Grace is visiting the Ottawa Valley, looking for the Traverses' summer house. Is Grace a lost housecat? A deranged circus performer? A marauding grizzly bear? These are all reasonable questions, but we soon discover that Grace is a human female, that she's old now, and that the main events of the story take place during a summer when she was just out of high school and working as a waitress at Bailey's Falls.
During that summer Grace meets the Travers family. She dates Maury Travers but is never sure if she loves him. She loves Mrs. Travers, but not in the way that she thinks she should love Maury. She spends a lot of time with the family, including a fateful Thanksgiving Sunday during which she cuts her foot on a clamshell and agrees to accompany Neil Travers (Maury's older brother) into town for a hospital visit—and by "hospital visit" we mean a very brief hospital visit, followed by a bar visit, followed by some drunk-driving and a visit to a bootlegger, all of which occur amid a thick haze of sexual tension and/or impending disaster. Eventually Neil falls asleep and Grace drives him back to Bailey's Falls.
The next morning, Grace learns that Neil died in a car accident the previous night. Presumably she loses touch with the Traverses except for one meeting, later on, when Mr. Travers visits her at work and gives her a check for one thousand dollars.