There are two wrecks in this strikingly candid memoir, and one reads with the fascination and horror of drivers rubbernecking on a highway. The first wreck is the car crash that lands the author's parents in the hospital, her mother with 80 broken bones, her father in a coma. The second wreck is Shapiro's own life--a life that for much of the book makes it hard to sympathize with her. At the age of 23, in the mid-1980s, she is a cocaine-snorting, liquor-swilling, aspiring-actress babe and the mistress of her former best friend's stepfather. Having dropped out of college, this product of an Orthodox Jewish home is kept in style by a boorish hotshot lawyer. He buys her furs, jewels, and sports cars, and she numbs her scorn for both him and herself with drugs and alcohol. One feels equal paris pity and revulsion that such an intelligent, beautiful young woman can live such a vapid and amoral life. Shapiro's saving grace is that she is equally repulsed in retrospect, making no excuses for her bad behavior. And, with her parent's horrific accident as a wake-up call, as Shapiro gains respect for herself, the reader gains respect for her, as well. The portrait of her family, and of her mother in particular, is as unsparing as her self-portrait--no airbrushing hides the ugliness of the anger that drives her mother: ""she is incandescent, lit from within by a rage she has carried all her life, and which, at the moment of the crash, became her life source."" It will force Shapiro to become estranged from her father's family at the time she needs them most. Novelist Shapiro (Picturing the Wreck, 1996, etc.) too often settles for clichÆ’s when she is capable of evocative and original prose, but her story accumulates emotional power as a lost young woman finds her way back to normalcy and a sense of purpose.