This beautiful story set in post WWII Scotland is about the “coming of age” of Jamie, a young boy growing up with an abusive, alcoholic father and a weak, ineffectual mother. One day, after a brutal beating of his mother by his drunken father, thirteen year old Jamie realizes he can no longer tolerate his home environment and moves in with his father’s parents, who have provided the only source of stability throughout his young life.
Jamie remains with his grandparents until he finishes school and then moves to England to strike out on his own. He returns to Scotland ten years later for an extended visit when he learns that Hugh, his grandfather, is dying. As he and his grandfather reminisce about the past, Jamie thinks to himself: “Once upon a time it was Hugh that had shown me, a young, saddened boy, how to grow up, how to make use of the past, and live with change. And now I was here: I would try to show him.”
Ultimately, this is a story about forgiveness because, in going through this process with his beloved grandfather, Jamie comes to the realization that his parents too were victims of their own personal torments and did the best they could with what they had to work with at the time – which is all any of us can do.