Brown forces her characters to confront the core of an individual life and of a marriage by stripping them of all ordinary roles through a tragic accident. What is left for a woman with no feeling or movement in her body? What is left of the marriage? What is left for the guilty husband? Reading this novel is a remarkably painful experience that is heightened by Brown’s honesty, by her choice of narrator, by the tensions that she creates, and by her language, which is rich with metaphor, imagery, and allusion.

Without sensationalism, Brown confronts the reader with all the ugly physical and psychological detail involved in surviving as and caring for a quadriplegic, including catheters and wet dreams. Although Laura accuses her husband of sounding like a script for The Dick Van Dyke Show, the Coursers are not a 1960’s television sitcom family. Laura is silent and uncommunicative. Dan appears selfish and uncaring at times, clowning in an attempt to cope with the experience, escaping to another woman for a brief fling. His sense of guilt is crushing. The children are embarrassed and uncertain. Someone in the community sends Dan ads for professional “escorts” and a diaper service. Brown does not flinch from the truth.

The author’s choice of narrator is brilliant. Laura has lost her ability to speak for a time and had has to relearn these skills. Her monologues, which are scattered throughout the book, are often surreal and at times disconnected, but effective. It is Dan’s point of view, however, that controls the story. With remarkable insight into a man’s life, Brown describes Dan’s past, his feelings of inadequacy, his indiscretions, his hopes and fears, and his terrible guilt. At one point, when he has allowed Laura to fall from her chair:He stands still and looks at what he’s done....

(The entire section is 749 words.)