A middle-aged Chicago man inherits his aunt’s home in the upper peninsula of Michigan, not knowing she ran it as a bed & breakfast until he arrives in his rental car. A young medical school graduate, with a summer to pass before reporting to her residency in Chicago, drives to meet her boyfriend on Mackinac Island, harboring serious doubts about him and their relationship. He reaches his destination. She collides with a deer. The town hotel has no vacancies, and she drives a Saab, which the local car dealership considers more foreign than Mars.
This is how two strangers come to be stuck in Manistique.
Although Mark had no idea his Aunt Vivian, a retired doctor who worked with MSF and other international medical charities, ran Manistique Victorian in the tiny UP town, he becomes an innkeeper almost immediately, when Emily knocks on his door after being referred by the no-vacancies Cozy Inn. Seeing her pitiful form — one eye is patched with gauze, a casualty of the deer-car collision (known simply as deer-car in the UP) — Mark lets her stay for one night. Then another. Then another.
A series of characters, both local and visiting, come and go through the inn and the narrative, but the main focus remains on Emily and Mark. They have no romantic attraction, but a deep familial connection, which is strengthened when Emily starts reading Vivian’s essay about her 1992 mission to Sarajevo in a Doctors Without Borders compilation. Slowly but surely, the two help each other over hurdles that seemed insurmountable when they walked into the Manistique Victorian, making their chance meeting appear more fated than fortuitous.