A most elegant and attenuated dying--suffered, and, one might say, exquisitely commandeered, by Augusta ""Gus"" Kaligas, tortured and humiliated by cancer. Gus' last four weeks of life draw together and recreate a sort of family: her husband Andreas, two spirited teenage daughters, the infant Nicky, siblings, a charmingly obtuse mother-in-law, and an old friend. While Gus ""strains against the end of her life,"" she probes the limitless horizons of loving and hungrily absorbs Virginia Woolf's The Years: "". . . in all its dreamy driftiness about the soul. . . there was hardly a more exact book."" And daughter Daphni's current crush--untidy, unhappy Jackson--is commissioned to sculpt Gus' head (""for Nicky""). Around this woman so loved, who insists on leaving the hospital for her own home ""environment,"" move a houseful of bright, passionate beings. Andreas conjures up witty fancies about his first meetings with ""Goose,"" grieves and comforts, then promises his wife the tribute of his own body's weight at her death. The others are drawn into devotion to each other as well as to Gus, and, in the night of death, Andreas and their friend, a scarred refugee from the holocaust, play out their agony in piano noise, laughter, and tears. A lesson about living-in-dying patina-ed in gold leaf--more dazzling than moving but often catching a little sweetness, a little light.