The scene is a beach house on the Rhode Island shore, where Molly, recently widowed, is enjoying a Labor Day reunion with her two daughters. While Laurie, the married daughter, bakes a cake, Molly and Kate, the older but still single daughter, picnic on the beach, reminiscing about the years they shared with the late Malachai and pondering the changes his death has brought to their lives. Kate wants her mother to sell the house and move near her in the city; while Molly picks at her daughter, who had shown such youthful promise, for accepting a routine secretarial job. Laura, living in a St. Louis suburb with her husband and young children, seems to be the most secure and settled of the three, but, as the disputes and revelations multiply, it is made clear that she too remains in thrall to the memory of her father. In the end all three come to recognize their shared challenge: to redefine the past in terms of the new and separate responsibilities that each must now face and to achieve an individuality beyond the dependence instilled in them, for better or worse, by the powerful male figure now gone from their lives.
A probing, intense study of a widow and her two daughters coming to grips with a problem ever more common to today's women: how to honor the memory of a departed husband/father while, at the same time, breaking free from the restraints imposed by his still powerful influence.