Coetzee here tells the story of a handicapped young man who has worked as a municipal gardener in Cape Town. His mother is dying, and she wishes to return to her birthplace out in the veldt. Without the required transit passes, mother and son set out on a journey that will end in death for her and in a new but temporary life on an abandoned farm for him. His respite in isolation and peace does not last long, however; grotesque reality soon returns to trouble this quiet new world. Against the solitude of this private drama, Coetzee paints an eloquent and pained picture of his homeland and of the bureaucrats, doctors, army deserters, and camp guards who reveal the stress and qualms of their existence and who uneasily sense that there is no conclusion to their troubles and no future for their lives.