From Dutch writer M"ring, an ambitious search-for-the-meaning-of-life novel that offers lovely moments but suffers from flat-footedness. The three van Dijk children -- twins Sam and Lisa, born in 1957, the year of Sputnik, and their slightly older brother Raph -- are transformed into orphans one night in 1969 when their parents ""drove into a tree on their way home."" The children are placed separately into a series of foster homes until they come of age -- at which time they seek one another out once more and the novel begins. The story is told mainly by Sam, who not only doesn't know quite what to do with his life but feels that his memory has gone empty and dead -- hence his ""great longing,"" however doomed, to recapture what's been lost of childhood, family, and the past. Yearlong wanderings with Raph don't help much, nor do extended talks with sister Lisa, whose own memory is deep and full but who isn't terribly stable, her marriage less so. No rule says much has to happen in a novel, and the trouble here isn't that little does -- outwardly, at least -- but only that what does happen is so often inadvertently banal. M"ring's descriptions of a ruined, post-industrialist European landscape and cityscape are often powerful, as are his efforts to sweep up lyrical bouquets of half-lost memories. But things that could possibly be of substance deteriorate, again and again, to adolescent posturing in lines like ""I began to understand that the journey...was an attempt to appease the hunger of youth""; or"" 'I don't know,' she said. 'I don't know if you understand anything about people and human relationships' ""; or ""I know you're in there, I said to the void inside my head."" Earnest themes of modern loss, but, on balance, more often jejune than moving.