Suzette is 21. When her straight-A sister Ellen turned 18, Suzette took her out for a night of drinking—her first exposure to alcohol. Ellen did not wake up the next morning; she died of alcohol poisoning. Not only does Suzette blame herself—so does her mother, her brother, and many of her friends and relatives. Her father sent her to the ranch, because her mother can’t stand the sight of her, and no relatives will take her in.

Mike is a divorced high school teacher and football coach who lost his teenage daughter in a single-car accident. She was the driver. She was his only child, and though he is a good and moral man and respected in his community, he is an atheist and has no spiritual basis of consolation for his loss. To him, his daughter is simply gone forever. Mike is finding it difficult to return to work, because every student reminds him of the daughter he will never hug again. The principal at the school where he teaches suggested Mike go to the ranch so he can “get better” in time to return for the fall semester.

Teresa is 35. Her husband died six months ago, and just when she thought she was learning to cope with that, her oldest daughter became ill and died within three weeks. Teresa is Catholic, and clinging to her faith as best she can. It doesn’t really ease her pain, but she feels it’s all she has. Teresa’s church took up a collection that allowed her to come to the ranch.

Allison is 45. Her husband Hal died 2 years ago, and her main feeling about it is anger. He had diabetes and did not watch his diet or exercise, and the disease took him early and unexpectedly. She feels that he deprived her of the happy future she was expecting. Allison’s pregnant daughter and son-in-law live with her, but because she’s so angry all the time they threaten to leave—taking away the rent money Allison needs to keep the house—unless she goes to the ranch.

Kelly‘s 20-year-old son drowned when he was washed overboard off a fishing boat in Alaska six years ago. Kelly’s anger has been causing problems at work, even though she has been sent to Anger Management classes and is taking two different antidepressants. Kelly’s supervisor threatened to fire her if she didn’t go to the ranch. Kelly is lying about something very important—a secret she plans to never tell anyone.

Josh‘s father died while kayaking, something he loved, and often did with Josh. Josh tells his mother that his dad speaks to him, especially when he’s out in nature. His mother sends Josh to the ranch in hopes that the therapist will dispel his illusion. Josh fears his dad will not be able to talk to him at the ranch, though when he gets there he enjoys the nature. Josh does not hear his dad while at the ranch

Rollie is the caretaker/cook. Rollie is the only one who has not been touched by death personally. This makes him an outsider to the group, but it also allows him a perspective the others lack. Rollie is kind-hearted, but feels inadequate to help these people who have suddenly become his responsibility.

Earl, 48, owns the ranch where six people have come to get away from life for a while and deal with the deaths of their loved ones. Earl was a successful businessman in Chicago, but he’s out of his element here, and is having trouble maintaining the ranch financially. Earl doesn’t want to be involved, but circumstances eventually pull him in. Earl has a personal secret that contributes to his push-pull feelings about the group.