Nathan Zuckerman is a 71-year-old writer who has been living a reclusive life "in a small house on a dirt road in the deep country" in the Berkshires. For the last eleven years he has not gone to dinner parties, and has not owned a cell phone, VCR, DVD player, or a computer. He uses a typewriter and has no idea what the World Wide Web is.
He goes 130 miles down to New York to have a procedure at Mount Sinai Hospital. While in a New York, he picks up the current issue of The New York Review of Books and notices and ad for a "reliable writing couple" in their early thirties who wish to swap their Upper West Side apartment for a "quiet rural retreat one hundred miles from New York" for a year. He feels as if this ad was directed specifically at him and contacts the couple.
The couple is Jamie Logan and Billy Davidoff. She is a beautiful former debutante from Houston, and the money for their "modest opulence" comes from her Texas oilman father. The day before the 2004 election, Jamie says that she wants to leave New York City "because I don't wish to be snuffed out in the name of Allah." Nathan is infatuated with Jamie and is "overcome by temptation for a delight he cannot enjoy and a pleasure that is dead." While in New York he visits an old friend, Amy Bellette, who works as a translator and recently has had brain surgery. Nathan and Amy had met in 1956 when he was a student of E. I. Lonoff, an author of short stories. Amy had been Lonoff's lover until his death forty years ago. Nathan and Amy are both disturbed that Richard Kliman, Jamie's friend and former lover, is writing a biography of Lonoff that will reveal a long kept secret.
Nathan's involvement with these people, causes him to confront emotions that had long been buried. His physical and mental frailties become more apparent. Exit Ghost, by Philip Roth, is a tale of a modern day Rip Van Winkle who seems to wake up after his self-imposed isolation.