A teen's frightening accident on a Missouri train track leads to a series of life changes.
Thornton's debut centers on a rebellious, free-spirited teenager with the same name in St. Charles, Mo. He’s drinking and smoking dope with his friends by the railroad tracks one day when they all hear the sound of an oncoming train. Impulsively, Thornton decides to play chicken with the train and is struck and almost killed. His friends are arrested for trespassing, and Thornton spends months in a coma. Afterward, he has a sketchy life, featuring an increasingly steep downward spiral into drug use and dealing. Thornton gets a large cash settlement from the railroad but blows through it fairly quickly and soon is mired in a round of drugs and drinking. His old friend Nick, who's become a famous baseball player, refuses to let him visit anymore; his best friend, Amy, dies of a drug overdose; his father is arrested for drunken driving and does a brief stint in jail. When Thornton goes back to Nick's house despite being warned to stay away, he's arrested and ends up in the St. Louis Psychiatric Rehabilitation Center. All along the way, virtually everyone Thornton meets tells him he was "blessed" to survive his accident, and in the rehabilitation center, he finally comes to believe it in a way his acquaintances didn’t intend: He becomes convinced that God is a superadvanced alien being who's the custodian of a "device" that can transfer the souls of the dying to another plane of existence; that this God will have a "successor"; and that he himself is the successor. Will this belief stay with him or turn out to be another stage in the process of rehabilitation? The book ends so abruptly that the question lacks a satisfying resolution.
A disturbing premise more memorable for its depiction of small-town teen life than for its larger religious speculations.