A brief, elegant compendium of cool wonderments and wool-gathering--separate episodes in the life of an elderly widow living alone in rural Pennsylvania, as she surveys the facts of death, legacies, recognitions, memories, and the surprises in one's living. "". . .for each of us there is a predator and the game of life is nothing more than an attempt to postpone the day when predator and prey meet."" But the days of death and disappearance do arrive. A hunter has deliberately killed Ada's cat, a cat that could leave her lawn ""abloom with dead birds."" The cat had been the gift of Ada's son Christopher--when he'd left home for good. Ada muses at the funeral of her husband Marty, popular teacher and Christian layman, acknowledging both the ""street angel"" she'd loved and the ""house devil"" she'd hated. Reviewing generations then, Ada decides that boys don't change--as she recognizes in Christopher's struggles during a painful divorce to retain self-hood, the boy he was; but girls like her granddaughters have changed, Ada thinks, evolved from the girl-Ada with her tight braids to lovely, gleaming creatures with flowing hair and a propensity for shedding clothes in the sun. Ada also remembers the papier-machâ€š Santa under a Christmas tree that provided her with a lesson in accepting uncertainty--and uncertain, surely, are a son's visits. There's a rather ""good"" week of neat survival and a surprise or two--the result of a week of being on the pastor's list of congregational prayers? (Boyer takes a witty poke at church ""fellowship."") Then, modeling for an art class, Ada ruminates on time and cruelty and judgment while the ""class Rembrandt"" renders an old woman. There follows a Christmas of some anxiety, sharp memories, and then simple solaces--ritual neighborliness, a dog's greeting. When Ada is 84, a visit to a doctor's office asks a gateway question: Will he help her or is this another preparation for what Melville called ""the strange Untried""? Boyer has caught the spider-web tracery of an agile elderly mind lifting and settling through days of quiet living. Graceful, subtle, and acute. Six of the eight chapters have appeared in The New Yorker.