The virtue, joy, necessity, and strangeness of human speech is the subject of this odd free-form novel. Erlene, a New Zealand school girl, is suddenly struck dumb. Her father has long ago gone to London, to research the genealogy of a perfectly commonplace family named Strang, in the hopes of finding out about people in general. Her mother, Vera, writes a diary. No one in the family, in short, communicates with another, or with anyone else. But through these people in crisis, the author talks dazzlingly about speech, life, human perceptions, and the rims and imperceptible edges of communication. The urgency of the message is given tremendous point at the end, when it develops that the whole ""story"" has taken place in Vera's head. She is the one who is mute, alone; and when the Bomb drops on England, her growls and mutters are the new ""speech"" of humanity, its punishment for having failed to use properly the gift of words. A disquieting, troubled, often brilliant outburst of a book.