Retired Virginia obstetrician John Livesey, recently widowed and discouraged by the world's crumbling morals, meets a man who has just performed an unnecessary cesarean section on his wife so as to be the one to deliver their child. Though initially appalled by the act, Livesey finds himself recalling it later when he learns a friend is dying of cancer, when his affair with a younger woman ends in disillusionment, and when, during an extended visit to his son and his family in Oregon, he realizes his daughter-in-law’s unborn baby does not belong to her husband. Coming to admire the calm directness with which the man took matters of life and death into his own hands, Livesey begins to reconsider what he values and what he will protect.
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