to help her move forward. In present day, Kenna decides to name her new kitten Ivy.
When Ledger heads back, he sees that Patrick and Grace have been calling him, anxious after having seen Kenna outside their home. When he gets back, Patrick is there waiting for him. Ledger thinks about all the times they cried and were nearly at their breaking point over Scotty’s death. Ledger tries to reassure Partrick that Kenna is likely too broke to fight a legal battle with them.
At work, Ledger is distracted. He tells Roman what happened with Kenna as he vents about her. Roman, however, seems to think that they’ve been to cruel towards Kenna. He thinks that Ledger should go check on her. He reminds Ledger that ultimately it was an accident and that she lost years of her life and her daughter over it. Reluctantly, Ledger heads back to check on Kenna. He sees her outside playing with sparklers with some girl, though he sees how she’s struggling to look happy. When she notices him, Kenna goes to talk to him but is dismissive, saying that it’s clear he just wants his conscience to be clear in case she tries to kill herself.
That night, Kenna thinks about how knowing your mother, even if imperfect, is fighting for you is better than thinking your mother doesn’t care about you. Growing up, Kenna spent nine months in foster care after her mother left her alone when she was 7 to fly off to Hawaii with some guy. She was sent to a group home which she disliked.
Then, when Kenna was 10, Kenna ended up in foster care again. She ended up with a woman named Mona for a year, who cooked and occasionally spent time with Kenna, and Kenna felt cared for, for the first time. Mona wasn’t amazing, just adequate and Kenna realized that’s all she really needed. When Kenna’s mother regained custody, their relationship became even worse, since Kenna knew what she was missing out on. By high school, they barely had any sort of relationship.
Kenna finally reached out to her mother from prison after she was 7 months pregnant, since she was desperate and the Landrys were trying to terminate her parental rights. She hoped her mother would petition for rights as the baby’s grandmother, which might give her access to her daughter in the future. However, her mother refused, saying it was a hassle and that Kenna had been an ungrateful child.
Chapters 16 – 19
A short while later, Ledger suggests to Patrick that perhaps they should hear what Kenna has to say, but Patrick is certain that Grace couldn’t deal with having to interact with Kenna in any form. Still, Ledger wonders if this is what Scotty would have wanted.
As they chat, Ledger tells Patrick a story about Scotty. Scotty used to say “Is that a f–king pigeon?” whenever something nonsensical happened, and it was because of one time when they were high a pigeon had landed really close to them and he’d said that phrase. They’d laughed about it, and then after that Scotty used to say it all the time.
Meanwhile, on her first day at work, Kenna writes another letters to Scotty. She’s been writing them for years, partially in order to document her memories of Scotty so she won’t forget. She thinks about how Scotty had mentioned that his best friend had just signed a contract with the Denver Broncos around the time they started dating.
Today, Ledger comes in for groceries. Kenna and Ledger regard each other coolly. Kenna ends up being the one who has to bag his groceries and take them out to his car. When she drops off the groceries, Kenna asks if Diem looks like her, and Ledger answers affirmatively.
At the bar, Ledger and Roman talk about the married woman that Roman has a crush on. Roman buys cupcakes each week from her bakery just to have an excuse to see her. It’s a slow night and it’s raining outside. Then, Kenna walks into the bar. She orders coffee and asks Ledger for a ride home because of the rain. Ledger struggles to reconcile this person he has developed some type of feelings for with the person he’s hated in his mind for long. He agrees to drive her home.
A part of Kenna wants to just kidnap Diem for as long as she can keep her, even if it means going to prison. However, she holds out hope that at some point Patrick and Grace will change their minds about her and let her into their lives. She also knows that being kidnapped by someone she’s never met would likely be traumatic for Diem.
Kenna wishes she would’ve made more of an effort the night she met Scotty’s parents. She recalls how weird for her it was to be sitting down for dinner with a family that prayed before meals. She recalls realizing, too, that she should not have worn such a low-cut t-shirt. She also thinks about how Scotty was smoking outside, but Kenna pretended it was her when Grace saw since Grace didn’t know that her son occasionally smoked.
Scotty had then told her how had been a “miracle baby” and his parents weren’t able to have more. That night, she and Scotty had sex in his room, and the next morning Grace’s discomfort around her made Kenna certain that she’d overheard. Kenna thinks about how she’s not the type of girl that parents want their sons bringing home.
Chapters 20 – 21
A few days later, Ledger find himself back at the small grocery store. Since meeting Kenna, he’s been more curious about what traits Diem gets from her. He’s surprised to run into Grace and Diem in the parking lot. He tells them to leave, but before he can get them away, Kenna spots them together. Kenna starts coming over, but Grace drives away before she can reach them.
