This is a wonderful novel -- Not only are the characters complex and realistic but the plot as well.
Heather Welbourne is social worker who counsels people who are going through difficult times. She is also "the other woman" having an affair with Isabella's husband and Cooper's father, Benny Martin.
Benny is sick with cancer and dies. Those who have loved him: Heather, Isabella and Cooper, all deal with their grief in different ways.
Even before the cancer was diagnosed, Benny and Heather's relationship was taking its last breaths. Benny was unwilling to leave his family. Heather, deeply in love, wanted more. After the relationship finally ends, Heather discovers she is pregnant. Grieving the loss of the relationship as well as the loss of her lover, she is ambivalent about the child she is carrying.
While Benny is in the hospital, Isabella decides to move. While packing up Benny's things, she discovers pictures of him with another woman. This woman is not Heather but yet another of his dalliances. She is furious, feels betrayed, yet knows she cannot confront her dying husband. She too must deal with the loss of what she believed was their relationship as well as the loss of her husband.
Cooper (who in my opinion should have been a more rounded character) struggles in his own way with his father's death. Uprooted from his childhood home and adrift with an absent mother, he begins to act out.
So who is Darren? He is a man who loves birds. He gathers broken and dead birds from nearby beaches and takes care of them. He also interacts with Heather, Isabella and Cooper.
Libby Creeman is the author of an anthology of short stories, Walking in Paradise. The Darren Effect is her first novel and was published in 2008.
I look forward to seeing more from this novelist.
There is a really excellent analysis of this novel on the Canadian Notes and Queries website.