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To eight-year old Bunny Morison, his mother is an angelic comforter in whose absence nothing is real or alive. To his older brother, Robert, his mother is someone he must protect, especially since the deadly, influenza epidemic of 1918 is ravaging their small Midwestern town. To James Morison, his wife, Elizabeth, is the center of a life that would disintegrate all too suddenly were she to disappear. Through the eyes of these characters, William Maxwell creates a sensitive portrait of an American family and of the complex woman who is its emotional pillar. Beautifully observed, deftly rendering the civilities and constraints of a vanished era, They Came Like Swallows measures the subterranean currents of love and need that run through all our lives. The result confirms Maxwell's reputation as one of the finest writers we have.