Wow! It's difficult for me to give a 5 star rating... don't know why. I suppose that, to me, if every book is a 5, then none of them are. But this book... I haven't been able to stop thinking about it. I *love* Meryl Streep - who doesn't? But "Out of Africa" is my favorite movie of all time - Meryl, the scenery, the music, the bittersweet romance... I liked Meryl Streep before this movie, but I *loved* her afterwards. And I started seeing the movies that she'd made earlier, that I was too young to see at the time.ANYWAY... the movies and Meryl are simply the means by which the 4 women in this book begin to really open up and SHARE - their lives, themselves, their pasts, their presents, and their futures. Each woman has, until now, been going through life with her own set of blinders on, narrowly focused only what was right before her; hiding behind the hurts of the past. We see the movies through the eyes of each character - where she is at that moment in time. And we witness the beauty of a FAMILY begin to truly take root and flourish.Lolly is the aunt to Isabel and June and the mother of Kat. Isabel's and June's parents had a bit too much to drink one New Year's eve approximately 15 years ago, so they called Lolly asking for a ride home. Lolly woke her husband and sent him to fetch them, seeing a golden opportunity to spend a few private moments with someone else... on the phone. But her phone call is interrupted when the operator breaks in; it's the police - there's been an accident: a drunk drive crashed into their car, and now Lolly's husband, sister, and brother-in-law are dead.So begins this book... The book is divided into POVs between Isabel, June, and Kat. Lolly's POV is only in the Prologue of the book, but her presence is known through her interaction with each of the 3 girls. We learn that Isabel, the eldest, was a wild-child, driving her parents, her sister, and herself to destruction; the last words she yelled at her mother was that she wished her mother was dead. WHOOMP! Isabel is assigned to Edward as a mentor grief counselor. Edward, 16 too, lost his parents and is also an orphan. He helps Isabel deal with her tragedy - offers her another way that leaves behind her bad-girl and becomes... what? That's kind of where Isabel starts. She's been a sort of stepford wife, becoming all that she thinks Edward wants her to be: stuck-up, money and class conscious... and yet, unhappy. She and Edward made a pact at 16 that they would always be together and they would never have children. Edward doesn't want any child to face what he & Isabel had to face. Instead, at 21 when they marry, they travel and seem to have the perfect life.That is... until a few days before their 10th anniversary, when Isabel is trying to make ravioli to bring back their honeymoon. But she can't get it right. She knows that something is deeply wrong - with her, with Edward - but she thinks it's because she's asked him for a child. But a note slipped under the door by "a friend" points her to another house... where she finds Edward coming out of the bedroom in nothing but a shirt... and her pushy neighbor Cynthia is bare as the day she was born.June, we learn, was always the "good" girl. She didn't like it when Isabel changed at 16 and became "good", too. June was quieter, but more studious. She went on to an Ivy league school, determined to be an editor and take the New York publishing world by storm. Instead, in her senior year of college, she meets a handsome guy by the name of John Smith (!) and spends the most magical, most romantic 2 days of her life with him, even giving him her virginity. She's in love!Except that when she's to meet John at their favorite meeting spot in Central Park to tell him that she's pregnant, John never shows. June tries to find him, but decides that either John Smith is some fake ID or that he knew what she was going to say and ran off. June moves back home to Lolly's Bed-and-Breakfast (The Three Captain's Inn) and becomes a manager at the local bookstore. When she gives birth to Charlie, he's the spitting image of his father... June loves the boy to death, but so much is unresolved in her life. And she feels like a failure - giving up her life and career for that whirlwind romance. She wouldn't give up Charlie for the world, but she has lasting fantasies of John coming back....Kat is 6 years Isabel's junior and 3 years June's junior. The only child, she had to grow up fast when her father, aunt, and uncle died. She suddenly had 2 surly sister roommates who threatened to kill each other (or her) at every turn. Kat grew up quiet. She turned to her neighbor, Oliver, who became her best friend and comforter. Her Person, in Grey's Anatomy speak.Kat's always been a baker. She makes muffins, scones, and cakes (wedding, birthday, and special occasion) to order for local coffee shops and folks. Her business is well-known. Kat has fantasized about going to France and eating her way through cake shops, then apprenticing to the one she loves the best. She & Oliver are still best friends, but he's finally persuaded her to date him - for 6 months now. But Kat's afraid: what if this romance ruins the friendship? Does she feel romantic love for Oliver? Everyone, including her father before he died, seems to think that Kat & Oliver were fated to be married from age 5 up. But what does Kat want?All of this comes to a head when Lolly calls all 3 girls back to the B&B with an announcement: she's got Stage 4 pancreatic cancer. While she's determined to take chemo, she's going to need help running the inn. All 3 girls are flabbergasted. They haven't ever really been a family. Lolly has always been THERE but distant - not the hugging or encouraging type. She says that by giving them distance, she's given them the best gift. But now.... each girl, now really a woman, tries to reframe her life within the scope of Lolly's announcement and the inner turmoil in her own life.THIS BOOK IS AMAZING! I cried so many times - not just because I was sad, but because I was TOUCHED. Who knows? Maybe I just needed a really good cry. But through this story and these characters, I was touched... and changed... and amazed.Spoilers in tags, but I need to put my thoughts down about each character here:Lolly: You just *know* that Lolly's had an affair from the beginning of the book. But with whom? What happened? You get the feeling that the accident shook Lolly from that affair and reset her course in life. But still... even after the Movie Night watching "The Bridges Of Madison County", you're left wondering