In this postmodern novel set in the 1980s, Jack Gladney is a professor at a small private college in a sleepy suburban town. He becomes friendly with one of the new professors in this department and throughout the novel, they have a series of strange philosophical conversations about life. Gladney is married to an ordinary woman named Babette. They both have several children from previous marriages, and all of these children seem to behave and speak like people with wisdom beyond their years. Despite the previous failed marriages, Jack and Babette seem content and there is no mention of jealousy or bitterness between them. The children get along fairly well, and they almost seem like they're not really step-siblings at all. One day there is a chemical accident and the family flees their town. On the way to the emergency shelter, Jack has to get out of the car to fill the tank with gas. Upon arriving at the shelter, Jack is casually informed by a volunteer that his exposure to the event will cause him to die an early death, although he can not say how much longer Jack will live. After the accident is cleaned up, everyone in the town goes back to their regular lives and on the surface it seems like nothing happened. But Jack has become obsessed with what the volunteer told him, and although he makes no effort to verify the volunteer's claims with a doctor, he is convinced that it is true. At this point, Jack learns that Babette too, has suffered from an overwhelming fear of death. To conquer this fear, Babette has enrolled in a top secret experiment. She takes pills that block her from fearing death, and it is only with these pills that she is able to live normally. Jack also learns that in order to maintain her supply of these phobia-suppressing drugs, Babette has been manipulated into having sex with the scientist in charge of the experiment. Jack seeks this man out so that he can exact his revenge on him, and also so that he can steal the man's supply of pills so that he too can forget about his fear of death.
This report prepared by Jessica