Updike tells it like it is. No mysticism, no fantasy, the cruel adulterated societies found embedded in all the world cultures, on every continent. Alluding to current politics and major events like 911, one could be reading a biography of non fiction. The bitterness of love bites everyone in some shape or form, while humanities selfish intent strangles hold of our psychology. We don't know what we have until it's gone. A bittersweet ending to every story leaves the reader yearning for a future that's just a little more sane, peaceful, and emits beauty around hidden corners. Humanity has the knowledge and power to create a better world, that's the epiphany and the message.