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Arlene and Rudy Handel have come back to Stanley, CA, a dusty agricultural hub in California's Central Valley. Rudy loves this town: it's the scene of his happy childhood, his high school triumphs, his fulfilling career. It's where his beloved daughter and her children live. Arlene, however, hates it. To her, the town represents a failed first marriage, a disastrous affair, a job she'd begun to dread, and disaffected children, now grown and gone. She longs for Northport, the coastal village where she and Rudy were establishing a bed breakfast business, where she'd savored anonymity. During a lonely meander through Stanley, Arlene is drawn into an intensely personal evaluation of her past, which seems to include few successes, too many missteps, miscues, errors of judgment. But she also faces her certain knowledge, her fear that Rudy yearns to return to his roots. She realizes, almost too late, the strength of her attachment to Rudy, her growing dependency on him, a man so unlike herself, that he values this town perhaps more than he values her. However, he represents her last stab at maintaining a family life: at her age, does she want to be alone again? Stanley, CA is an examination of what constitutes "family," and how place affects one. A love of home, the sense of belonging, the need to feel connected to someone: these are not only powerful forces, but necessities for physical and emotional wellbeing. The lack of ties to home is a pervasive modern malady, a malady from which Arlene suffers in Stanley, and Rudy in Northport. Although fiction, the truth of the matter is that many people in middle age face the wrenching conflicts that roil Rudy and Arlene.