On the coast of Cork, Syracuse is a fisherman, on the wagon, living alone. His precocious daughter, Annie, about 10, has failing kidneys. One day, a nearly-drowned young woman comes up in his net; she speaks oddly, calls herself Ondine, and wants no one to see her. He puts her up in an isolated cottage that was his mother's. Annie discovers Ondine's presence and believes she's a selkie, a mythical seal turned human while on land. If this is a fairy tale, is there a happily ever after, or do the realities of alcohol, illness, and worse intrude, including Syracuse's inveterate bad luck? As his priest tell him, misery's easy, it's happiness you have to work at. Any hope of that?