Novelist Williams (Blue Crystal, 1993, etc.) presents twined, elemental stories on the havoc of a heart operation and the random, filigreed thoughts of an amateur naturalist exploring his home patch. His family has a history of bum tickers, so it didn’t come as a surprise to Williams when he learned he had Barlow’s Syndrome, a faulty valve. But that was 15 years ago. In the meantime he married, had two children, wrote a few books, bought a house in deeply rural north-central Georgia on a forested ridge above tumbling Wildcat Creek, and steadily approached his dreaded 43rd birthday, an age at which the heart-poor in his family uniformly bowed out. Sure enough, that year he gets news he will need surgery; his valve is shot. He starts to be more attentive, in particular to the land and creatures around his home. His observations are presented as little ruminative comfortings and explorations of the wildflowers, the pink light of stormy weather, the winding sand dunes in the flow of the creek, scrappy blue jays and mesmerizing raptors, earthworms and spiders and honeysuckle. They slowly accrete for him into something more than sense of place and less than the music of the spheres, something deep and mortally inclusive, wherein he endeavors, humbly for the most part, to find a niche. Braided to this curious naturalist is the heart patient, scared and angry, who details the visits to the doctor, the surgery, and the recovery, a process in which he is flayed emotionally and cracked open physically, and vice versa. Depression settles in and moves on only after a prolonged pharmaceutical tithing. Gradually, out of the pain and shadow emerge his family and homestead, and they never looked so good. Williams’s story has a keen immediacy to it, an unmulled flavor. It is all very real and unenviable and touched with the small gestures—his father’s protective shoulder to cry upon, a daughter’s delight in his return—that encourage survival.