A man is found wandering the desert outside Las Vegas. The cards in his wallet identify him as Samson Greene, a Columbia University English professor last seen leaving campus eight days ago. Thirty-six years old, with a wife, Anna, and a dog, Frank.
When a tumor in his brain is discovered and removed, Samson Greene, an English professor in his thirties, finds himself afflicted by a peculiar kind of amnesia: he cannot remember anything that happened after he was twelve. Even as he struggles to connect with his wife, Anna, he thinks that he might prefer the blankness of his new life. Samson's loss takes place against a backdrop of secret experiments on human memory and the social implications of atomic testing, but it is his shadow-filled scrutiny of intimacy -- as he wonders why he might have married this beautiful stranger, and whether he can love her -- that is the book's real strength.