At 40, her son grown and independent, Janet finds freedom exhilarating and terrifying. Her old friend Carlos, an enigmatic sculptor in Los Angeles, offers her his casual love and protection. But when Janet explains to Ben, a Harvard-educated attorney and naturalist, her plan to leave San Francisco and finish college, Ben blurts out that his wife has left him and taken their small daughter.
Janet's choices affect her son Tom, a biology major who has moved in with his girlfriend Elaine, and reverberate through her group of friends: the flamboyant Maria, once Carlos' lover; her husband Rodger, an elegant Brit who is squandering his success and his luck in alcohol; Diamond, now too large to leave her apartment; and Larry who has buried many friends struck down by AIDS. With revolution fomenting in Eastern Europe and the Berlin wall being torn down stone by stone, the globe feels suddenly smaller and full of promise as well as pain.
Do we choose, or are we chosen?