Widernan's work is unique in its layering of themes, all connected yet echoing distinct aspects of human life.
The central theme becomes that connection — the drawing together of disparate experiences in a shimmering kaleidoscope of emotion, history, meditation, and narrative. Making up the kaleidoscope are these themes: the fragility of ties, the construction of identity, the basis of heritage, and the nature of reality.
Fragile ties, to life and between people, are deftly rendered. Characters enter and then leave the world, their departures a commentary on the vulnerability of life. The death of Albert Wilkes, a blues pianist and cop killer, is implicit in his reappearance in Homewood. Junebug perishes in a fire on the Fourth of July. Brother is hit by a train, supposedly dead beforehand.
The link to life is tentative in this novel, with characters wounded, crazy, and dead, veering off like tops.