cover image BAD ADVICE


Karin Goodwin, . . Chronicle, $22.95 (271pp) ISBN 978-0-8118-3692-0

Like Goodwin's first book, Sleeping with Random Beasts, her sophomore effort stars an indecisive, self-centered heroine who can't get her act together. Judith, in her mid-30s, has fled the East Coast and is living in Tucson, Ariz., working as a waitress and sleeping with her married landlord. While out for a jog, she injures a man she believes is going to attack her. When she realizes he isn't dangerous, the two form a friendship that meanders toward love. Judith and the man, Scratch, are moral and geographical vagrants desperately in need of a home base, and each looks to the other for stability. Back east, Judith's older brother, David, is more grounded but involved in a loveless relationship. A charged encounter with a bisexual stranger named Iris leads him into an unfamiliar, impulsive realm. He and his new obsession hit the road, heading west toward a possible meeting with Judith, whom David hasn't seen for two years. As other friends and family members—all battling dysfunction across the psychiatric and physical spectrums—join the siblings for an explosive reunion, the story starts to spin out of control. Goodwin's wry sense of humor and sharp dialogue compete with a slack, colloquial narration ("She looked like a brain, in disguise for the evening as an almost-babe"). Her primary talent seems to lie in creating unpleasant characters who are ultimately likable; the dual plot line works nicely, but when its various satellites come crashing down, narrative overload may leave readers unimpressed. (Oct.)