(Masterpieces of American Literature)

The title story in The Foreseeable Future, a collection of three long stories, tells the tale of Whit Wade, a soldier technically dead on the field of battle in World War II who is resuscitated. He has now returned to his wife and daughter in North Carolina. His family loves Wade quite genuinely, and he has always loved them, but his close encounter with death has left him with the feeling that he is not really alive. The thought of his death and that of many of his comrades on the battlefield nags him. He functions almost as a ghost.

Wade’s occupation as an insurance adjuster is ironic. He spends his days dealing with people who want compensation for their accidents or for the death of their loved ones. Wade himself feels the need for compensation because he has lost something ineffable through his near death in combat. He is convinced that God has given him a second chance at life for some reason, but he does not know what that reason is. He does the best he can by providing for his family, giving them a secure house in which to live, but something vital is missing in his life. He realizes that he cannot allow himself to die a second time without salvation.

As he travels the back roads of North Carolina for his job, he stops one day for lunch and stumbles on Juanita, a medium who lives with her dogs and conducts her business in a trailer. Juanita worms information out of Wade, finally asking how he knows that he was dead. He responds that he saw God either as a boy or as a tall young angel. Juanita counters, “Had to be dead.” Juanita is somehow relieved by this revelation. She smiles a smile of “what looked like fifty gold teeth” and seems younger.

In time, Wade finds that relating his story to everyone who will listen helps him enormously. Through revealing his feelings to friends, relatives, and absolute strangers, he reconnects with the human race and finally begins to live again. He helps another former soldier who is haunted by his memories of the war. By reaching out to others in this way, he begins to come to grips with his own future and to be reconstituted as a contributing member of society.