A first novel (``rescued from the slush pile,''we're told) with attitude to spare but nothing else: the story of a self- absorbed, self-destructive woman who screws up her life only to be saved by a good man. Like many of her contemporary literary peers, 30-year-old Eleanor Shank, commonly known as Bean, has a long list of people to blame for the mess she's in. Naturally, it begins with Mom, a promiscuous lush, and Dad, a surly authoritarian. Nothing really tragic has happened to Bean, but the scale of injury or awareness of a world beyond her navel is not important as she decides to find herself by leaving Boston and heading west. Bean's traveling light, but with lots of emotional baggage: She's just ended a long affair with an unfaithful alcoholic; she's never gotten over her parents' divorce or her stepfather's death; and along the way, she's also had two abortions. Bean takes a camera on the trip (she has vague ambitions of becoming a photographer) and, straining to be cool and witty, tells her own story with strident verve, alternating memories of the past with accounts of the actual journey and of the menall bad choicesshe's slept with. Her first stop is Richmond, Virginia, where she visits Dad, whom she blames for much of her unhappiness; then en route to Albuquerque she meets up with an old high-school crush, Joe, who's gay. In Tucson, she quarrels with her mother, who's sleeping with Ricky, Bean's old boyfriend. In El Paso, she moves in with Ash, who might be the father of the child she discovers she's carrying. Finally, she ends up in Oregon, helping Joe run his coffee shop while waiting for the baby's birth. A marriage proposal and a place to show her photos make up for all the previous messy living. A one-dimensional take on a terminally self-preoccupied woman.
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