An aging, reclusive writer opens his past to a teen-age friend in whom he sees elements of his former self. Regarded as the world's greatest living author, Paul Bernard has lived for 30 years on a secluded California hilltop; even his daughter Lorna knows little of his early life or how he lost his legs. Jerry Huffaker, 14, is sent by his school newspaper in hope of an unprecedented interview with the Great Man. Jerry has never heard of Bernard or read his books, but these thoughtful people--Paul and Lorna--are drawn to him and even invite him back. Though academically average, Jerry is curiously wise (accepting his parents' separation because ""people had a right to do what was important to them,"" he's taken care of his gentle father while he recovers his balance), and he knows when to speak and when to be silent. Paul and Jerry end by interviewing each other, until Paul tells, almost casually, how his father blew his legs off with a shotgun and shares the anguished question that haunts him: Was it an accident or an act of twisted love? Jerry, serving more as catalyst than as protagonist, maintains his unassailable equanimity: neither this revelation, harassment by a teacher, nor his parents' plan to try again shakes him. Oddly, there is no glimmer here of Paul's reputed literary genius; that is merely a given. Still, sensitive readers and future writers will find plenty to think about in the characters' interactions.