On a small stretch of untamed coast, five old clapboard houses gaze out to sea. Fourteen-year-old May Duhane, arriving with her father and sister for the summer, feels isolated and resentful.
Leonie Beam, staying in the neighbouring house with her husband's family, shares May's isolation for she is unhappy in her marriage. She confides in Elizabeth Newton, an aging widow who keeps the beach's secrets.
Meanwhile, May has discovered the diary of a dead girl, her own age. To unravel its story, she must immerse herself in the past. As she does so, she begins to feel she is destined to follow in the dead girl's footsteps.