Joe and Ruth Austin, sixtyish, retire, withdraw, in California after their son, an existentialist with whom Joe could never sympathize, dies. On the one hand, on his property, he is confronted with a reproachful reminder of his boy, a bearded graduate student who squats on his property and does a Tar-Zen bit in a treehouse. Nearby the Catlins move in, a young couple, and Joe is particularly susceptible to Marian, frail, loving, and fiercely defensive of "all the little live things" and a belief that there are no evil forces in nature. Even though she is being rapidly destroyed by cancer and her race against death is being run against the birth of a child. All of this then refutes resignation with involvement, equates life in terms of its loss, even though it fails to mediate any of the other problems between the mature citizens and the coffeehouse kooks. "Why does the older generation feel as it does about what is happening in the world today?" (the publishers). Probably for the same reason that that same generation feels as it does about what is happening in the novel today--and this book will be a very compatible compromise, certified by its Literary Guild selection for August.