I feel utterly lost.
Jasmine is a 30-year-old highly successfull, ambitious, very hard working career woman in Dublin, Ireland. The book starts when, to her utter shock, she's fired by her bussiness partner, who puts her on paid leave for a year while she's legally forbidden from working anywhere else during that yearnote . For Jasmine this is the worst thing that could happen, since her work was her life. She now suddenly has lots of time to spend at home, and she realises she doesn't even know who her neighbours are.
Enter Matt, Jasmine's neighbour who's a radio talk show host. Matt's talk show is of the "shock jock" variety, thus his public persona is rude and antagonistic. Jasmine doesn't know Matt personally but has been intensely hating him for over 15 years after she heard him talk derigatory and mean about people with Down Syndrome on his show. Jasmine has a sister with Down Syndrome, Heather, whom Jasmine adores and is fiercely protective of, so she feels very strong about this.
Coincidentally, Matt has been fired at the same time Jasmine is, after finally taking his inflammatory remarks on his show too far. Thus they both are at home/their neighbourhood now, and they keep walking into each other. Jasmine wants nothing to do with Matt, but to her surprise and confusion, now that she first meets him, he's actually a nice person in real life.
Before they know it, and in spite of their differences, a friendship forms between Jasmine and Matt.
The book describes the full year of Jasmine's lay-off, starting in December, and is divided in four parts named after the seasons, starting with Winter.
- Age-Gap Romance: Jasmine's father is now married to a woman half his age (close to Jasmine's age actually, which makes it awkward for Jasmine).
- Cool Big Sis: Jasmine is Heather's sister. Heather looks up to Jasmine, and Jasmine really loves, cares about and takes care of Heather. Played with in that Jasmine's actually the younger sister in years, but because Heather has special needs, Jasmine's role towards her fits more that of an older sister, or even mom sometimes. Also lampshaded:Matt: [About Jasmine's relation with Heather] You're a protective big sister.Jasmine: [Correcting him] Little. She's older than me.
- Crosses the Line Twice: Matt describes that his female cousin "had the biggest pair of tits" when they were teenagers (gesticulating how big they apparently were). Not a very cousin-like way to describe your cousin. Then, after a Beat, he follows it up with "now, she's had a few kids, and her tits are more like here [gestures a foot lower]". And then he manages to actually cross the line thrice, by topping it off with "still, if she was adopted I'd bang her".
- Disappeared Dad: Jasmine and Heather's father left their mother and them after Jasmine was born, and they almost never saw him until they are adults. Now inverted for the daughter he has in his second marriage (Jasmine and Heather's half sister): he stopped working to be a full-time dad for his 3rd daughter, which of course is a bit painfull to Jasmine.
- Family Theme Naming: Jasmine and her older sister Heather are both named after flowers. It also becomes meaningful when Jasmine, after being laid off, starts taking care of her garden for the first time in her life, which is almost therapeutic to her. Subverted with their dad's third daughter, who's called Zaarah (of course, she has a different mother, who herself is called Leilah—so with her, they stay with the "Arabic names" theme).
- Fiery Redhead: Though not naturally—she's dyed her hair since she was a teenager—Jasmine goes through life with what she calls "Fire Engine Red" hair. She's also temperamental. She feels this colour suits her more than her natural brown hair.
- Good Girls Avoid Abortion: Discussed within the specific context of a pregnancy with a Down Syndrome baby. Jasmine is uncomfortable with all of the prenatal tests that exist now to detect Down early in pregnancy, the implication being she finds it bad that such tests could lead people to have an abortion purely because their baby would have Down (how she thinks about abortion in general never comes up).
- It's Personal: Jasmine's disgust of Matt's earlier hurtfull remarks about people with Down Syndrome isn't just because she thinks special needs people deserve basic respect too, but because she has a sister with Down Syndrome whom she absolutely adores. That's why being mean towards people with special needs is a personal thing for her.
- Jerkass: Matt first seems to be a huge asshole (keep in mind the story is told through Jasmine). Subverted in that when she first interacts with him outside of his "shock jock" radio show, Jasmine finds out he's actually nice, and realises that being an asshole, for him, is just something he does as a job and not the person he really is.
- Kissing Cousins: Downplayed and ultimately subverted. Jasmine's cousin Kevin, when they are 17 and he's just found out that he's adopted (thus not Jasmine's cousin biologically), tells her he's in love with her and kisses her. He reasons they aren't cousins because they're not genetically related, but Jasmine has known him her entire life as her cousin, and is horrified.
- Screw This, I'm Out of Here!: Jasmine and Heather's father's reaction after his first child turned out to have Down Syndrome, and within a year a second child (Jasmine) was born unplanned: he bails on the family and isn't interested in his daughters anymore.