Please wait while we process your payment
If you don't see it, please check your spam folder. Sometimes it can end up there.
Don’t have an account?
Create Your Account
Sign up for your FREE 7-day trial
Already have an account? Log in
Choose Your Plan
$4.99/month + tax
$24.99/year + tax
Save over 50% with a SparkNotes PLUS Annual Plan!
for a group?
Get Annual Plans at a discount when you buy 2 or more!
$18.74 /subscription + tax
Subtotal $37.48 + tax
on 2-49 accounts
on 50-99 accounts
Want 100 or more?
for a customized plan.
You'll be billed after your free trial ends.
7-Day Free Trial
Renews October 6, 2023
September 29, 2023
Discounts (applied to next billing)
This is not a valid promo code.
(one code per order)
Annual Plan - Group Discount
SparkNotes Plus subscription is $4.99/month or $24.99/year as selected above. The free trial period is the first 7 days of your subscription. TO CANCEL YOUR SUBSCRIPTION AND AVOID BEING CHARGED, YOU MUST CANCEL BEFORE THE END OF THE FREE TRIAL PERIOD. You may cancel your subscription on your Subscription and Billing page or contact Customer Support at email@example.com. Your subscription will continue automatically once the free trial period is over. Free trial is available to new customers only.
For the next 7 days, you'll have access to awesome PLUS stuff like AP English test prep, No Fear Shakespeare translations and audio, a note-taking tool, personalized dashboard, & much more!
You’ve successfully purchased a group discount. Your group members can use the joining link below to redeem their group membership. You'll also receive an email with the link.
Members will be prompted to log in or create an account to redeem their group membership.
Thanks for creating a SparkNotes account! Continue to start your free trial.
Your PLUS subscription has expired
*See discount terms and conditions.
The story begins by describing Fiona in her youth, living in her parents’ house and being courted by several men. Fiona’s family is moneyed and privileged, but her mother’s left-wing politics prevent Fiona from joining a sorority. Like her mother, Fiona does not care about the rules and expectations of her social class. She enjoys the discomfort of guests at the house put off by her playing the Communist anthem “The Internationale” and makes fun of all her suitors, especially Grant. Grant is attracted to Fiona’s vivacious approach to life, even when she mocks him. When she proposes marriage to Grant, he believes she may be joking but says yes immediately.
The story moves to the present day, as Fiona, now 70 years old, leaves the home she shares with Grant for the last time. She cleans a scuff mark her shoes have made on the floor, noting that she will not do that again, since she is not bringing those shoes to the place she will be living. Fiona dresses with her usual grace and care, in tailored clothes that suit her thin frame. As is her habit, she puts on a fresh coat of red lipstick as she leaves the house.
The setting of the story shifts again, to the previous year. Grant begins to realize that Fiona is losing her memory. She puts notes on the kitchen drawers to remind herself of their contents. She gets lost on a long walk and cannot remember when they moved to their house. When she goes to see a doctor, Grant tells him she has always been somewhat absent-minded, but her memory deteriorates further, making her decline impossible to deny. She wanders away from a supermarket and is found meandering in the middle of the road. Her witty reply to the questions of the policeman who finds her initially makes the incident appear to be a joke, but when she asks after her long-dead dogs, Grant understands that she really is suffering from dementia.
The story returns to the present day, as Grant drives Fiona to Meadowlake, the nursing home where she will live. On the drive, they reminisce together about skiing in the moonlight at a place they drive pass, and Grant wonders if there is really anything wrong with her memory, if she can remember her past so clearly. The supervisor at Meadowlake has explained to Grant that new residents are not allowed visitors for the first thirty days, so he will not be allowed to see Fiona for that time. The rule exists to prevent new residents becoming upset and convincing their relatives to bring them back home. The supervisor tells Grant that if they have no visitors for a month, they settle in and are happy at Meadowlake.
At home alone, Grant remembers a time when he and Fiona went to Meadowlake to visit Mr. Farquhar, an elderly farmer who had lived in their neighborhood, in an old brick house that has since been replaced by a large new house, used on the weekends by people from Toronto. The old Meadowlake building has also been torn down and replaced since then, but Grant keeps picturing Fiona in the old building during the period he is not allowed to visit.
During the month he waits to visit, Grant calls every day and talks to a nurse named Kristy, who tells him when Fiona catches a cold and when she recovers and begins to adjust to life at Meadowlake. She’s eating better, spending time in the sunroom, and getting to know other residents. Meanwhile, Grant avoids their friends, letting calls go to the answering machine so that people will believe they are traveling. Grant skis for exercise and makes dinner alone, missing the time of day that he and Fiona used to spend talking about their work and interests.
Grant dreams of showing a colleague a letter from the roommate of a girl he had an affair with, claiming the girl has committed suicide. When the colleague counsels him to talk to Fiona, he dreams of going to see her at the old Meadowlake, but instead he arrives at a lecture hall, where a row of young women sits in judgment. Fiona dismisses them as foolish. Waking up, Grant separates the events of the dream from his real past, in which there was a letter but no suicide or disgrace. However, his affair did lead to social isolation from his colleagues and an internal promise on his part to treat Fiona better. Grant reflects on the changes in their lives at that time, including his retirement and their move to the country.
Grant goes to Meadowlake to visit Fiona for the first time. He is eager to see her and brings flowers but feels a distance between them. She is sitting with other residents who are playing cards, including Aubrey, a man she apparently knew many years before. Seeing their attachment disturbs Grant, who is afraid Fiona does not recognize him.
Grant continues to visit Fiona, who gets used to his presence but does not seem to remember that they are married. He witnesses her increasing intimacy with Aubrey, whom he learns from Kristy is only at Meadowlake temporarily while his caretaker wife is traveling. Fiona’s appearance changes the longer she is at Meadowlake. She is given unfamiliar clothes and has her long hair cut short, which she does not notice until Grant points it out.
The story shifts back to the past, when Grant was still teaching, and it was common for married women to return to college to take classes for personal enrichment. He had an affair with one, Jacqui Adams. As the culture shifted during this period, female students became more open about seeking sexual relationships. Although many of their peers embraced the change, Fiona did not, and Grant kept his affairs secret, refusing to allow them to threaten his marriage.
In the present day, Grant brings a book of paintings of Iceland to Meadowlake as a present for Fiona, a reminder of her Icelandic mother. He finds her in bed, heartsick that Aubrey is leaving to return home with his wife. Not remembering who Grant is, she asks him to intercede so that Aubrey can stay.
After Aubrey leaves, Fiona becomes depressed. Her health deteriorates as she refuses to eat or walk around. Kristy and the supervisor warn Grant that she may soon become too weak to live in the assisted living area.
Grant arrives unannounced at Aubrey’s home and tries to convince Marian, Aubrey’s wife, to let him return for visits to Meadowlake. She refuses, saying it will only upset Aubrey to change his routine, and that she cannot afford to put him there full time without losing her house. When he returns home, he finds that Marian has left two answering machine messages, nervously inviting him to a singles dance. As Grant wonders whether she is attracted to him, she calls again, and he lets the machine answer. He calls her back while considering her potential sexual attractiveness.
In the next scene, Grant has returned to Meadowlake and has brought Aubrey to visit with Fiona. Fiona is more her old self, admiring the book of Icelandic paintings and commenting that the clothes she is wearing aren’t hers. When Grant presents Aubrey to her, she stands and embraces Grant, pinching his earlobes and expressing her happiness that he has come to her. He rests his face against her hair and responds that he will never forsake her.