Kate Wenner, Author . Scribner $24 (223p) ISBN 978-0-7432-5164-8

Former TV news producer Wenner (Setting Fires ) crafts a sometimes trying but complex and engaging protagonist in fragile, haunted Marea Hoffman. Marea has had horrendous nightmares of nuclear annihilation since her childhood in 1950s Princeton. In 1975, just before her 30th birthday, she returns to New York City after seven years of aimless drifting around the world. Introverted, unattached and endearingly unhinged, she manages to accumulate four therapists and begins an alternately funny, fierce and maudlin process of finding herself ("each one sees a different version of who I am") and understanding her beloved nuclear-physicist father's death 18 years earlier. At nights she works at a Greenwich Village organic bakery owned by a kind, gay ex-stoner; days she sees psychoanalysts and Jungians and ponders: was her father's car crash really an accident? Or did his guilt—for "abandoning" his Austrian Jewish parents, who were later murdered by the Nazis; for helping to build nuclear bombs; for his inability to love his beautiful wife—drive him to suicide? His diary, a "neatly-tied packet of yellowed papers," is an unexpected gift from her estranged mother, and it is this plus Marea's fond memories of her father's colleague "Grandpa Albert" Einstein ("Even though everyone called him a genius, the professor didn't know his times tables. He wished he had invented a refrigerator that didn't hum") that help her to finally put her questions to rest. Despite the occasional awkward piece of dialogue, Marea's tortured path to peace, stillness and purpose rings true. (Mar.)

Reviewed on: 01/26/2004
Release date: 02/01/2004
Open Ebook - 240 pages - 978-1-4165-8544-2
Paperback - 240 pages - 978-1-4516-5645-9
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