Hal and Jodie are dyed-in-the-wool academics, devoted inhabitants of a secluded world built for two. Since high school, Jodie has been the central figure in Hal’s world; loving her and being her husband have defined him and given him his purpose. Diagnosed with cancer, Jodie struggles to help Hal learn to live without her, while through repeated remissions and relapses, Hal struggles to hold onto hope. Ultimately, the battle consumes the biggest part of Jodie’s fearsome spirit; exhausted, Hal begins to feel as though the woman he adored is already lost to him.
As Hal prepares to say goodbye to his wife, a strikingly perceptive student, Ruth, joins his high school mathematics class. Incredibly, in her, Hal discovers a kind of connection that he and Jodie have never shared, and a renewed sense of faith in the possibility of happiness. His feelings for Ruth belie her young age, as does her unusual maturity: Ruth has survived the cruelest treatment of all, and at the hands of a family member, whom she should have been able to trust with her life, let alone her body.
Clearly, building a new world with Ruth will not be without its share of obstacles and casualties – their love flies in the face of society’s most deeply-rooted taboos, and happiness will require sacrifice, upheaval and pain. Hal is determined to have it, no matter the cost…but then Jodie’s doctor delivers news that up-ends everything he thought his heart was sure of: the cancer has gone into remission.
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