On an eerily warm October evening in a suburb of Detroit, a new father and struggling fantasy novelist named McPhail gazes at a honey locust tree. The sight triggers a memory of the sudden, inexplicable death of Hannah, whom he loved when they were both fourteen. So begins a year-long odyssey, in which McPhail becomes obsessed with recollections of Hannah, puts his job and his marriage in jeopardy, and fears that his "obsolete consciousness" is spiraling into apocalyptic religious and ecological despair.
Unable to complete the fantasy he is contracted to write, McPhail instead composes this "book behind the book" in his effort to re-enchant the world for himself and his growing family and to lay to rest old griefs along with more recent regrets.
Metaphysical, lyrical, elegiac, Absolute Music is a novel of consciousness that is at the same time grounded in memorable characters and shaped by a variety of landscapes from Cincinnati and Pittsburgh to County Clare and Japan. In the character of McPhail you might detect a distant cousin of Walker Percy's Binx Bolling or Richard Ford's Frank Bascombe, but he remains very much a man of our own time.