Cody's second effort, after The Stolen Child (1995), is a novel of emotional concision and deeply felt beauty that's capable of recalling Ian McEwan and Raymond Carver. Through the focusing and refocusing lens of a fragile sensibility, narrator Will Ross, at age 37, looks back through his life and wonders about its future. In a style that perfectly communicates his sensation of being trapped in a downward spiral of fear and uninvited memories, he recollects growing up in a working-class family in the Boston suburbs. While still a young adult, Will was institutionalized--unable to shake off a paranoid obsession with serial killers--and this memory, in Cody's crisp and simple prose, merges seamlessly with others, as in a passage on his family's lack of money that turns into a haunting meditation on his father's death. Will spends his late 20s drifting, trying to sort out his empathies, before moving to Ithaca, where he enters the writing program at Cornell, falls in with an ambivalent bisexual, then eventually ends up with the woman he marries--bringing him, in the novel's present time, to wonder how he might go about explaining his life to the child he and she are trying to have. His thoughts include memories of old girlfriends and recollections of bull sessions with childhood buddies, and repeatedly he imagines what his life may be like in old age: possibilities that range from an aged Will sick and shivering in seedy hovels to tableaus of domestic bliss and security. Sometimes evocative of Hemingway, Cody's prose is crisp, sinuous, and simple, yet also densely layered, like the James Joyce of Dubliners. Cody is one of our rare contemporary authors legitimately consumed by the big questions--love, death, faith, sex--and he has the talent to give those questions a rightful, elegant due. Spare, dignified, relentlessly intelligent prose fiction.