Williston Bibb Barrett is a rather unusual and inquisitive young Southerner with a special gift for cultivating the possibilities of life. He suffers from occasional bouts of amnesia and disconcerting attacks of déjà vu. He clings to certain old-fashioned notions of behavior, and yet he finds himself constantly impelled to eavesdrop on other people’s conversations. And he lives with the secret suspicion that the great world catastrophe that everyone fears will happen has already happened.
The novel follows Will Barrett’s adventures as he becomes involved in the complex troubles, loves, and fortunes of a Southern family, the Vaughts, that is living in the shadow of their youngest son’s illness. With settings ranging from New York to Alabama, Louisiana to New Mexico, this is an ambitious, funny, compulsively readable novel about the dilemmas of modern man.