Joanna Smith Rakoff's first novel, A Fortunate Age [Scribner, Apr. 7], is a delight. Rakoff chronicles the sometimes ludicrous, maddeningly funny and often moving adventures of a gifted group of friends in New York City just after college graduation. Though there are quite a few major characters, they are ably distinguished and three-dimensional. In Rakoff's hands, even the less likable among these characters are presented with empathy and insight. One of Rakoff's gifts is for the cockeyed details and strong story development that always rings true. The characters' lives wobble down well-trod paths, but the particulars of their marriages, children, and success or failure with their art are continually surprising and accurate. Writing with seamless transparency and intelligence, Rakoff has a light and witty touch. A Fortunate Age is a portrait of a generation, in all its privilege and insecurity. It is a dead-on psychological and social page-turner about the end of the 20th century.