David Schickler, Author . Dial $23 (242p) ISBN 978-0-385-33568

In the much anticipated follow-up to 2001's Kissing in Manhattan , his highly acclaimed story collection, Schickler tracks a pair of gloriously wacky, star-crossed young lovers on the lam from a gang of goons. Driving across the Great Plains in a stolen pick-up truck, loner thug Henry Dante and flame-haired temptress Grace McGlone are bent on giving away a set of seven famous stolen diamonds in a series of impetuous, extravagant gestures that are every bit as improbable as their relationship itself. From the omen-laden day that they first meet—when Grace walks through a car wash to introduce herself to Henry—Schickler rewinds to relate their vivid and bizarre backstories. Myriad off-kilter characters are entwined in the trajectory of Henry and Grace's month-long romance, including Grace's club-footed, treehouse-building classmate; the smarmy radio evangelist who deflowered her when she was 15 while whispering "God's will"; and the vengeful Chicago mobster who happens to be Henry's boss. Delightfully but believably nutty, Grace and Henry each have a precisely modulated moral code and a sense of honor forged in the weirdness and tragedy of their respective pasts. Though their largely innocent misadventure—think Bonnie and Clyde as it might have been written by Tom Robbins—comes to a somewhat disappointingly tidy conclusion, the ride is more than worth the price of entry. Agent, Jennifer Carlson . (Sept. 7)