Four of the eight stories in this volume are based on the author's personal experiences. Several days after the March 11, 2011 earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear-plant disaster in northeastern Japan, Murata was diagnosed with endometrial cancer and began receiving radiation treatment. She links her four stories with an unusual combination of motifs?earthquakes, nuclear power, and radiation therapy.
The title story is told from the perspective of Akiyama, a man who tends to his wife's needs as she begins her cancer treatment. The couple move into a weekly-rental apartment in Kagoshima in order to be near the advanced medical facility where the therapy is offered. As it happens, ash is raining down on the city from an eruption of the nearby volcano. Instead of removing the cancerous tissue by surgery, it is to be bombarded with a pinpoint beam of radiation for 15 minutes each day for 30 days in a row. As the days go by, the side effects become increasingly pronounced, causing the patient to feel sick, have no appetite, and lose weight. The narrator, who was rehired at his previous job after officially retiring at the mandatory age, is taking time off in order to be with his wife; recalling how she cared for him when he was in the hospital with liver trouble, he adds three more days to his scheduled stay of one week. Even so, his wife feels alone and bereft amidst her fears. His wife's sister, who is a nurse, reassures her that she doesn't need to be afraid of therapeutic radiation because it's different from the radiation in radioactive fallout. The story speaks to our times by deftly bringing into relief the loneliness and apprehensions of both patient and caregiver as they stare into the face of an unfamiliar and invisible menace.