Agatha Christie wrote six non-crime books under the pen name of Mary Westmacott. Absent in the Spring is the one about which she is quoted as saying:
“The one book that has satisfied me completely–the book I always wanted to write.”

The story is a character study of Joan Scudamore, returning from a visit to her youngest daughter, son-in-law, and baby granddaughter in Iraq. Barbara’s husband works there and the young woman has been ill. Joan rushed out to tend to her daughter, despite the arduous journey to get there.

On the trip home, she finds herself stranded in an isolated rest house by rains that prevent her train from getting through flooded tracks. Forced to have only herself for company, Joan decides to treat the unexpected time alone as a retreat of sorts.

She’s not a person who often pauses to examine her life. Quickly running out of books to read, and soon after, paper to write letters to friends, she takes to wandering in the desert near the rest home and ends up taking a good hard look at herself and her life.

She finds that the person she’s believed herself to be is perhaps not the person she has been, in actuality, to others. With the words of her former headmistress from school running her head, Joan has what could be called an epiphany.

The question remains: what will she do about it?

A completely different kind of book, short and bittersweet, from the woman who is outsold only by Shakespeare and the Bible.