|A curious John Glenn peers inside Friendship 7|
The hurt machine of Coleman's title is a garden variety human. The narrator, ex-cop and retired PI Prager, explains, "No matter how hard we try not to do it, we seem to inflict hurt on one another as naturally as we breathe." Prager's friend, Auschwitz survivor Israel Roth, says that hurt and pain are God's way of letting you know He loves you. Prager isn't so sure. He doubts God's existence. He's been thinking about such things since his oncologist diagnosed a malignant stomach tumor and told him it might be good to get his house in order. Prager's daughter Sarah is getting married in a few weeks and he doesn't want to ruin her happiness. He decides to put off chemotherapy and telling his family and friends until after her wedding.
Currently, Prager helps his brother with their retail wine business but he's not emotionally invested. All he has done is invest money and gone along for the ride. When he is gone, he worries, all that will be remembered is that he had been a shopkeeper. "Does anyone dream of being a shopkeeper? Does anyone dream of dying as one?" he asks. He agrees to take Carmella's case.