The ripple effect of other lives that are touched when a marriage temporarily breaks apart--in an ambitious first novel that takes pains to connect its parts but that, over the long haul, has more prolixity than inner drive. It seems that Ruby Mack's limitless infatuation for his wife Ida (they're childless, in their late 20s) has come to make her feel the need for breathing space; and when he files to St. Louis to close up his dead mother's house, she delightedly sets out on a search-for-new-freedom that turns into a dark comedy of errors. In St. Louis, the wanly passive Ruby gradually succumbs to the advances of hungry Linell, the overweight divorcÃ‰e who lives across the street; back in Williamsburg, meanwhile, Ida goes to visit two friends, the aging and rather shallow artist-bohemians Big Stan and Nina, for whom Ida does modeling (she also caters wedding cakes). Big Stan and Nina take Ida on a bizarre ""camping"" trip along the Outer Banks, a trip that deteriorates into decreasingly veiled threats of personal abuse, sexual depravity, and even--however unconvincingly to the reader--murder. While Ida drifts (what keeps her there is never clear) through these seashore perils of Pauline, her house back in Williamsburg is taken over by a pretty teen-ager named Roxanne, whose hapless and slatternly parents have left their daughter emotionally incomplete, guarded, and yearning. Happy for Ida's empty home, Roxanne sets up housekeeping, creating her own solitary love nest--until a very private disaster leaves her dead in an upstairs bathroom. Unaware of her death, others gradually return to the house (though it's locked); by book's end, Ruby and Ida will be reunited (in a backyard hammock), while Roxanne's boozy and womanizing father will be tempted by the generous-fleshed Linell, who is standing by. A novel whose symbols do it stalwart service, but whose often vapid characters--meager and overextended in their being asked to flu so broad and earnest a canvas--drain its energies.