Following an experimental medical procedure, four patients struggle to resume their pre-illness lives.
Connie, Linda, Hannah, and David were all near death when they were selected for a trial medical program in which their memories are transplanted into healthy clones of their bodies. Previously strangers, the four meet at a support group they attend over the course of a year as they come to terms with their new, now healthy bodies. Connie, a former actress who was once afflicted with AIDS, considers returning to Los Angeles after her five-year illness but realizes her only meaningful relationship is with her blind neighbor. Linda, a mother who was locked inside her paralyzed body for eight years following a car accident, returns home to find her husband and two children have become accustomed to her absence. David, a conservative congressman, attempts to cope with the stress of hiding his new, cloned body from his constituents, as well as the strings he pulled to be accepted into the program, and begins an affair with Hannah, a young artist whose relationship with her husband, Sam, unravels, in part because she can no longer remember how to paint. Chiarella alternates among the four narratives without forcing connections between the characters and skillfully raises questions about how much of one’s identity is rooted within one’s body. One minor drawback for this debut novel is the imbalance of these narratives, as Hannah is the most defined of all the characters, while Connie and Linda never quite feel fully realized. However, Chiarella's engaging writing creates so many haunting moments that readers will find themselves moving quickly through the story, as well as awaiting her next work.
This is a novel about what it means to be human, with all the flaws and vulnerabilities that implies, and whether we can ever truly begin again.