Last Updated on August 5, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 612
Bill Gray is a writer who has chose to live his life as a complete recluse. He feels that by sequestering himself away from the world, his writing will be exclusively his own creation, free from the influence of the outside world and its idiosyncrasies. His assistant, Scott Martineau, shares Bill's belief that when a literary work is published and read by thousands of people, something of what makes the work unique becomes changed and the true nature of the work is destroyed forever. Scott feels that if this happens to Bill's works, then something will also be ruined inside of Bill, and he will be irreparably changed.
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Brita Nilsson is a photographer from New York who focuses on authors as her subjects. After being introduced to Bill by Scott, Bill inexplicably decides to allow Brita to photograph him for her work. When Brita finds out about the novel Bill has been working on for several years but has ultimately decided not to publish, she speaks to her editor and publisher, Charles Everson, about Bill.
Charles instructs Brita to tell Bill that he is interested in publishing his novel. Bill agrees to meet with Charles to discuss the possibility. At their meeting, Charles tells Bill about a young Swiss poet who is being held hostage by terrorists in war-torn Beirut. Charles believes that by getting Bill to come out of his self-imposed seclusion, he will be able to use Bill's newfound publicity to bring attention to the plight of the captured poet.
Unaware of Charles's ulterior motive, Bill agrees to the plan; the two ravel to London, where Charles has arranged a press conference to introduce Bill to society and discuss the poet who is being held hostage. However, before the press conference can take place, a bomb goes off. Bill escapes the bombing and runs into the mysterious George Haddad. Unknown to Bill, Haddad is a Lebanese terrorist who is responsible for both the bombing and the kidnapping. He convinces Bill to travel to Cyprus by deceiving him into believing he will be able to meet with the leader of the terrorist cell holding the young poet hostage. As Bill travels to the meeting, he is hit by a car, leaving him injured and in a great deal of pain but determined to carry out his mission. As he travels to Lebanon via ferry, Bill dies from internal injuries sustained from being struck by the car.
Just prior to Bill leaving to begin his new public life, Scott meets a woman named Karen. Karen had left her own home against her parents' wishes to travel to New York and become a symbolic bride of the cult leader Rev. Sun Myung Moon. Karen had recently broken free from the cult, and she began working for Bill after meeting him at a dinner party with Scott and Brita.
Following Bill's departure for London, Brita leaves the country to cover a story, and Karen decides to become a part of the homeless population of New York City to fulfill her purpose in life to help others. Scott makes a discovery regarding secrets from Bill's past.
When Bill fails to return or make contact with anyone, Scott and Karen—knowing nothing of his death—face the fact that he may never return.
On her travels, Brita is introduced to Abu Rashid, the terrorist leader Bill was seeking. She has the opportunity to witness Rashid's terroristic ways and its effects on the people affected by this terrorism.
Ultimately, the lifestyle Bill led is contrasted and compared to the repercussions of the situations each of the major characters finds themselves in and the life decisions they make.