This thoughtful character novel focuses on Macon Leary, a travel writer who hates to travel, a man who has gone through life observing what is happening, but who has never been truly engaged. Compulsively tidy, Macon has always believed that it is possible to order one's life so effectively that the untidiness, or chaos, that throws life into confusion can be avoided. And then his beloved 12-year-old son is cold-bloodedly murdered in the senseless robbery of a burger joint while he is away at camp for the first time. It gives away nothing of the plot to say that this event totally undoes Macon and his wife, and their polite and predictable marriage goes into a tailspin. Then into his life comes Muriel, a divorcee with an over-protected, allergic, and hypersensitive son. Filled with wonderful descriptions of life, both within Macon's family and in Europe, where he travels for research, the novel provides the reader with a full, realistic picture of marriage between people whose relationship has been, in part, the result of their commitment to their son. Poignant and emotional, but avoiding melodrama, the novel explores the meaning of life and love, the extent to which a marriage may limit or stimulate the growth of the people involved, and the ways in which a marriage must adapt to the new needs of the participants if it is to endure through time.