It's autumn of 1991 in the Finger Lakes of New York. Ellie O'Neal is looking forward to creating one more year of memories to carry with her when she leaves for college, but on the last Saturday of October her idyllic family life is shattered when her father and younger brother die in a horrifying accident.She embarks on a journey of formation that takes her to New York City, across the Atlantic and back, and deep into her past. Hunter College is her first stop. Uncomfortable sharing the pain of her loss with classmates, she immerses herself in literature courses to avoid social interaction until an exceptional young woman becomes a friend who draws her out into the world. Though Ellie begins to welcome new experiences and friendships, anxiety continually intrudes on her happiness. Her friend's words of encouragement, "Maybe what happened to you at seventeen was your share of life's pain," bring temporary consolation.Yet doubts persist. "What if it wasn't my share of pain? What if it was only the beginning?" On a twenty-year coming of age quest replete with love and heartbreak, grief and joy, Ellie builds on an emotional foundation bestowed by her parents and forges relationships that broaden and deepen her notion of family. These bonds compose a center that holds as she relearns her past and comes to terms with life.