At 27, Miriam Gould leads a life a good many people would envy. She is a successful editor of books for young people at a New York publishing house. She has her own apartment with a wood-burning fireplace. She has the delightful Mike Andric eager to marry her.
Not so enviable is the overwhelming sense of loss and loneliness she carries with her. Every year as April comes closer, she is subject increasingly to exhausting valleys of depression.
She was brought up in Connecticut by her mother, who told her matter-of-factly when she was 12 that she had never married Miriam's father and that he had been killed in the war. With this brief recital, her mother considers the subject closed. Miriam only knows that the two grew up together in a small town in Maine. Throughout her adolescence she fixes on one hero after another and dreams that her father must have looked like them. When Miriam is 21 her mother dies in a bus accident. Much later, the young woman musters the courage to go through her mother's few personal possessions. They include her photograph albums, which Miriam had pored over as a child. They also include a few pieces of jewelry. When Miriam goes through them, she finds that the jewel box's moire bottom is a false one. Under it are three long letters, the last written to her mother shortly before her death. All are signed "Fern". A photograph in one of the albums shows a child named Fern in a clown suit.
The letters are postmarked "Parmenter, Maine". An opportunity comes for Miriam to spend an extended period of time editing a manuscript away from her office. A fragment of poetry underlined in one of her mother's books... "Where the lost Aprils are, and the lost Mays..." haunts Miriam, and she heads for Parmenter to do her editorial work and to find her mother's lost Aprils.