You think you've got problems? Meet Myrtle Wood, housewife from Scarsdale, who spends part of every day sitting on a nest of swan's eggs while her nosy neighbors try to capture it all on videotape. Myrtle also has a double identity--she's sometimes known by the name Nellie Pear--as well as a whole population of little stick people who live in a dirt cave inside her brain and order her around. Finally, there is the fact that Myrtle, inevitably along with Nellie, is dying of cancer. But this is The Story of a Happy Woman and Myrtle/Nellie is adept at grabbing happiness wherever she can find it--even in ending her life with a flourish. Helped out by a mysterious stranger who resembles Peter O'Toole, she sets out on a course of adventure that embarrasses her friends--and estranges her husband Harry--until they all figure out what's going on. Part mad housewife, part Lady Godiva, part Leda and the Swan, with cameo appearances from the Frog Prince and Orion, Myrtle wraps herself in her own cloak of legend. Levin writes with flair and, as this first novel progresses, her mad Myrtle grows, strangely, ever more appealing in her precarious hold on reality. What's surprising is that Levin doesn't seem to recognize just how strong her own heroine is. Myrtle doesn't need so many props--hackneyed fairy tales and too-cute quips from the stick people, who from the start are intrusive rather than interesting. Myrtle has her own voice, and, when Levin lets us listen to it, what we hear is a clear, haunting swan song.