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Alix Ohlin. Knopf, $24.95 (272p) ISBN 978-0307596925

A trio of interlocked stories, Ohlin’s bleak second novel shadows three broken people on the hunt for fulfillment who sabotage any true chance of finding it. Grace, an indiscriminately nurturing yet controlling therapist, falls hard for “Tug,” a PTSD-afflicted stranger she discovers after a botched suicide attempt; with all the glaring red flags Ohlin plants, it’s a wonder Grace doesn’t see his second attempt—this one successful—coming. Mitch, Grace’s brooding ex-husband, takes up with an exacting beauty far beyond his league; surprisingly to him, if not to readers, she shacks up with her gynecologist after Mitch goes away on business. And then there’s the morally vapid Annie, a former cutter and one of Grace’s ex-patients, who abandons her banal New York life to pursue stardom—via copious sexual conquests—in Hollywood; the glamorous lifestyle, of course, isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. Some juicy side plots—such as the saga involving the pregnant homeless runaway who ingratiates herself with Annie—aren’t given enough room to breathe, perhaps due to Ohlin’s flair for crafting emotionally complex short stories that are often left open-ended. Nonetheless, the demonstrated chasm between her characters’ intentions and actions and what inevitably transpires is, perhaps like life, what makes this book so voluminous and so empty at the same time. Agent: Amy Williams, McCormick & Williams. (May)