This is the story of three generations of women in Savannah, Georgia.
Bobbie, from the early 1900s, spent time in the equivalent of the child welfare system. She is now a New York City newspaper reporter, in Savannah for a story, who is not above the occasional theft. As the years go on, she marries Sam, and they live in New York City. He is a good husband, except for his tendency to take off for a week or two, with no explanation as to where he is going or why. During World War I, she volunteers to write letters home for wounded soldiers who are unable to do it themselves. She and Sam slowly drift apart (he is dying from some sort of lung disease); in the 1930s, several of her newspaper columns are about Flora, the Waving Girl. Something of a Savannah tradition, she would wave to every ship that used Savannah's port; every ship, every day for many years.
Flora, from 1940, is the Waving Girl. She lived with her brother George, who took care of a local lighthouse (that is why she could wave to all those passing ships). She tells her story as an old woman, making arrangements for George's funeral. She also talks about the involvement of her brother, now a Monsignor, during the days of Prohibition and speakeasies. The city erected a bronze statue of her to acknowledge her service. A question that she is asked frequently is why she waved to all those passing ships for all those years. Was it unrequited love? Was she waiting for someone?
Maggie, from 2011, is an architectural photographer living in Philadelphia. She flies to Savannah after receiving a late-night phone call saying that her husband, David, is missing and presumed dead after a boating accident. Their marriage had also seen better days; David liked to go to Savannah alone. Maggie begins to realize that David had a whole other life in Savannah, of which she was not a part. She is told all about Flora, and sees the cottage where she and George lived, along with the lighthouse that he kept in operation. Maggie also starts to fall in love with a local lighthouse restorer.
This is a very "quiet" novel, all about feelings and finding yourself. It has a lot of excellent writing, but it is not a very optimistic story. The reader will not go wrong with this one.