In her second novel, Benedict (Slow Dancing, 1985) concentrates on Esme Singer, a young woman living out adolescence in New York with her divorced mother, Georgia. Once a bit player in Hollywood, a former local beauty queen, Georgia is now a lush--hooked-up always to one temporary, sub-par lover or another. Meanwhile, Esme's Jewish father, Meyer, is a ne'er-do-well blowing in and out on the winds of his latest scheme and inevitable failure--so when Esme goes looking for familial integrity, it's always far from home. And for some time in this novel, Benedict handles Manhattan life, in this case a young girl's exploration of semi-fraudulent Manhattan life, superbly--with the vibrancy of The World of Henry Orient (that underappreciated book by Nora Johnson) or with the emotional dislocations of the better work of John O'Hara and Richard Yates. But as Esme grows older and also begins to fall in love with men, her mother Georgia's boozy delusions leave center stage, and the book loses tone and strength. Esme's grand passions, not unreasonably, are delusional also--and, as played out, disappointing. Still, Benedict remains an impressive writer, capturing the moods of a time with clarity and economy. More for its first than concluding half: an involving, bright, and believable work.