Vance teaches writing at an Indiana university. He has a student named Katie Jay from whom he tries to elicit a particular response by telling his class a story. He instructs them to pay particular attention to the crucial function of his story’s narrative point of view. His story goes back to a time ten years earlier when one of his fellow graduate students, Noel Butler, called begging to see him because someone had just tried to kill him. As Vance awaited Noel’s arrival, he remembered the circumstances under which he had met Butler and his beautiful wife, Dawn. Noel was a competent and popular graduate student who was desperately in love with his wife. Vance had met Dawn at a departmental party, where her sexuality caused him—and most of the other men—to act like a foolish schoolboy. Despite being smitten, Vance was aware of Dawn’s sexual ploys and instability. There was something dangerous about her intimacies—such as her tight gripping of Vance’s wrist in seeming desperation.
Earlier, Noel had had to struggle to persuade Dawn to leave Boston to join him in Indiana with her five-year-old son, Jimmer (the son of a famous but cruel choreographer). He arranged for his family to live on an Amish farm, twenty miles—and three centuries—away from his campus. Dawn agreed to live in this remote place because of their previous “interesting experiences” in Boston. As Noel told Vance, the struggle of living through their first harsh winter on the farm made living there worthwhile.
The Butlers’ thirty-two-year-old Amish landlord, Daniel, was the youngest and favorite son of an Old Order Amish patriarch. Daniel cared well for his farm, his wife and seven children, and his community of fellow believers....
(The entire section is 711 words.)