A fictional imagining of the Virgin Mary's life finds her living a solitary existence in Ephesus. Years after her son's crucifixion, she struggles with guilt, anger and feelings that her son is not the son of God; that his sacrifice was not for a worthy cause.
Touring Shanghai in 1936 as part of a black jazz orchestra, Thomas Greene meets Song Yuhua, translator for one of Japan's biggest crime bosses, and together through friendship and love they weather the Japanese invasion together.
Eight short stories by the author of A Gate at the Stairs includes "Debarking," in which a recently divorced man struggles to hold himself together as the United States prepares to invade Iraq, and "Foes," in which a political argument at a Georgetown fundraiser goes awry against a backdrop of the Sept. 11 attacks.
A tale set in America and China follows the experiences of three people who in their youths were involved in a mysterious accident that resulted in a friend's fatal poisoning and years later are haunted by the possibility that one of them actually committed a murder.
When he is charged with determining whether or not the world needs saving, Raymond Champs, an illustrator of furniture assembly manuals, believes that everyone he knows is suffering from severe clinical depression and becomes obsessed with proving his theory.