Afterwards, Kenna is distraught, and Ledger offers to drive her home since she’s in no shape to work. He offers to go get her things from inside. He sees a “Dear Scotty” letter that she has started as he picks up her personal effects. As they drive back, Kenna stops him. She says that she’s glad she knows Diem has had a loving home, but she just wants to see her daughter who she never even got to meet. Finally, Ledger shows her a video of Diem. As he sees Kenna’s love for her love for her daughter, Ledger starts to understand why Scotty fell in love with her.
A little later, Ledger and Kenna are in her apartment as she watches more videos of Diem. He’s glad to be able to show Kenna how her daughter turned out. At the same time, he feels guilty since he knows how Patrick and Grace would feel if they knew. When he looks around and sees her empty cabinets, he offers to buy her dinner. They go get some burgers and eat them in his truck. Kenna knows he doesn’t want to be seen with her someplace public in case the Landrys find out.
As they talk, Ledger mentions how Kenna had seemed “unremorseful” in the courtroom when she was bring tried for Scotty’s death. Kenna gets upset and says that she’d been too devastated to talk about it. Ledger then points out that Kenna wanting to see her daughter is more for her sake than Diem’s sake, since Diem is doing fine and has a family that loves her. Kenna has no comeback to that.
Instead, she says that if they really don’t want her here then she’ll leave, but it’ll take time since she’s broke. Ledger find himself offering her a few shifts at the bar doing dishes in the back, but he says that no one can find out about it. Kenna quickly agrees and they decide that she should go by “Nicole” while she’s there.
Chapters 22 – 23
The only one at the bar that Ledger tells the truth about Kenna to is Roman, who makes fun of him. Kenna soon shows up and introduces herself to the rest of the staff as “Nicole”. She’s instructed to help out Aaron who does most of the stuff in the kitchen.
Tonight, Diem has a dance recital. Ledger attends and films it. After the recital, the Landrys ask about Ledger’s new house, and Diem pouts, saying that she wishes Ledger would stay at his current house instead of moving away. Grace also tells Ledger that they’ve filed a restraining order against Kenna since she chased down Grace and Diem in the parking lot of the grocery store.
Back at the bar, Kenna feels comfortable since she worked in the kitchen of the prison during the years she was there. She also works hard, knowing how much more she’s being paid in comparison to the grocery store. After seeing how she’s reorganized the kitchen, Aaron is clearly impressed. When Kenna takes a break, she chats with Roman. She notices that he has a leg injury, and he explains that it’s a football injury from when he played professionally for about a year and a half.
Meanwhile, one of the other employees, Mary Anne, thinks that Ledger hired Kenna to make his ex Leah jealous, since they know Ledger has never mentioned wanting to hire more people. They tell her that Ledger was supposed to get married this month. When Ledger returns, Kenna asks about her. Ledger explains that he broke up with her because she didn’t see Diem as being a part of his family the way that he did.
As Kenna waits for Ledger to finish up to give her a ride home, she writes a letter to Scotty in her notebook. She’s interrupted by Ledger who asks her about her writing. Kenna says she likes to write and she thinks about how Ivy had encouraged her to read more and write more as a way of processing her thoughts instead of just wallowing in her grief. Ledger asks about her letters to Scotty and Kenna says she’s written over 300 of them and she has thought about compiling them into a book someday. He asks to read a letter that addresses what happened the night Scotty died, but Kenna says no.
Chapters 24 – 27
At the playground, Ledger is alarmed to see a bunch of women from town headed towards him. They’ve heard about Diem’s mother being back in town from Grace. He feels uncomfortable as the women badmouth Kenna. Later, Ledger goes to pick Kenna up from work. He tells her about the restraining order she’d likely to be served with soon. At the bar, Roman and Kenna are friendly with each other, and Ledger finds himself feeling a little jealous.
A short while later, Kenna gets her first paycheck and she’s able to finally buy a cell phone. She’s outside her apartment when “Lady Diana”/Lucy gets home and introduces her to her mother, Adeline. Adeline invites Kenna to a Mother’s Day lunch that they’re having at the apartment complex.
Adeline mentions that they need an extra table and some chairs, so when Kenna gets to the bar later that day, she asks Roman to borrow some. Roman lives in the upstairs unit above the bar. As they go up to his apartment to grab the table and chairs, Kenna asks him about his friendship with Ledger. Roman tells her that Ledger was the one that injured him, ending his football career. It resulted in Roman getting addicted to pain pills. Ledger found out, tracked him down, gave him a job and helped him to get sober.
