Maud Casey, Author . Harper Perennial $13.95 (260p) ISBN 978-0-06-074089-4

Samantha Hennart is about to die alone from a brain aneurysm; Casey (The Shape of Things to Come ) tells her story in flashback. Bernard, Sam's English professor husband, splits the scene in upstate New York (where they live as former urbanites) upon discovering his wife flagrante delicto with the carpenter; Sam had hired him to redo the bathroom so that she might treat her manic depressive daughter, Marguerite, with hydrotherapy. Instead, teen Marguerite runs away, landing in a locked ward in Queens, and son Ryan, a marijuana addict, has already escaped to California, where he haunts morgues. Casey seems to be arguing that the family fell apart because of Sam's essential lack of interest in her children. A better bet of what ails this foursome is utter implausibility: nothing is convincing about these characters, particularly the dialogue, which is heavy on irony and light on authenticity. "Where is your italicist?" Sam asks of her husband. "You know, the little man who jumps up and down behind you whenever you make a really important point?" He's nowhere to be found here. (May)

Reviewed on: 03/27/2006
Release date: 04/01/2006
Genre: Fiction
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