Sabine Durrant, Author . Riverhead $23.95 (320p) ISBN 978-1-57322-295-2

What constitutes a finished life? Durrant, a British journalist who captured the disappointments of domesticity in 2002's Having It & Eating It , returns to the central question of the chick-lit genre in this endearing portrait of a woman who is more comfortable with the objects that fill her quaint suburban London antique shop than she is with commitment, much less children. At 38, Martha Bone is content to think of herself as single and self-sufficient, having left the Perfect Boyfriend two years ago for reasons she no longer remembers. Then along comes Fred, aka "Mr. Magic," a sweet, solemn magician for kid's parties whose wife has left him and their two mismatched children to "find herself." Drawn to his quirky "broken-down" family, Martha treats them like the antique chest of drawers she is paint-stripping in the basement: as a potentially valuable object in need of mending. The death of Martha's stepfather, his funeral and the subsequent family dinner—a marvelously rendered depiction of dysfunctional family dynamics at their snarkiest—brings back the Perfect Boyfriend, a metrosexual snob named David, who tempts Martha to re-enter his posh life. Does she choose the order he promises over the chaos that's erupted around her? In this novel, as in many relationships, a thin line separates love from contempt. Thanks to Durrant's rounded characters and acute observations on married life, readers won't cross it. Agent, Emma Parry at Fletcher and Parry. (Jan.)

Reviewed on: 12/13/2004
Release date: 01/01/2005
Paperback - 312 pages - 978-1-59448-169-7
Paperback - 338 pages - 978-0-7515-3350-7
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