When they bring the stuff downstairs, Ledger sees them coming out of Roman’s apartment and feels jealous, again. Ledger later tells Roman that she’s off limits because she needs to leave town, but Roman points out that if he really wanted her gone he could easily write her a check. Ledger warns Roman to be careful, but a part of him also realizes that he does wants her to stay.
Kenna overhears this conversation. Ledger then drives her home and helps her bring the table and chairs to her apartment. Before he leaves, Kenna mentions what she overheard, and she asks why he was warning Roman about her. Ledger says that he still doesn’t know if she made out with him as a way to get closer to Diem. Kenna insists she really didn’t know. Ledger then admits that he wishes she could meet Kenna, but he doesn’t know how to change Patrick and Grace’s minds. They start kissing again, but Kenna stops it.
Chapters 28 – 31
The next day, after the T-ball game, Diem pleads with Ledger to go to work with him, but he says no. Then, he gets a text from Kenna asking him to please come get her at the grocery store. When he arrives, Kenna describes how she got served with the restraining order today as she was working and how humiliating it was. Ledger feels bad for Kenna, but he’s tried broaching the topic of letting her see Diem with the Landrys and he knows how against it they are. He’s also worried that if he tried to push the issue that they would cut him out of Diem’s life as well.
Ledger and Kenna decide to go get snowcones, and he tells her more about Diem. Kenna also asks him about his house, and he offers to take her to go see it. In Cheshire Ridge, Kenna sees that the house is set on a 10-acre property so there are no neighbors nearby. The house itself is large and modern and overlooks the hills nearby. Seeing the house, Ledger admits that Diem is unhappy about it since she wants him to continue living across the street from her. Ledger also mentions that he was originally supposed to be getting married today and that he’s sad that things didn’t work out.
At work, Ledger thinks over things and how angry the Landrys would be if they learned everything that was going on with him and Kenna. He finally tells Kenna that if she wants the money to leave town, he’ll just give it to her instead of doing this whole song and dance with her working at the bar. Their conversation is interrupted, but when they resume it, Kenna agrees to accept the money and leave.
When Ledger drives her home, he follows her inside, saying he wants to talk to her. They end up talking about Scotty’s death. Kenna says that she didn’t know she was pregnant or she wouldn’t have plead guilty. Ledger finally apologizes for some of the things he said when they first met, like saying that Diem wouldn’t benefit from having her around. They then start kissing and it escalates into them having sex. They take a break and then they do it again.
Chapters 32 – 33
The next morning, Ledger wakes her up momentarily to let her know he needs to leave. When he gets home, Grace and Diem have noticed that he was gone and are wondering where he was. Ledger gives Grace some flowers for Mother’s Day that he picked up. Diem then asks about her own mother, and Ledger reassures Diem that he will give her mother some flowers. He shows up a while later at Kenna’s place with some flowers, and he invites her to come work on the house.
After they drive over, Ledger asks to please hear about what happened the night Scotty died, knowing that he needs to full picture if he’s going to try to defend her to Patrick and Grace. Finally, Kenna reads to him from her letter about that night. She describes how they had a 12-pack, some edibles and drove out to the lake. On the way back, Scotty was more drunk, so Kenna drove instead in his convertible with the top down. He told her to “slow down”, but when she hit the brakes, the gravel caused them to spin out into a ditch.
After the accident, the car was upside down, and she realized Scotty wasn’t moving and there was blood everywhere. She could get out, but Scotty seemed to be stuck. She couldn’t find either of their phones, so she started walking towards the highway, but got disoriented. She was covered in blood and no one stopped to help. Instead, Kenna must’ve made her way to her apartment, but passed out since she woke up with a puddle of blood next to her head.
It wasn’t until she learned that he was still alive just before they found him hours later that Kenna really freaked out. At that point, she became truly heartbroken and distraught. She later learns that his arm had been injured too badly and had no bloodflow (which is why she thought he was dead), but his heart had still been beating.
At that point, Kenna was severely depressed and couldn’t post bail. The lawyer they appointed wanted her to plead not guilty, but everyone seemed to think she was guilty and she did, too. Sometime between her plea and her sentencing, she learned she was pregnant. She was supposed to give a statement at the sentencing, but was too heartbroken to do it. She ended up getting seven years.
Chapters 34 – 36
When she’s done reading, Ledger seems upset, and he feels terribly about how they’ve treated her all these years. He says he’s sorry that she lost Scotty, and Kenna thinks about how no one else has acknowledged that she lost someone, too, that night. They then kiss and start fooling around again. Ledger eventually gets to work on the flooring of the house.
Later, as they are fooling around again, they are interrupted by the arrival of Ledger’s parents who have shown up unexpectedly. He introduces her as “Nicole” and they try to get her out of there as quickly as possible, despite his parents’ questions.
