Will Barrett of The Last Gentleman returns in this sequel as a wealthy middle-aged man, recently widowed, suffering both from inexplicable blackouts in which he loses consciousness and from his faltering sense of a calling in life. Also resurrected are Sutter Vaught, whom Will counseled out of suicide, and Sutter’s sister Kitty, whom Will once courted. The three are brought together again in a most unusual circumstance as Will encounters Kitty’s purportedly schizophrenic daughter, Allison, during a “scientific experiment” to determine whether God exists.
Worn down by the affluence and religiosity—particularly his own daughter’s rigid fundamentalism—that surrounds him in southern suburbia in Linwood, North Carolina, Will Barrett is convinced that the only question left for him to answer about humankind is whether life has any transcendent meaning—that is, whether God exists. His wife, when alive, had heavily invested herself and her family fortune in “do-gooding.” Will spends his days, when well, playing golf and more golf and obsessively recovering the lurid details of his relationship with his father, who committed suicide.
In his emptiness, Will makes a vow of ending his life if he cannot ascertain there is a God who exists—and cares. He vouchsafes his “experiment’s” details and its consequences in a letter to Sutter Vaught. Will’s plan is implausible yet inspired: He will hide in a nearby cave and fast...
(The entire section is 494 words.)