A strange, concertedly poetic first novel about five disparate souls vacationing on an island off the eastern seaboard as a hurricane approaches. The people are: Donald Bartlett, an English professor and widower who's just remarried, producing bliss for him but bile for his teenage daughter. She's Meredith, confined to a wheelchair due to a birth defect, lonely and deeply jealous of her dad. The second Mrs. Bartlett is a waitress named Carole with a butterfly tattoo on her neck and a mystical bent; she falls for the socially inept Donald because he writes her a pretty poem, and because she wants to have a child. Their vacation companions are old friends of Donald's--Roscoe, a magician and juggler, and his bitter mate, Belinda, a nursing-home beautician who practices her wiles on old folks too senile to complain about the off-the-wall do's she gives them. Together, these five turn their rented beach house into the scene of a latter-day Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, with Donald inadvertently revealing himself to be a big poetic fake, Belinda growing even more bitter because she comes to realize that, contrary to her fantasies, Donald never cared for her at all, and Carole announcing she's pregnant and running for the last ferry back to the mainland before the hurricane arrives. With her out of the way, Meredith once again has her dad's full attention--and the vacationers are left to weather the storm as best they can. Some delicate aperáus arise, but in the end this is so hermetic that it leaves one more boggled than intrigued.