That evening, long after Ledger has dropped Kenna off, his mom tells him that she recognized Kenna the moment they saw her walk into the bar all those weeks ago. She warns him to be careful, but she also says that if Ledger sees something in Kenna, then she believes there must be something special about her.
That night, Ledger goes to see Kenna and they have sex, but he also tells her that he needs to talk to the Landrys before this goes any further since he doesn’t want the situation to blow up in their faces.
Chapters 37 – 38
The next morning, Ledger drops Kenna off at the grocery store and heads home. He sees that his parents’ RV is outside his house. He also sees that something is wrong when he sees the look on Patrick’s face. Patrick pulls him inside to talk and tells him that he saw Ledger’s truck outside Kenna’s apartment that morning. He demands to know if he’s sleeping with her. When Ledger tries to defend Kenna, Patrick punches him in the face. Patrick lunges at him again, but Ledger’s father separates them. When Ledger gets to the bar, Roman takes him to the hospital to get stitches.
When Ledger goes to pick up Kenna to head to the bar, he’s wearing sunglasses. She happily tells him about how she’s been promoted to cashier at her grocery store job. It isn’t until they get to her apartment that she sees his face, and he tells her what happened with Patrick.
She starts to realize that she’s forcing Ledger to choose between her and the people he loves, and Kenna realizes it’s time for her to leave. She tells him she needs money, but she’s going to move. She has no chance of seeing Diem anyway because of the restraining order. Ledger is angry and frustrated, but he promises Kenna that he’ll make sure Diem grows up knowing how much Kenna loves her.
Chapters 39 – 40
Ledger leaves and goes to the Landry’s house to see Diem. They let him in, and Diem introduces him to her new pet turtle who she’s named Ledger. Ledger thinks about how Diem deserves to have her mother in her life.
Before Ledger left Kenna’s place, he had taken her phone and forwarded her “Dear Scotty” letters to himself. He realizes it’s a violation of her privacy, so she doesn’t intend to read them. Instead, he prints out the letter about Scotty’s death and goes back to talk to Patrick and Diem. He tells them that they owe it to him to hear him out considering how devoted he’s been to Diem. He also says that he doesn’t think Scotty would be happy with how things played out. He then gives them the letter and tells them to read it.
Later that day, Ledger shows up at Kenna’s door. She lets him in, but is surprised to see that Grace is there with him. Immediately, Kenna starts crying. Grace has with her a ring — it was a ring that Scotty had once offered to buy for Kenna, until he realized how expensive it was. Grace says that Scotty called her and told her he wanted to propose with that ring, so Grace had lent him the money for it. Grace said she was planning on giving it to Diem someday, but she’s decided to give it to Kenna since it was originally for her.
Grace says that she read the letter that Ledger had given her. She had thought for years that Kenna was indifferent about Scotty’s death and that she’d left him there to die. Grace then apologizes for how they’ve treated Kenna. She tells her that she should be able to meet Diem, and she invites Kenna over for dinner.
At the Landry’s house, Kenna is nervous. Grace tells Kenna that Diem doesn’t know anything about her. Diem then runs in. She’s introduced to Kenna, and she in turn introduces Kenna to Ledger the Turtle. When she and Diem have a moment alone, she tells Diem that she’s her mother. Diem invites her to come to her next T-ball game.
In the kitchen alone, Grace and Kenna agree to forgive each other for the past and move forward.
Chapters 41 – 42
Over dinner, Patrick tells Kenna stories about Diem growing up. After dinner, Ledger takes Kenna back to his place. He tells her that he thinks he’s going to sell his fancy house and stay here, since “his people” are here and he doesn’t want to leave them. Ledger also thinks about how earlier that day as Patrick had agreed to let Kenna meet Diem, they’d laughed when they’d seen a pigeon and he wonders if it was a sign from Scotty.
A short while later, Kenna and Ledger have now been together for five months. She takes Diem to the place where Scotty died. Together, they place a cross in the ground as a memorial for Scotty. Kenna tells Diem that she can say something to Scotty if she wants, and Diem tells Scotty that she wants a sibling. Kenna tells Diem they can get another kitten for now instead. They then get back into the car with Ledger and drive off.
The book closes with one more letter to Scotty. It’s been a few years and Diem is 7 now. Kenna writes about how she used to write more frequently, probably because she was lonely. Diem still lives with the Landrys since they didn’t want to interrupt her life, but Kenna and Ledger see her every day, and she has a bedroom in both houses.
Kenna also writes that she just gave birth to her and Ledger’s son, who she named Scotty.