This short novel relates how a catastrophe involving strangers perturbs the lives of people who live in or near the site where the disaster occurs. The event is an airplane crash; the site, the small town of Bounds, Texas. Told as an inner monologue by each person who either witnessed the crash, or became directly involved in its aftermath, the well crafted narrative weaves back and forth among a widowed postmistress into whose field the plane falls; a priest who is questioning his calling and who administers last rites to all of the victims; a skeptical newspaper reporter; a reclusive young man who ghoulishly hunts souvenirs in the wreckage.

The postmistress hovers between dismay at the ruination of her field and curiosity and concern over the far-flung surviving relatives who come to visit the site long afterwards. Her thoughts are filled with memories of her husband and of the evolving relationship with her married son. She ponders that before the crash, ". . . seemed like I'd lived in a fishtank. "Then, "something shattered" and ". . . the whole world poured in."

The priest keeps the church doors open to strangers, including mourners from far away. This runs up the utility bill, drawing criticism from the parish council. So shaken is he by their small-mindedness and by his vocational doubts that he cannot say Mass. The reclusive souvenir hunter, who pocketed a body part, a hand, from the crash site, is haunted by ". . . that hand against my hand . . ." The newspaper reporter feels compelled to re-visit the scene months later.


This well-written, reflective novel considers the paradoxes of contemporary life and death. Disparate lives, social isolation, moral confusion are played off against the theme that "no man is an island." The crash, with its plane cargo of multi-national travelers, explodes the insular (symbolized by the town's name, Bounds) existence of the observers. The web of connected humanity extends to the dead as well as to the living.


Doubleday: Nan A. Talese

Place Published

New York



Page Count