Set in the fictional Irish town of Ballybeg, the story is told from the viewpoint of Michael, who recounts the summer in his aunts’ place when he was 7 years old. The five Mundy sisters, all unmarried, live in a big cottage just outside of town. Kate, the oldest is a schoolteacher; Agnes and Rose knit gloves and help keep house with Maggie and Christine (Michael’s mother), who have no income at all. Recently returned home is their brother Jack, a priest who has lived as a missionary in a leper colony in Uganda for 25 years. He is suffering from malaria and has trouble remembering many things, including the sisters' names and his English vocabulary. Gerry, Michael's father, is charming and completely unreliable. A clown and a vagabond he visits rarely and always unannounced.