This novel wonders about love and reproduction as two seemingly distinct forms of life intersect in a small town called Promise. On the one hand, there are the "born once," humans who follow the usual progression from birth to death. On the other hand, there are the "borneback," old ones, often presenting themselves in homes for the aged, who grow down toward their infancy. The crossing is made possible through gertrude unmanageable, one hundred and three years-old (or thereabouts), formidable (possibly gorgeous), who comes to life inside a geriatric facility called Serenity, which is housed in the born-once world. Her subsequent evolution in an Informary secretly maintained by her kin mystifies. Carefully observed by the very human Margaret May, fiftyish and prudent, somewhat mismanaged by the fragile wisdom within her own culture, alternatively thwarted and admired by K., the Informary director, gertrude seemingly refuses the redemptive process so avidly pursued by routine myth-makers. In so doing, she torments the play time of love, dares child her own dim expectation and finds poignant pleasure in the unmanageable she would not see scrammed into submission.