"Why don't you just die?" Boyd Schaeffer asks her husband, Russell, one night during a fight. The next day, he does just that. Russell was rich, sensitive, charming, but always unreliable and it is not clear to Boyd what emotional legacy his untimely death has bequeathed her. Boyd already has a complicated relationship to death. A former obstetrician, she fled both her profession and New York City when one of her patients died. Back then, she'd escaped with Russell to settle in Minnesota. Now, she embarks (along with her small daughter) on a journey into the underworld--ajourney of grief, self-reproach, and self-discovery so profound and surprising that her individual life in its quiet midwestern setting takes on the universal lineaments of myth. Boyd's companions on this journey into the shadow world between existence and nonexistence include a lonely undertaker; an unconventional embalmer, who demonstrates his trade for her; and her own daughter, who offers a child's instinctive wisdom about life's mysteries. With their help and her own persistence and courage, Boyd begins to understand that endings are often also beginnings, that the Book of Life and Death is constantly being rewritten before our eyes.