While the widow Rachel Appelbaum admits to starting two small house-fires, stumbling and falling a time or two and refusing to take her pills, she doesn’t agree that those few little flaws, as claimed by her thankless kids, prove she’s unfit to live alone. But when Sidney and Pearl win their longstanding argument in Manhattan Family Court, they set plans to send their own mother to an old folks’ home 1,000 miles from New York, in Tampa. In Florida.
On some island in a bay.
Vowing to ignore both the law and her children, Rachel first seeks help from a former flame, blue-eyed millionaire, Dovey Merkle, then from her family attorney. When those two prove useless she hides in the vacant home of her best friend, only to be betrayed by modern technology. So, of course, Pearl finds her, nabs her and hauls her away.
Once resettled down south against her will in a place called Belle Isle—filled with rednecks, cornbread and board games—Rachel breaks all the rules and schemes to return to New York.
But, despite her best efforts, relationships happen. Rachel meets sweet old Bob Kelly, a blind veteran who has lived his whole life in institutions, Nurse Fulfer (a man!), who seems truly concerned about Rachel’s health, and Lurlene Greene, a gorgeous, needy and inappropriately young fellow inmate with an evangelist’s soul and a mysterious past, who first captures Rachel’s curiosity and eventually steals her heart.
After Rachel, a Jew, survives both Christmas and New Year’s in Florida among her unusual new friends, she briefly considers forgiving her kids and trying to live in the south. But her meds go awry, as they have in the past, and Rachel finds herself in the grasp of airport security at Tampa International after trying to board a flight to LaGuardia with no luggage, a huge wad of cash and only an expired Macy’s card for ID.
Dovey Merkle steps in like a hero, but will she allow him to save her?