On April 30, 2007, a small car and a truck simultaneously enter an intersection in Charleston, South Carolina. The driver of the car is Landon Ratliff, a physician/professor with a strong professional identity and work ethic unmatched in his emotionally guarded personal life. Exhausted from his latest girlfriend’s surprise overnight visit, he runs a red light and is critically injured on the morning of his fortieth birthday. His hospitalization reveals additional problems that contribute to his instantaneous midlife crisis.
Landon’s injuries thrust his girlfriend, Luna Quinn, into the role of reluctant caregiver. They struggle, individually and together, with roles for which neither was emotionally prepared. When Luna accompanies Landon to New Orleans (where he completed medical training) for treatment, the city’s post-Katrina transformation inflicts further emotional trauma.
Though he is slow to see it and slower to admit it to himself, Landon eventually finds, to his amazement, that his path to healing and recovery is Luna. When his father falls ill with a terminal diagnosis, the lessons he’s learned from Luna help him navigate a path—through unspoken secrets and long silences—back to his family, a rediscovery he never thought possible.
When the clock struck midnight on Monday, April 30, 2007, Dr. Landon Ratliff’s fortieth birthday had been lost, thwarting everyone’s expectations, including his own. The milestone had been a source of private dread for Landon and a focus of preparatory excitement for the office staff, but both apprehension and anticipation had been for naught. Eventually, Landon would see his elaborately decorated office, but only in photos taken to memorialize the staff’s mischief. He would never taste the customized cola cake from Jestine’s. It had not even been sliced; in the aftershock, no one had an appetite, and freezing it had seemed way too hopeful. Also lost was the perfect Charleston afternoon that drifted toward a glorious spring evening full of vivid bloom, an evening that should have been filled with promise, but was not, since the private happy hour and dinner at The Lot had been canceled. The crowd at The Pour House next door was forty people short for the live show that night. All the hope and joy of the planning and all of Landon’s foreboding had been wasted because, precisely forty years after the uncomplicated birth of the third child of Eddie and Iris Ratliff, he had been lying unconscious on a gurney in the emergency department at the Medical University of South Carolina with a breathing tube inserted into his windpipe to prevent him from choking on his own vomit.