Protagonists"" would be more exact...This is 544 pages of subjective realism, with a strong plot delivered through interior monologs by several narrators. The central incident is given in the first chapter and becomes enormously complicated. During the last year of WWI, a group of early teenagers go hiking on Staten Island. One of the boys approaches a cottage, wherein he discovers an elderly dead man and his son. The boy flees with his gang but has dropped his wallet in the cottage. The dead man's son, a neurotic ex-surgeon of 36 who has had to retire from medicine because he has angina pectoris, traces the boy to the address in his wallet. He befriends the lad and his gang, most of whom have some physical defect. The ex-surgeon subsidizes one boy's hospital expenses for treatment of his epilepsy. The gang's oldest boy, nicknamed Priest, is subsidized for a medical education. Priest becomes the major narrator, a psychiatrist now in 1965 studying the events of twenty years ago. The pivotal question is what is it in the surgeon's character that prompts him to help these boys? In the course of events, one boy's sister becomes infatuated with the surgeon, another girl submits to a gang bang, and the surgeon commits suicide by exciting his heart during the V-J Day mob-dance in Times Square. The novel's greatest success is in faultlessly sustaining the mental tension of the surgeon, a character who may die in any paragraph.