Fleeing her disastrous home life--a mentally ill mother, two out-of-control brothers, and a garbage-strewn house--Fran Kelly is seeking shelter when she enters an unlocked house, but the place is not empty. Michael, a man in black, makes her welcome, while bedridden old Hilary warns Fran that his friendship comes at a high price. In return for her eternal companionship, Michael offers Fran her heart's desires--an education, money--but Fran learns that the dark side of fulfilling these wishes is already embodied in Hilary's hollow life. Though sorely tempted, Fran ends by battling Michael for the old woman's soul and loses him forever. Meanwhile, changes have taken place at home and Fran has been relieved of some of the burdens that compelled her to take to the streets. The ghostly aspects of this riveting, essentially realistic story stand as metaphor for imaginative Fran's healing herself and preparing to take charge. Like the subtle coaxing of a well-meaning friend, Michael's sinister nature is cleverly cloaked--persuasive, quiet, effective--while Fran's withstanding him despite her despair is a triumph of her blossoming intellect, a strength Henry has quietly underplayed. Grand eeriness.