James Christopher is a man undergoing a mental collapse. Having recently quit his publications job, he spends his time alternately in his disturbing past and the uncomfortable present. In his ""study"", surrounded by collected pulp magazines and the paraphernalia of his boyhood, he writes the accounts of his youth with which the novel begins. When he is not journeying backwards to wrestle with the events that obsess him, he drinks, commits adultery, avoids his two children and feels guilty about his wife who is remarkably patient. At the age of 9, he had burned his grandparents' house and it is to the surrounding circumstances that he repeatedly returns. Eventually he does go home, to a disappointing visit, and finds that in actuality he has lost the way. Then there are his dreams in which he almost destroys himself. Still, there are refuges: ""heaven has shores for our flights out of life"". A skillful but provocatively elusive book.