Between jobs, Jessie decides to spend time on Cape Cod, living in a cottage rent-free courtesy of Faye, a family friend. Faye is in charge of a hospice group, and Jessie decides to join them while she is living in Cape Cod. Her first charge is Luke Ryder, a man with cancer who has less than a year to live. Jessie bonds with Nona, Luke's mother, and is mainly there to help Nona cope with day-to-day living and caretaking of her dying son; she is not asked to care for the son.
Jessie knows there are rules that she as a hospice caretaker must follow, but the longer she knows Nona and Luke, the easier she finds breaking these rules. One rule Nona asks Jessie to adhere to is to never leave Luke alone in the house. Nona leaves the house only a few times to take care of something, reluctant to leave Jessie by herself in case something comes up that she may have to handle. It has taken a while for Jessie to meet and interact with Luke, but eventually she does and looks forward to every chance she has to see him or talk to him. When Nona leaves Jessie for an hour or so to run an errand, Jessie leaves Luke alone when he asks her to pick up some things at the store. She lies to everyone about what she's done, thinking that there was no harm in leaving him alone for such a short time.
She breaks another rule when she opens up to Luke about her personal life. As a hospice worker, she’s told never to confide with the patient, that it is NOT about the employee but all about the person being cared for. When she confides in him, the two bond, and Jessie falls in love with a man whom she has no possible chance of building a life with. It doesn't surprise her family when they suspect what has happened; Jessie is known to fall into one doomed relationship after another. As the book progresses, Jessie continues to cross the line, eventually alienating herself from Luke’s family and finding herself in the middle of a media circus.
What is interesting about The Lavender Hour is the manner in which the story is toldl it is narrated entirely in hindsight. The climatic ending has already occurred in the mind of Jessie, the narrator. She tells the story from this viewpoint, giving the reader a sense of foreshadowing, knowing to expect that something awful will happen because of every little thing that Jessie does on behalf of her relationship with Luke and Nona. While Faye has no real inkling of what is transpiring between Luke and Jessie, Faye remains loyal to her friend to the end, even after Jessie's life starts to fall apart because of one final mistake she makes on behalf of the man she thinks she loves.
Aside from the relationship she cultivates with Luke, Jessie’s friendship with Faye is also important, bringing out some issues that relate to her relationship with her mother, who is the same age as Faye and has been friends with for quite some time. Jessie’s mother is a widow and has taken up with a much younger man. Jessie finds this difficult to deal with, embarrassed for her mother, and it takes a long time for Jessie to truly understand what is most important when it comes to love and happiness.
The Lavender Hour is going to be one of my favorite books from 2007. I couldn't put the book down. I just had to find out whether Jessie gets out of the mess she's made, or if the end to her story is a sad one. Knowing how foolish Jessie is throughout the entire story, one can't help but root for her nevertheless. She makes reckless mistakes because of her naivete and her wish to be loved by someone who isn't going to be around much longer, but one thing is certain – she does everything for what she thinks is love. A riveting page-turner, The Lavender Hour is highly recommended.