Gundy's thwarted lovers--odd ducks seeking pools of quietude in a small Canadian town--are an unlikely pair. Poor 6'1"" college prof Leona (likely to slope after a hostess at a party ""like a giraffe behind its trainer""), has had a miserable sexual initiation--a violent rape long ago in Scotland and an affair with a thesis adviser who scribbled on her tabula rasa with razzamatazz brothel tricks. Handyman Bliss is good, kind, stubborn, and ignorant. And between them is Bliss' wife Hazel, Runner-Up in the local Bread-Baking Contest--whose ravaging passion for conspicuous consumption is an ad man's dream. While Bliss and Leona timidly approach one another, Hazel enjoys the Christmas catalogue (""one page at a time, not letting herself skip right up to good stuff""), eats doughnuts, and dreams the good dream: ""to live smack in Town near the K-Mart with a lawn and a picture window and a husband who worked in the bank."" Bliss and Leona plan their escape until an open diapason performance by Hazel ends it all. The hopeless-romance duets slog along pleasantly enough, but Hazel, the author's slamming, screeching superstar, does her marvelously awful thing every other chapter, allowing Gundy's irrepressible bent toward hortatory caricature to race along like pixilated housewives on a TV greed show. Nice--but it ain't a good idea to take it too serious.