Cover to the first edition
|Cover artist||Jonathan Howells|
|Publisher||Alfred A. Knopf, Canada|
|2 September 1997|
|Media type||Print (Hardback & Paperback)|
|Pages||339 pp (hardback first edition)|
|ISBN||0-679-30877-6 (hardback first edition)|
The novel examines the life of Larry Weller, an "ordinary man made extraordinary" by his unique talent for creating labyrinths. Shields' profound insights into human nature transform Larry from an ordinary, average man into a figure of universal humanity.
The novel won the 1998 Orange Prize for Fiction. In 2001, it was adapted into a musical by Richard Ouzounian and Marek Norman, which starred Brent Carver as Larry. It had its premiere at CanStage in Toronto, Ontario.
In 1976, Larry Weller is twenty-six years old and employed as a florist in Winnipeg, Manitoba. He accidentally steals a stranger's identical Harris tweed jacket from a coffee shop. The rest of the chapter consists of his thoughts, about his girlfriend Dorrie Shaw and his parents Stu and Dot.
In 1978, Larry marries Dorrie and they honeymoon in England. While there he discovers his love for garden mazes when he becomes lost in one.
In 1980, Larry turns thirty and invites his family over for a picnic. He and Dorrie have bought a house and they now have a son, Ryan.
By 1983 Larry is spending all of his spare time working on a maze around his house, and it now takes up both the front and back yards. A frustrated Dorrie calls in a bulldozer and has it tear down the entire front section of the maze. This event leads to the couple’s divorce.
In 1986 Larry has remarried, to a Christian scholar named Beth Prior. Their marriage is, for the most part, happy, though Larry realizes how much he loved Dorrie when they were married. It is also learned that Larry’s father has developed colon cancer.
In 1988 Larry has moved to Chicago and has become one of only a handful of professional maze designers in the world. Though he is very successful, he thinks back to the maze at his old house in Manitoba and how Dorrie is keeping what is left of it alive. Larry's father dies of colon cancer in this year.
In 1991 Larry’s son, Ryan, is now twelve and is visiting him in Chicago. Ryan is a bright boy; he is a good artist and can speak French fluently.
In 1992 Beth has published her first book, and the couple is beginning to fight. In 1994 Larry wins the State of Illinois award for creative excellence for his mazes, but a few months later he and Beth are separated after she moves to England to accept a teaching position, and they later divorce.
In 1996 Larry collapses and falls into a coma for twenty-two days. While Beth does not visit him, Dorrie and Ryan come as quickly as they can. Larry is now dating another woman named Charlotte Angus.
In 1997 Larry decides to throw a dinner party. He invites his friends, including Charlotte, and both of his former wives. As the party is winding down, he experiences a vision of another reality in which he and Dorrie settled their quarrels and never divorced. Exactly how the story ends is not directly stated. We know that Dorrie stayed behind to help Larry clean up, that Charlotte has taken a liking to one of Larry's guests, and that Beth was aware that Larry still loved Dorrie. There is also a dialogue between two unidentified speakers, assumed to be Larry and Dorrie, who say they have always loved each other.