Moran follows The Man in the Box (1997) with a surprisingly compelling tour of the inner life of a young man on life-support. James Blatchley lives in the Intensive Care Unit. A bout of chicken pox turned lethal, and now he breathes with the help of a ventilator, eats via tubes, and mouths words but can’t produce sounds. His muscles are so atrophied that he can barely move. Once an NYC detective with an active social life, now James’s only real-life respite from his fantasy life is his friendship with two nurses, Brigit and Nuala. The two emigrated from Ireland together, and they entertain him with stories of their nocturnal adventures at a bar called the Belle of Hell. Flirty Brigit secretly shoots up the fentanyl that keeps James’s pain at bay. Nuala is more solid and, to James, more poetic: He recognizes the vulnerability that is almost hidden by her forthright, no-nonsense style. As he drifts in and out of consciousness, James makes up a better life for Nuala. First, it’s set in a cottage in Ireland; then he even imagines squiring her around the world. But as time passes, the fantasies become more mundane and more intimate. James’s mind takes him to Nuala’s apartment, where the walls are deep colors and the furniture consists of hammocks and a picnic table. Soon the two are communicating—in dreams? in reality?—about the things that matter: Nuala serves up childhood vignettes and oblique glimpses of her own pain; James circles endlessly around his questions about death. The boundaries between nurse and patient waver and melt as James takes a turn for the worse, leading to a profoundly startling scene between the two. Moran deftly combines the smells, tastes, and politics of the ICU with a haunting, unhackneyed exploration of loneliness and its antidotes. Despite the grim premise and the graphically rendered bodily functions, Moran’s hospital- stay novel is fast-paced, filled with vivid human detail, and ultimately deeply affecting.