Didions prose is brilliantincisive, spare, understated to emphasize whats broiling under the surface. The narrator is an unknown woman piecing the story together long after the fact, but shes a woman who knew the main character, Elena MacMahon, in her earlier lifeindeed the two womens daughters went to the same private school, though the woman themselves were barely acquaintances. Elena left her husbandwhich she thought of as leaving the house on the Pacific Coast Highway rather than leaving the man. Her daughter leaves with her but resents the life she left behind; her resentment haunts Elena.
The story that needs stitching together begins when Elena becomes a reporter and is covering a Presidential campaign when she just leavesis on her way before she realizes she has decided to leave. She goes to Florida to visit an elderly and ailing father whose existence was troublesome for her in her youth because he had no profession to fill in on the formshe has always said only that he does deals. This time he has a deal he cant follow through because of his illness so Elena takes his place and soon finds herself on a small island off the coast of Costa Rica, involved in the arms trade, Iran Contra and political assassination. Elena moves through the experience on what seems like a kind of auto-pilot. The narrator has to rely on lengthy dry documents from special Congressional investigations into the incident and what the government men involved are willing to tell her (which isnt much). Cover it up and distance ones self seems the watch word of officials and official reports alike. The reader strains to find the emotional content of the story which is clearly buried down there somewhere. Didion finds it.