THE FOREVER GIRL. By Alexander McCall Smith. Pantheon. 316 pages. $24.95.

At first glance, "The Forever Girl" may seem to be a light, frothy read, but as we delve into the lives of the book's characters, we see author Alexander McCall Smith's deep understanding of the human experience, its ups and downs, heartbreak and joy.

The story begins on the exotic Caribbean island of Grand, an important off-shore financial center, and the action revolves around a group of expats, specifically, Amanda, who is married to accountant David, and their daughter, Clover.

Many of the expats, especially the wives, feel they lead empty lives. They have too much time on their hands and an abundance of money, with little to spend it on.

Amanda begins thinking of "years of emptiness ahead" and realizes she has fallen out of love with her husband, while Clover has fallen in love with her best friend, James.

The story moves on through the years to England and Scotland and as far away as Australia, following the many twists and turns in the relationships, while exploring matters of the heart.

"The Forever Girl" makes a pleasant choice for summer reading.

Reviewer Frances Monaco is a writer in Charleston.