Stanton has chosen a reconstruction of the field battle stations of maniacal Paraguain dictator Francisco Solano Lopez (1862-70) to represent helps dead center. Molly Companion leaves her Boston home to find her husband Calvin who had deserted the Union Army--the result of a compulsion to ""understand"" the dreary realities of their loveless and frigid marriage. In the midst of the sweat and steam of jungle and muddy clearings, Lopez, the self-styled ""Napoleon"" of South America, leads his mad battles, plays out his paranoiac fantasies with arrests, tortures, and executions. A reluctant mistress is doomed to dance forever in chains; an English doctor, in grief at the persecution of his ill wife, succeeds in dying; and captive women ""like hobbled birds"" cook food they're not allowed to eat. Molly locates Calvin, who despises her as ""soulless,"" and finds her an object of disgust--Molly is the victim of a recurring scabbing skin disease. He forces her to attempt to assassinate Lopez. Moving among Lopez' crazed subordinates--General Diaz with his own scabbed-over compassion, Lopez' ambitious consort, the shifty corps of generals--Molly can only deliver one message to the outside world, via the floating coffin of Diaz. And Lopez continues to live, riding on to further despoliations of humanity, ""his angry yellowish face streaked red and black from the ruptured earth."" Since Stanton has conjured up an infernal habitation, her characters waver and sway as damned souls are wont to do in bad dreams.