In August 1973, Owen Keane (in this prequel to Deadstick, 1991) is AR--At-Risk of dropping out--of a southern Indiana seminary when his spiritual advisor, Father Jerome, suggests that he look into the disappearance of his classmate Michael Crosley, who simply up and left the premises two weeks back. Tracking Michael leads to nursing-home-bound Sarah Morell and her tale (hallucination?) of a family-owned, never-before-published Keats sonnet. Did Michael steal the poem and abscond? With an assist from ex-girlfriend Mary, Owen runs down the clues and red herrings, stubbornly focused on the Keats poem, while Sarah is suffocated, a young child is abused, and Michael's uncle suggests another reason for his nephew vanishing: despair over misreading his father. Marijuana and further violence come into play before Michael's whereabouts are known--and before Owen comes to terms with why Father Jerome set him on the quest in the first place. Less metaphysical intrigue than in last year's Live to Regret, but still this reflects Owen's attempts to reconcile his feelings with his actions--and it's told with the self-deprecating humor of Deadstick.