Ray Williams is dead, having died of cancer. He is sitting in heaven as part of a group that meets to discuss the last words that they speak upon their deathbeds. Ray is uptight and everyone lies to try and impress the others. Ray loses his temper and storms off. He revisits his life in stages going back ward in time from recent events to distant events eventually reaching his early childhood. Ray thinks back on the time his wife left him for another man. She had tolerated his infidelities for years but had left him temporarily. He is conscious of the places the other man has touched Jenny now that she has come home. Earlier he is the one who is sleeping around with a coworker. He builds his son a tree house only to take it away from his son due to lack of use by James. Instead Ray climbs in and drinks in the makeshift structure after work. Another memory has Ray making an effort to seduce the widow who lives next door while Jenny is away.
Ray moves further back in time to when he and Jenny were just newly married and she gets pregnant with their son James. Prior in time he and Jenny are just dating when Ray gets a visit from a local celebrated artist. A painter named Peter Boylan in need of a rare button for his jacket. Ray has one of the best collections in the US. He arranges to meet Boylan at his home and show the buttons to him, including the rare Peter Hartley handmade button the artist is seeking. At Boylan's house they drink and one thing leads to another when Boylan makes a pass at Ray. Ray leaves and immediately proposes to Jenny. A few years earlier before marrying Jenny, Ray is living with a woman named Mary. She breaks off their relationship due to Ray's tryst with a young man named Kevin, as she walks in and finds Ray caressing Kevin's feet. He tries to justify his actions in a letter to Mary comparing the innocent actions to an earlier event in his life where an escaped circus elephant looks into the Williams family home at Ray and his father, trampling the azalea bushes.
As a college student Ray accidentally runs over a dog named K-9 and becomes embroiled in a confrontation with the dog's owners as he attempts to do the right thing. He moves further back in time to when his own dog Bones has run away and he and his uncle Eddie give a futile effort to locate it on the day the family is moving to a new home. Ray remembers going to his grandfathers funeral and viewing the body as he snatched a lucky rare penny from the suit coat pocket of his granddad. As a young boy he and some friends had wanted to see if the baby of a neighbor would be born with a glass eye just like it's mother possessed. As the story comes to a close Ray is back in heaven speaking with the discussion group again. He modifies his earlier thoughts on his parting words to the surprise of those assembled.
The review of this Book prepared by David Fletcher