WHO? WHEN? It isn't until nearly the end of the book, when Kat discovers his name, Harrison Ferry, and tells him her mother is dying that you get any sense of what happened.Sure enough. Lolly was on the phone with Harrison when the car crash happened. She was sneaking in some precious time with him. I was never quite clear on whether they had an actual affair or an affair of the heart, but is there really a difference? Lolly's guilt made her realize how much she'd loved her husband, and something inside her shut down. Enough that she became the pragmatic, practical, hands-off kinda mother raising 3 girls and running a B&B by herself. It isn't until Lolly's willing to start opening up her heart and her past, starting with having Isabel look for her mother's journals, that we see how much Lolly's been hiding inside. How fearless and fierce she's been in loving and protecting these girls without them even knowing it.Isabel: Of all the women, I relate to Isabel the most. She's the oldest sibling. And while I wasn't the wild child that she was, I think every girl who's lived through her teen years with her mother can relate to the love-hate relationship. It's so beautiful and bittersweet that Isabel comes to know her mother from letters and snapshots... to really know that her mother truly loved her, even if she didn't always agree with her or understand her. And to find out that Lolly had her back.Isabel reached for Edward in her grief. She'd looked to the wild girls to find an identity; now she looked to Edward to find her identity. In him, Isabel found the stability, comfort, and approval she was seeking. Except that she didn't realize, until too late, that Edward's approval and love came with a price: it was his way or else. The distance between them... so sad. His refusal to even think about having a child, and then his cruel remarks to her and to their friends was too much to bear. But bear it, she did.Edward's affair was a betrayal on so many levels - not just of marriage vows, but also of the very pact that he insisted she take with him at 16 - the one that included "no kids". He promised they'd be together forever. And while that's an ambitious promise/pact to make at 16, Isabel had no way of knowing he wouldn't keep his word. Except that there are always signs, aren't there? We just simply ignore what we don't want to see. Or internalize it - make it our own secret struggle.I was suspicious of Griffin, the vet with the 4 year old and 14 year old. He seemed almost too perfect for Isabel, his wife having left him for another man. And I'm still ambivalent about this relationship. On paper, it's perfect. But it felt as if Griffin might be her "transition man"... Then again, Isabel finds herself beautifully, by herself. Yes, she wants love and children. Yes, she can relate to Alexa's anger and angst. And yes, Isabel and Griffin's Big Misunderstanding over Emmy going missing gives them a break from each other; and HE's the one to come back, asking her forgiveness, and making Alexa ask for her forgiveness, too.I was amazed at Isabel's reactions when Edward comes to visit. Also amazed at how quickly the divorce is proceeding, since it seems like only weeks. How Isabel can keep her cool and realize, through it, that she's really and truly over Edward - that she LIKES herself now that she knows who she is - and that she actually wishes him well. Wow! I don't know that I could be so gracious.June: Her story is, to me, the most heart-wrenching. I figured that John Smith had to have died in some sort of accident on that fateful day, ala "Love Affair", but I'd never have guessed that he was terminally ill with leukemia. I love how June loves Charlie! It's amazing what love can do, especially for single mothers!I felt for Henry Books. It was obvious the man had a thing for her forever... but June just wasn't willing to see it. She was still too hung up on John Smith and hoping he'd come back to her. Henry was wise to wait, even though I wanted to hit him over the head! And for him to be the one to give her the final piece of the puzzle - John's obit...I was so happy that the meeting with John's parents went well - that they were willing to be part of Charlie's and June's lives! That they accepted them so whole-heartedly into their lives. I suppose that losing an only child like that, and then almost rediscovering him in this bright, young, loving boy... How could they not accept him?But I love what Isabel says to Charlie when he's worried about filling in his family tree - how he has all the family he needs, right there. And by the end of the book, Charlie's not only got his father's side of the family penciled in (John Smith, Heaven - broke my heart!), but he's also added Griffin and Oliver.Kat: I really, really, really like how the author didn't take the easy route with Kat. And I honestly didn't know which way Kat would choose to go. I was so pleased that Kat chose NOT to have the physical affair with Dr. Viola and even pulled back as much as she could from the emotional affair. It was as anguishing to me as it was to Kat, though, trying to figure out the right decisions for HER. I could see her being pressed into the mold that she thought everyone else needed or wanted her to be in.And I'm really, really glad for the Q&A at the end of my book, where the author says that she believes that after her culinary adventures in France that Kat will end up married to Oliver. I keep hoping that Oliver will show up when she's almost at the end of her culinary training and travel Europe with her.I wasn't sure what I felt about Oliver Was he really too good to be true? He showed his anger, fear, and insecurities, though. And through it all, he proved that he KNEW and LOVED Kat as much or more than anyone else. He wasn't trying to decide for her; he truly wanted what was best for her. But after all this time of loving her, he did feel proprietorially towards her... in Oliver's heart and mind and soul, Kat ultimately belonged WITH HIM, regardless of where or how. And that's what finally made me realize that Oliver truly was The One for Kat. Which is why I'm glad that she took her trip (and that he'd planned part of it, just as her mom had, without knowing what Lolly had done and without telling Kat), and glad that the author clarified that they'd be together some day.Ahhhh! I wish this book would become a movie, but I'm not sure how that's possible - with the Meryl Streep references and movies... and simply the worry that it must be really well done. But I'll keep an eye out for other works by this author.