At the center is Boris Makaver, a pious and wealthy businessman. His greatest trial is his daughter, Anna. Unhappy in her current marriage, she plans to escape with Hertz Grien, a man torn between ascetic yearnings and romantic entanglements.
From Makaver's gloomy Upper West Side apartment to the pastel resorts of Miami amid family quarrels, zealous religious debates, crooked seances, and a myriad of affairs and marriages Singer weaves a rich tapestry of American Jewry. Despite the characters' fervent and often ironic attempts to decipher life's enigmas, their questions remain, for the most part, unanswered.