A first novel--as much about living as dying--that unsentimentally details the last year of fatally ill Adam Stauffer, husband, father, and good citizen. Raised on a small ranch in southern Texas, Adam had escaped ranch life as soon as he could and headed to Chicago. Here, he worked as an editor, married, fathered three children--Stephen, Bradley, and Melanie--and dreamed of someday writing a book. Life was sweet--despite some dark shadows: Adam and father Blake were not close; wife Marian had not seen her own father since childhood when he abandoned her and her mother; Marian herself had been treated for addiction to antidepressants; and the two adolescent boys were being typically difficult. Then, diagnosed with terminal lymphoma, Adam, who has kept a journal for years, begins to use it to record his fears and regrets; he is comforted, as is Marian, by a sympathetic hospital chaplain, but it is Adam's wish to go home to Texas that provides the catalyst for change--that ironically, in spite of Adam's ultimate death, will transform the family's lives. Once in Texas, the children, especially 17-year-old Stephen, who becomes close to Blake, are soon at home; Adam and Blake themselves make their peace; Marian and Adam enjoy moments of brief but surprising happiness; and Marian finds she has lost at last the fears that once troubled her. Close to death, Adam is comforted by dreams--especially what he calls in his journal ``this last, this best twenty-third dream,'' an evocation of the 23rd Psalm, which seems to explain the ``whole mess''--his life. The family too, it seems, will return to Chicago, grieving but at peace. An unpretentious anatomy of dying that tries to explain that great paradox--life in the midst of death--as it really is.