Samson Greene has been missing for eight days when he is discovered wandering through the Nevada desert, "ragged as a crow" and with no idea who he is. He is rushed to hospital where doctors save his life, but all his memories after the age of twelve have been permanently lost. Now, as he looks around the beautiful apartment he apparently shares with his wife and which is filled with all the souvenirs of a life well lived, Samson feels nothing more than a vague admiration.
In her first novel Nicole Krauss tells the story of a man suddenly liberated from the life he has made, disconnected from the people who have defined him. Withdrawing from a wife he has no memory of loving, Samson plunges weightless into the future. But when he agrees to participate in a revolutionary experiment, what he gains is nothing short of the revelation of what it is to be a human being.