This seems to be Oates attempt to tell a story purely of someone's life flashing before their eyes. It is loosely - and clearly - based on an incident that happened to a certain member of the Kennedys and a girl he was pursuing an affair with, but that's really neither here nor there. The novella jumps between the tragic accident and various parts of the girls' life. Some of it is written somewhat conventionally, but as it progresses it becomes more and more stream of consciousness (due to the changing circumstances of the girl).
The novel reminds me of a poem almost, in that there are certain repetitive phrases. But then I realized it was really Greek tragedy I was really reminded of. If anything, there is a Greek Chorus here. This device reinforces the tragedy of accidental death and I was surprised that it never got annoying, but rather felt almost funereal.
It's a short read, and so I heartily recommend it not just for its quality but because you can read it - if you want - in an afternoon.