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Gerald Burlingame, a corporate lawyer, makes only a brief appearance at the beginning of the novel. His "game" of bondage is the catalyst for Jessie's change from a passive, unfulfilled wife to traumatized victim and ultimately, a whole woman. While struggling with Gerald who has handcuffed Jessie to the bed, she accidentally kills him. Left handcuffed at their isolated summer cottage, she deals with increasingly painful memories of sexual abuse at age ten by her father. Her entrapment then forces her to come to terms with her own passivity, unfulfillment, and psychic wounds.

As Jessie struggles with her memories and her fear, voices in her head narrate her pragmatism, her terror, and her lost innocence. In time they become characterized as Ruth Neary, a cynical college friend that Jessie admires, who enacted the social and emotional freedom Jessie craves; as Goody Burlingame, that part of her that is the traditional good wife, submitting to her husband in all things; and as Punkin, the intelligent, hopeful child. While this could be confused with multiple personality disorder, these voices are not dissociated selves. Rather, her memory and imagination intensify her coping strategy of talking to herself throughout the ordeal. She acknowledges most of these voices as herself, even the orthodox and prim Goody Burlingame. Thus she summons all her resources, ideas, opinions, and memories to repel her father's violation and Gerald's physical capture of her and to find a permanent way out of her grief.

Raymond Andrew Joubert is a persistent and terrifying visitor throughout this three-day ordeal. Though she initially does not believe that he is real, he motivates her to escape by any means possible. Later, she discovers that he is a necrophile, as real as any sexually-violent husband or incestuous father.

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