Home care nurse Emily Klein usually loves her work. But her new assignment, prenatal visits to a young woman under house arrest for the death of her toddler daughter during a Solstice ceremony, makes her uneasy. Maybe it’s Pippa Glenning’s odd household and the house arrest monitor. Or the court involvement that reminds Emily of her parents’ political activism and her father’s imprisonment. But when she can’t get out of the assignment, Emily is determined to do right by her high-profile and unconventional patient.
Pippa’s racially mixed Family of Isis is in turmoil. Without Tianthe cult leader and Pippa’s lover, who is in jail awaiting trial for the deaths of two toddlers, the group struggles to keep the household and their Tea Room business functioning. If Pippa follows the rules of her house arrest, she may be allowed to keep her baby, but as the pregnant woman in the family it’s her duty to dance for Isis at the upcoming winter Solstice ceremony. To escape the house arrest without being caught, she needs Emily’s help.
Despite their differences, Emily and Pippa’s friendship grows. Emily’s friends, her cousin Anna with whom she lives, Anna’s ex-husband Sam who shares in caring for their young daughter Zoe with spina bifida, her best friend Gina, all warn Emily that Pippa is trouble. When her grandfather dies, Emily reluctantly agrees to accompany Anna to the island in Maine where she was sent to live when her father went to prison. On the island, Emily begins to grapple with her parents’ choices a generation earlier.
At home, the media hypes the Frozen Babies Case. Anti-cult sentiment in the city escalates to angry protests and increasing violence. As the winter Solstice approaches, both Emily and Pippa make decisions about their responsibilities to their families, their communities, and to each other– decisions that put their lives, and Pippa’s unborn baby– in jeopardy.
Set in Springfield, Massachusetts and on an island in Penobscot Bay, the story is told from the alternating points of view of Emily, Pippa, Sam, and Gina. House Arrest explores the meaning of family loyalty when beliefs conflict, and questions the necessity of sometimes breaking rules to serve justice.